That got your attention, didn’t it?

Friends and followers know that I am usually a Pollyanna-ish, half-full kind of gal. A blog post entitled Epic/Fail (which, according to the Urban Dictionary, is a “full-blown, game-over fail”) doesn’t seem to be my style. I celebrate successes and don’t dwell on failures (at least in public).

Astute readers noticed, hopefully, the placement of the “/” however. This post, in fact, will not be about an epic fail, but rather about an event that was truly EPIC and the repeated refrain at said event that FAILURE can actually be a good thing.


I have just returned from the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) biennial national conference in Hartford, CT. Its theme was “Rising to the Challenge”. And rise we did, thanks to the organizers who planned an event “extending beyond the usual or ordinary, especially in size or scope” (Merriam-Webster).  Hundreds of concurrent sessions vied for our attention. Dozens of vendors plied us with swag, about which, I am happy to report, books vastly outnumbered totebags and t-shirts.

New friends were made and ideas shared (shout out to Angenine G, Gwyneth J, Heather Lo, Joquetta J, Linda D and Tiffany W). Old friends surfaced (hey, Maria M!). Current colleagues connected (tip of the hat to Jennifer R, Heather Le, Audrey A). The keynote and closing speeches were, as expected, both inspirational and motivational.

Perhaps most inspiring was the late night Unconference organized by Library Rock Star Joyce Valenza and friends. Chockfull of friendly debate, informal exchange of information, a “Smackdown” of one minute helpful tips and even singing (yes, singing!), it left my head abuzz and my feet a’tappin’.

At the risk of pushing the “EPIC” portion of this post into the tl;dr (look it up) category, what follows is a random brain dump of “stuff” (thank you, Christopher Harris) swirling around in a very disorderly fashion in my head at the moment. I hope to write about many of these ideas in the future, but for now, listing them is about all I can handle. I would love feedback regarding which ideas resonate the most with you. Please feel free to comment below.

• Dewey is dead (figuratively as well as literally); genrefication is the rage
• Picture book biographies can be springboard to teach research process
• Libraries can be Maker Spaces
• Matthew Holm rocks
• Much like ESL students acquiring vocabulary, I am a Digital Language Learner when it comes to technology
• Children’s curiosity should drive instruction
• Andrea Davis Pinkney rocks
• Love the concept of librarian as curator
• Book trailers promote reading; provide authentic assessment…and they’re loads of fun to make!
• Matt Tavares rocks
• QR codes on books connect to more info about topic
• Mission-us.org, is a “revolutionary way to learn history”
• Doreen Rapapport rocks
• Use Twitter to create Professional Learning Network (PLN)
• Jennifer Bryant rocks
• Capitalize on Lego fascination by using them for poetry and story starters
• Best-book-lists wiki suggests scores of titles as mentor texts to teach comprehension strategies and literary devices
• So many ways to teach the inquiry process
• Connect first grade students across the country through a shared blog
• Melissa Sweet rocks
• Apps to explore: postermywall, tellagami, subtext, padlet, smore, clipping magic, awesome screenshot and so many more
• Membership in AASL is valuable; need to continue as active participant


Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard was the keynote speaker on Thursday. An excerpt from his website expresses his view on failure.

“The most innovative companies celebrate failure. At IDEO, a design and consulting firm that is consistently recognized as one of the most innovative companies in the world, the motto is, “Fail early and often.” Most high school and college classes penalize failure and thus discourage students from taking intellectual risks. In contrast, schools with a culture of innovation teach students to view trial and error—and failure—as integral to the problem-solving process. One Olin college student told me, “We don’t talk about failure here. We talk about iteration.”

This philosophy of celebrating failure (or at least learning from it) echoed throughout the conference. Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney spoke about having to rework her acclaimed book Sit In at the eleventh hour because she had the wrong information for what the four friends ordered at the Woolworth counter. Maureen Milton and Shelly Buchanan explained how independent student inquiry projects provide students the opportunity to fail in a safe environment. Several workshops offered a view of the library beyond Dewey.  Reinventing a library’s organization system can be hit-or-miss. Learn from the misses to create a truly child-centered arrangement. Matt Tavares spoke of debunking a myth about Hank Aaron by diligent research and consultation of primary sources. He didn’t let failure to find the truth at first stop him.

Far from being a game-over fail, AASL 2013, Rising to the Challenge, was a resounding success. I came home with new energy, new ideas, new “stuff”, an epic sense of the library world and a willingness to fail as I take new risks in my professional life. As the closing music suggested “Up, up and away!”


2 Comments on “Epic/Fail”

  1. Janice says:

    Your post left me a little dizzy. I feel as though I went through the entire conference in ten minutes! This was a great way to touch on a little of everything and will make interesting conversation for tomorrow’s meeting.

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