A group of six Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) library media specialists will represent the school system this fall as presenters at the national American Association for School Librarians (AASL) conference. The conference is held every two years and is the only nationwide event featuring professional development specifically for school librarians.

The team of CCPS library media specialists includes Dedra Van Gelder, Carmen Belanger, Polly Callahan, Jacob Gerding, Sarah Gobe and Bethany Thornton. They will present, “Beyond the Conference: Keeping the Momentum between Professional Development Experiences” at the 18th annual AASL National Conference & Exhibition set for Nov. 9-11 in Arizona. The average audience for AASL national conferences is 3,000 attendees.

The CCPS team joins several other presenters on the conference agenda. They will highlight a professional learning community launched among CCPS library media specialists with a focus on best practices, peer-level leadership and strategies for use in school library programs. Presentation content features strategies in place by the CCPS team in their roles, such as technology use, collaboration using tools in Microsoft Office 365, private Facebook groups, Skype messaging and screen casts.

The presentation also highlights how CCPS media specialists host face-to-face gatherings, write articles about the profession and correspond with each other to support programs for students. The idea behind the professional learning community for the library media program was developed from a project Van Gelder worked on as a Lilead Fellow.

The Lilead Fellowship program is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Science and focuses on enabling library supervisors to make transformational changes for teaching and learning in their school districts and communities. The program provides fellows with leadership skills in integrating information literacy instruction with content area standards, technology use and integration, and advocacy for library programs and services. Van Gelder served as a Fellow for 18-months and worked with a mentor and four other Fellows to create a plan to better align the school library program with overall CCPS goals.

Van Gelder said the goal of the presentation is to help attendees learn how to continue the collaboration process among colleagues in their school districts. “You spend the conference collaborating, networking, and learning. As it comes to a close, you are energized and excited to return home and implement the ideas. Then, life gets in the way. Attendees will leave [our session] with over a dozen strategies to keep inspired and spread the energy to other librarians in their district,” she said.

Van Gelder is the library media instructional specialist for CCPS. She has held this position for the past four years and worked as a library media specialist at Milton M. Somers Middle School for six years. Van Gelder also taught language arts at Somers for seven years. Belanger is the library media specialist at La Plata High School. She has been at La Plata for the past four years and was previously the media specialist at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School. Callahan is a longtime CCPS employee and taught at Thomas Stone High School for 37 years. She is now at St. Charles High School, where she has overseen the library media program since the school opened in 2014.

Gerding is the library media specialist at Berry Elementary School and has been with CCPS for two years. Gobe also works at the elementary school level as the library media specialist at Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School. She has been at Higdon for the past seven years and also worked at Dr. Mudd for three years. Thornton is the library media specialist at Indian Head Elementary School. She has been at Indian Head for the past five years and also worked with students at Westlake High School and with school districts in Japan.