Sunday, August 26, 2018

National Memorial for Peace and Justice

From the view of the Memorial perched on the Hill, one could see the Alabama State Capitol. Before this view, I only knew the State Capitol from Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue.

On our way home back to Chattanooga from Pensacola, our daughter asked to stop in Montgomery to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The weekend we stopped to visit was the first weekend the Memorial was open. 

What a moving sight to see. I'll let the pictures and the captions from the Memorial tell this blog post story.

The first thing seen after paying for admission.

Numerous lynchings in one day in Anderson County, Texas

Haunting image of each block hanging from the ceiling.

Each block hovers over a box of dirt from that location.
 Check out more about the memorial at

 Next to the Memorial is a flower garden to honor the memories. One can see clearly from the garden the State Capitol and the first Confederacy White House.

A very moving memorial of what happened in American history not that long ago. And something to never forget because it did happen here, and not just in the South. If you are near Montgomery, take a short drive off of Interstate 75 to the Memorial. Much closer to the Interstate than I thought it would be making it a convenient stop to learn about this part of history that no one should forget.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

TLA Annual Conference 2018 - Memphis

All in for Tennessee Libraries. That was the theme for the 2018 Tennessee Library Association annual conference held in Memphis, April 4-6. The logo was a very cool hand in hand.

Going to Memphis on April 4, 2018 did not escape my background in US history. 50 years ago on April 4, Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. The logo for the TLA conference carried even more meaning.

I was fortunate to attend this trip because a large portion was reimbursed by Chattanooga State as this conference was my turn to attend on behalf of the Kolwyck Library.  I did save the college a lot of money on registration because of my personal membership dues in the TLA association combined with the early bird discount gave a really good price for the three-day event.

I planned ahead for the conference and made reservations for a car rental about a month earlier. For this trip I was from South Carolina. But what was funny, it was a Ford Focus, the same car model that I drive to work everyday in - a bit ironic.

Before I get to the list of workshops I attended and the quotes I wrote down from the keynote speaker at the TLA business meeting, I want to mention two profound things.

Profound number one: Meeting Librarians, Meeting People
At the networking opportunities and the SIS get-together, I talked and talked and met people. What's weird was that I knew these people, at least, virtually. For the first time, I met librarians who I had followed on Twitter for years and even retweeted or commented on their tweets. It was very cool to finally connect in person!  The other people I met that I knew only virtually were my colleagues from SIS! Wow - for the first time I met the person who I was co-president with for the UTK ALA-TLA student organization! That seems unbelievable that two people could be co-presidents and not be able to pick a person out of the crowd - hey it worked! I met other SIS colleagues as well and now we are connected after graduate school by knowing who we are!  Networking to me was my number one accomplishment for this entire conference!

Profound number two: For the first time, I was actually able to speak with Heather Lanier, TLA president-elect. She and I had talked before at TLA board meetings - she was always impressed with my meeting preparations, which I told her came from years on the Tennessee PTA board. Heather seemed full of energy and drive. But unknown to me, and something she found out after the conference, she had cancer. And eight weeks later, she was gone from this Earth too soon, too young.

I need to pause a minute.

Moat surrounding Memphis Hilton, location of the 2018 conference
Besides networking, I find that conferences provide opportunities to learn through workshops. And I found some good ones for me to attend. Here are the list of workshops and key takeaways:

Workshop One - We're all in this together! How to draw students back into the library. (Academic Library track) Want help finding something but library land is confusing -- website design, books on library shelves. How do we reach our students? How do you get students to use digital resources in the library? Two good audience responses were focus group using library student assistants on the topic of how does the library look to a student, and students are intimidated by librarians intelligence.

Workshop Two - NEDTalks: Lightning talks in the library (Academic Library track) A very cool idea to bring students (and faculty) in to the academic library to do something like TED Talks but on a certain focus or tied to a student/faculty project. Too much information to put into a blog post, but I can see it being used at Chatt State.

Workshop Three - Oral history made easy to build a digital library. A very cool workshop led by my new library friend from Motlow State. She identified the tools and the program for any library to build a digital library of oral histories. I like this idea for our archive team at Kolwyck Library, especially a "Day in the Life of ..."

Workshop Four - All in collaborative video (Academic Library track) This workshop explained how to create videos for touring library / highlighting services or resources / interactive videos including scripting and other pre-production work. I like this idea for our marketing team at Kolwyck Library.

Workshop Five - Four of a kind: Upping the ante for first year academic librarians. I really enjoyed this workshop as three of my colleagues from UTK SIS talked about what they found useful from SIS and one thing they weren't prepare for (tenure track responsibilities especially). I loved when I heard how the Four Frames was useful - it has been for me as well.

Librarians have fun too!
The keynote speaker was Jamie LaRue, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. I want to leave these four powerful quotes from LaRue's speech as parting thoughts. [Quotes are paraphrased by me, a former reporter.]

1. Parents – do you want your kids to be healthy, to be focused, to be productive? A key indicative factor for this answer is the number of books in the home by age 5. Age 5.

2. Librarians are a trusted profession. People trust librarians.

3. Reference librarians are "transactional to transformational" type of people.

4. Collection development – we need to change our stigma and look at self-published books. Amazon publishing.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018 National PTA Legislative Conference

One of my many trips during March - May of this year was to Arlington, VA/Washington, D.C. for the National PTA Legislative Conference. The event was held at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott with the Day on the Hill at the Capitol in D.C. Everyone calls this event LegCon - much easier to write about using the nickname.

Charles Scott and I standing in front of the US Capitol
Before I write about my trip and adventures and who I met and more, let me answer this question: what is LegCon? At the core, no matter the level, PTA is an advocacy association--an association working to improve the lives of children and families. Attending LegCon for me was a great way to enhance my advocacy skills, learn and implement new advocacy strategies, talk about PTA priorities to our US representatives and senators, and of course, connecting and networking with other PTA members from across the country. PTAers from every US state was there.
If you are in the PTA, take the opportunity sometime to attend LegCon! It is an experience and training worth having for the rest of your life.
National PTA lines up the speaking points for everyone to base their conversations and chats with their legislators. Our two main asking points were Support Bipartisan Gun Safety and Violence Prevention and Invest in Safe and Supportive Schools. One of the bills we were supporting for Gun Safety and Violence was approved by the House on the very same day as our Day on the Hill!

Now to my travel and walking notes! I had a weird flight schedule flying out of Chattanooga on Delta but flying back into Chattanooga on American. I flew in from Atlanta to Reagan National, took the hotel shuttle to Crystal City Gateway Marriott, and checked in. What a beautiful hotel - I had a view of the indoor pool plus there was a huge underground mall connected to the hotel with all kinds of restaurants, subway stop, and other stores. Very cool -- worth visiting just for the entertainment value!

On my first day, I attended several workshops that got my Tennessee PTA friends and me ready to go for Wednesday's Day on the Hill. The workshops were very informative in preparing strategies, in preparing talking points, and in preparing how to pace yourself.  Good stuff.  And I got to meet PTA members from different states as they paired state delegations with other delegations at different workshops. I met people from Florida, Arizona, Washington state, and much more. And a met a new PTA friend from Tennessee. I love meeting new PTA colleagues!

We decided at our planning session workshop to forego the subway at morning rush hour and pay for taxis out of our pockets. That was a good decision because Wednesday morning was cold and windy!

Tennessee PTA waiting in line at the Rayburn Office Building
We arrived as a group, taking two taxis, at the Rayburn Office Building. There was already a line! Woo - I was glad our stay out in the cold wind wasn't too long. As the acting federal legislative chair for Tennessee PTA on this trip, I had set up a visitation schedule two weeks earlier. Everyone really liked my schedule!

Once into the Rayburn building, Cheryl, Anita, and Charles went to the first appointment with Rep. Steve Cohen (Memphis) while Betsy, Kim, and I visited several other offices as unannounced visitors. We visited four other offices and came back to Rep. Cohen's office. Our group was still sitting in the foyer waiting room, so we joined them to make one big Tennessee group to visit Rep. Cohen. What a great meeting we had and possible future involvement at the local district office with PTA!
Tennessee PTA delegation with Rep. Steve Cohen
We took a lunch break at the Rayburn Office Building cafe area. It was crowded. Rep. Cohen greeted us as he walking by with his lunch - very cool. The serving lines were really long so I decided on a sandwich and Coke. Let me tell you, I had the best PB&J sandwich ever. That's saying a lot since I'm not a PB&J fan.

Well, we decided to split the group for the rest of the day. This gave one group extra time to cross over to the Senate side and get into Dirksen Senate Office Building. That left Charles Scott and me to visit one more representative and then hoof it over to Dirksen for our next appointment.

We had a great conversation with Rep. Marsha Blackburn. We saw a picture of her when she was young with big beehive hairstyle. That was cool to see. She said she had heard of PTA before so that was good joke to break the ice. Always good to make everyone comfortable.

Charles and I standing with Rep. Blackburn
I'm sure my wife would not have approved of my color coordination, but I decided to go with a camel brown suit jacket, purple shirt and tie, black pants and shoes. I thought I looked pretty debonair with all of those colors blending! Of course, I'm always looking good.

After meeting with Rep. Blackburn, Charles and I started walking over to Dirksen. When we walked in front of the Capitol, we got lucky with our picture as there was no one in the background at all. I took pictures of the Capitol and of course the Library of Congress. I spent many hours in that library when I was college student in D.C. Yep, I had returned back to my old college stomping grounds a few decades older and several pounds heavier! When I was a student here, I visited so many US legislators that I no longer have any idea who they were. Well except, Sen. Richard Lugar - he was larger than life in the early 80s.


The Library of all Libraries

We had a short wait to get past security to get into Dirksen. Again, the strategy of conquer and divide was working as the one group was meeting with Sen. Lamar Alexander while Charles and I met with a staff member from Sen. Bob Corker's office. Both groups had really good meetings -- so exciting to the do the work of PTA, that is, advocating for every child with one voice!

Group One meeting with Sen. Lamar Alexander

After the National PTA reception in the Dirksen building (where three of Sen. Alexander's staff showed up to mingle with PTAers), I headed back to the hotel to explore Crystal City mall. That is a great place. I had a great meal at King Street Blues, wow, just excellent.

The next day was debriefing. The best speaker of the entire conference spoke that morning - Bradford Fitch from CMG. He gave us great advice and tips to continue the advocacy work we started here and bring it home. After his speech, we sat down with our Arizona PTA friends and planned a strategy of what we were doing when we got back to Tennessee.

After that workshop planning, I caught ride on the hotel shuttle to the airport and flew home to Chattanooga via Charlotte.  I had a great PTA learning and advocacy time. I learned a lot, I reminisced about my college days in DC, I met new PTA people, I conversed with US reps and senators. All in all, LegCon was just a great experience!