The Southern Westchester BOCES School Library System's 2021 conference, “Bridging the Digital Equity Divide,” gets underway on Jan. 26 with a keynote address by Dr. Jen Cannell, School Library Program Director at St. John Fisher College and former New York Library Association President and Capital Region BOCES SLS Director.
The virtual event goes beyond what an in-person conference can provide, SLS Supervisor Eleanor Friedman says. She and her team have reinvented an annual event that has become a favorite of school librarians in this region and beyond.
“For my planning purposes, it was how can we take the conference experience that we all know and love — librarians cherish that chance to come together — and go beyond,” Ms. Friedman said. "This enables us to broaden our reach, replicate the in-person experience as closely as possible, and create an experience that extends over time to present the opportunity to attend more sessions than possible before."
The one-day, in-person conference offered a choice of 10 workshop sessions, but participants could only pick two from the simultaneous offerings. The 2021 SLS Virtual Conference is spread over six days, with alternating morning and afternoon session times and an asynchronous option via recorded sessions. Participants can take in the entire event, keynote addresses and all.
At no more than a three-hour commitment per day, the conference is more flexible and more accessible than its prior iteration. What hasn’t changed is the substance. Digital equity is a pressing issue, and librarians are on the frontlines of leveraging technology to bring high quality instruction to every student.
Participants can choose from sessions that include, Advocacy Without Awkwardness, Bridging the Reading Gap During Hybrid Learning, Redefining the Library Through STEAM, Family Involvement Through Social Platforms, Library and Technology Partner to Bridge the Digital Divide, Padlet Possibilities, Celebrating Culture and Identity: Books as Windows and Mirrors, and Translating our Practice.
Dr. Lisa Grillo, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies at Howard University and a regular consultant colleague with the SWBOCES Center for Professional Development, delivers the closing keynote, encouraging participants to continue the work that needs to be done on digital equity.
"SWBOCES couldn't address a more critical issue at a more critical time in our nation,” Dr. Grillo said. “The digital divide has persisted for decades. Now it is time for us to seriously examine the issue and commit ourselves to action as we concertedly bridge this divide as education professionals."