SLJ Summit 2023

2023 SLJ Leadership Summit: A Vision for the Future

Atlanta, GA 

December 1 - 3, 2023 



Our annual flagship event, the SLJ Summit will be held over three days on December 1-3, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. This year's theme: "A Vision for the Future."


The SLJ Summit brings together leaders in the K-12 school library community, with content and programming developed for school and district level librarians, library leaders and K-12 administrators. While others interested in attending may submit a request for registration, priority will be given to these professionals. We will notify you within five (5) business days as to whether your registration has been confirmed or if you have been placed on a wait list.




More details will be released as our program develops, so keep an eye on your inbox. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta this December!


Who should attend: school and district level librarians, library leaders and K-12 administrators.


Hotel information: Hotel reservation information will appear on your confirmation after registering.


Interested In Sponsoring? Please contact Advertising Director Roy Futterman:

Friday, December 1, 2023 - Pre Conference Events 

12:00 PM  Tours (sold out)
Docent led tour of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Martin Luther King  Jr. History Walking Tour

3:00 - 5:00 PM | Focus groups

5:30 - 6:30 PM | Welcome Reception (Courtland Grand Hotel)

Saturday, December 2, 2023

8:00 - 9:30 AM | Focus groups

8:15 - 9:45 AM | Breakfast

8:30 - 9:45 AM | Registration

9:45 AM | Welcome
Randal Heise, Co-Owner, Mackin
Kathy Ishizuka, Editor in Chief, SLJ

10:00 - 10:45 AM | Empowered in the Fight for Intellectual Freedom

This session will offer practical takeaways in coalition building, as well as how to refine the narrative for your specific community to get people on board, showing up, and speaking out for the freedom to read and the importance of school and public libraries.

John Chrastka, Executive Director, EveryLibrary
Latresha Jackson, Forsyth Coalition for Education
Michelle Jarrett, Florida School Library Supervisor
Kasey Meehan, Director, PEN America's Freedom to Read Project
Moderator, Kara Yorio, Senior News Editor, SLJ

10:45 - 11:00 AM | Break - Visit sponsors

11:00  - 11:30 AM | Recentering Reading 

With the resurfacing of the reading wars and concern about basic literacy in the wake of the pandemic, how do we restore the love of reading? Our panel will consider a renewed focus, exploring connections between reading and social emotional learning and wellbeing. What are you doing in this effort? A brief discussion will be followed by a pass-the-mic session, where we can share ideas.

Donna Gray, Library Operations & Instructional Coordinator, New York City School Library System
Cicely Lewis, School Librarian of the Year; school librarian, Meadowcreek High School. Norcross, GA
Introduction, Jasmine Amiri, Graphic Novels Editor, SLJ

11:30 AM - 12:00 PM | Making the Case for What You Do: How to Talk to Stakeholders 

It’s never been more important to be able to represent the profession to superintendents, school boards, and increasingly, legislators. Glean tips from our expert panel on how to break down assumptions about the traditional role of the librarian, and what it means to be a librarian of the future.

Becky Calzada, District Library Coordinator, Leander ISD, TX
Dr. Kevin M. Washburn, Director of Library Programs, DC Public Schools 

12:00 - 12:45 PM | Lunch 

12:45 - 1:45 PM  |  Making the Case for What You Do - small group discussion
Time to workshop ideas with your peers and share best practices in making the case for the profession and talking to key influencers. What messaging has worked best for you? Glean advice on how to address legislators before there’s a crisis. Everyone in the room is welcome to participate in these discussions. SLJ editors and the SLJ Summit Advisory Board will circulate.

1:45 - 2:00 PM | BREAK

2:00 - 2:45 PM | Are You Ready for the AI Revolution? 
Artificial intelligence holds unique challenges and opportunities for education. Three practitioner-leaders will broach current applications and what's in store for classrooms and libraries. 
Christopher Harris, School Library System, Genesee Valley (NY) BOCES
Elissa Malespina, teacher librarian, Union (NJ) High School
Dr. Judith Uchidiuno, Assistant Professor, School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology

2:45 - 3:45 PM | Digging Deep: Research’s Role in Getting to the Heart of a Story
Hear from acclaimed book creators who unearthed hidden gems while doing research on recent projects.

R. Gregory Christie, illustrator, Coretta's Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King
Candace Fleming, author, The Enigma Girls: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets, and Helped Win World War
Joanna Ho, author, On the Tip of a Wave: How Ai Weiwei's Art Is Changing the Tide
Steve Sheinkin, author, Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe
Lee Wind, author, No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves
Moderator: Shelley M. Diaz, Reviews Editor, SLJ

3:45 - 4:30 PM | Autographing Session

5:00 - 6:00 PM | Cocktail Party Sponsored by Mackin


Sunday, December 3, 2023

8:00 - 8:45 AM | Breakfast 

8:30 AM | Welcome
Amy Cox, Vice President, Marketing, Capstone

8:45 - 9:15 AM  Jeff Kinney | Keynote

Jeff Kinney is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series and the "Awesome Friendly Kid" series. He is a six-time Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award winner for Favorite Book and has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

9:15 - 9:45 AM | New York State of Mind: Lessons from the largest school district in the country
The Director of Library Services for the New York City school library system, Melissa Jacobs has seen a lot. Serving 1.1 million students on 1,800 campuses, NYC schools is not just the largest district in the U.S., it represents a diverse range of challenges. So we asked Jacobs: what wisdom could you share with your school library peers? Named a 2022 EdWeek Leader to Learn, Jacobs will cover tips gleaned from the rollout of a highly successful citywide digital library and the VITAL program (Vital Instructional Transformative Accessible Learning).
Speaker: Melissa Jacobs, Director of Library Services, New York City, Department of Education

9:45 - 10:30 AM | Breakout Conversations Session 1

  • Celebrating Joy of the Profession
    Facilitators: K. C. Boyd, 2022 School Librarian of the Year, Library Media Specialist, Jefferson Academy, Washington, DC; Donna Gray,  Library Operations & Instructional Coordinator, New York City School Library System
  • Collaboration with Teachers
    Facilitator: Kerry Townsend, Library Media Coordinator, Columbia (MO) Public Schools
  • Censorship: Handling book challenges, strategies
    Facilitator: John Chrastka, Executive Director, EveryLibrary

10:30 - 10:45 AM | Break

10:45 - 11:30 AM | Breakout Conversations Session 2

  • Censorship: Protect Yourself
    Facilitator: Amanda Jones, 2021 School Librarian of the Year, librarian, Live Oak Middle School, Denham Springs, LA
  • Are You Ready for the AI Revolution? the Workshop
    Facilitator: Elissa Malespina, Teacher Librarian, Union (NJ) High School
  • Idea Share
    Facilitators: Cicely Lewis, 2020 School Librarian of the Year, school librarian, Meadowcreek High School. Norcross, GA;  Melissa Corey, 2023 School Librarian of the Year Finalist, media specialist, Robidoux Middle School, St. Joseph, MO 

11:30 AM - 12:15 PM | Lightning Sessions 

Attendees take the mic in these crowd-sourced sessions—fast-paced, five-minute presentations on a topic submitted in advance by audience members.
MC: Jennifer Sturge, Specialist for School Libraries, Calvert County (MD) Public Schools

  • Finding Hope in Darkness Amanda Jones, 2021 School Librarian of the Year
  • Identify, Adapt, and Amplify Your Library Identity Tom Bober, School Librarian, Captain Elementary School, Clayton, MO

  • Reimagining Organization: Genrefying Nonfiction in an Elementary Library
    Rebekah Dawson-Bowman, Access and Instruction Librarian, La Jolla Country Day School, & Tara Peace, Program and Outreach Librarian, La Jolla Country Day School, Oceanside, CA

  • You Are What You Eat: Feeding AI Quality Texts for Best Results Erin Downey, District Consulting Librarian, Boise (ID) School District

  • Jazzing Up Collaboration with a Rock-Solid Curriculum
    Misti Frink, Library Media Director, Bismarck (ND) Public Schools

  • Library 2.0: Staying Relevant to Learners and Readers Shonda Tolliver, Library Media Specialist, Booker T. Washington Magnet School, Montgomery, AL

12:15 pm | Closing Remarks









Jeff Kinney is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series and the "Awesome Friendly Kid" series. He is a six-time Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award winner for Favorite Book and has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He spent his childhood in the Washington, D.C., area and moved to New England, where he and his wife own a bookstore named An Unlikely Story.




Author and national speaker, Tom Bober is a school librarian and district library coordinator in Clayton, MO. He serves as current president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians. Tom has been a Library Journal Mover and Shaker, Teacher in Residence at the Library of Congress, and has authored three books including his upcoming co-authored work, Literature and Primary Sources: The Perfect Pairing for Student Learning. He also hosts The Primary Source Podcast. 



K.C. Boyd is currently a school librarian with the District of Columbia Public Schools System.  She has previously worked as the Lead Librarian for the East St. Louis School District #189 in East St. Louis, IL., a Area Library Coordinator for Chicago Public Schools and a District  Coordinator for the Mayor Daley Book Club for Middle School Students. She is a second generation educator and holds Master’s degrees in Library Information Science, Media Communications, and Education Leadership. Boyd is a National Ambassador representing the Washington D.C. area for Checkology Virtual Classroom and The News Literacy Project.   



Becky Calzada is the District Library Coordinator in Leander, Texas. She is a co-founding member of #FReadom Fighters, recipient of the ALA’s Robert B. Downs Intellectual Freedom Award, the American Association of School Librarians’ Intellectual Freedom Award, and the Texas Library Association’s Libraries Change Communities Award. Becky is a cadre member of the ALA Policy Corp Proactive Advocacy on Book Banning, a member of the ALA Intellectual Freedom committee, on the Legislative Committee for the Texas Library Association, and Past Chair for the Texas Association of School Librarians. She is the 24/25 AASL President-Elect and was honored by People Magazine in their 2023 Women Changing the World portfolio.



John Chrastka is co-founder and executive director of EveryLibrary, the national political action committee for libraries, and the EveryLibrary Institute, a public policy and tax policy think tan for libraries. Since 2012, EveryLibrary has supported public libraries in numerous funding negotiations, politicized challenges, and over 120 election days, winning over $1.8 billion dollars in stable tax money for libraries. Its campaigns help ensure the future of school library work. The EveryLibrary Institute supports funding-focused research and training for library leaders and outreach to the public about librarians. 



R. Gregory Christie is a recipient of the Caldecott Honor, a winner of the NAACP Image award, and a six-time Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award honoree. Some of his recent books include Coretta's Journey; Answering the Cry for Freedom, which won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award; and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received six starred reviews. He also designed the art on the US Postal Service’s 2013 Kwanzaa stamp. Visit  



Melissa Corey is a middle school Library Media Specialist with 15 years of experience. She is the Immediate Past President of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, with 8 years of experience on the MASL Board of Directors. She is passionate about intellectual freedom, equity, and access for students in poverty. 


Rebekah Dawson-Bowman joined the La Jolla Country Day School library team in 2021. She has previously worked at an elementary school in Escondido, CA, as well as interned at the University of California San Diego Library. In her current role as Access and Instruction Librarian, she serves students aged 3 - Grade 12 and collaborates with staff across all divisions.     


Erin Downey is an experienced teacher, librarian, educational trainer, and presenter with almost 20 years of experience in public education. They are currently the consulting librarian for the Boise School District, where they support school librarians, library assistants, teachers, and school staff in getting the most out of their library, literacy, and technology programs.  



Candace Fleming is the versatile and acclaimed author of more than twenty books for children and young adults, including Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell; The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun’s Tomb; The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh, winner of the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award; the Sibert Award winner Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera; the Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner and Sibert Honor Book The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of the Russian Empire; and the critically acclaimed Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart


Misti Frink is the Library Coordinator and Curriculum Lead for Bismarck Public Schools in North Dakota.  She is passionate about informational literacy, librarianship, authentic learning, educational technology, and personalization.  Misti is Nationally Board Certified and holds a Masters from Florida State University.   


Donna Gray is a Library Coordinator for the New York City School Library System. She has over 20 years of experience in K-12 education, library services, and higher education. Donna has previously worked at the New York Public Library as a Senior Young Adult Librarian, Teacher’s College, and the New York City Department of Education. She received her Master’s in Library Science with a School Library Media concentration at Queens College, CUNY, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Bankstreet College. Donna has worked in K-12, public, and reference library settings. She is interested in developing strategies and programs that help students become engaged life-long learners who are informed, active citizens in their communities and beyond.



Dr. Christopher Harris is the Director of the School Library System for Genesee Valley BOCES, an educational services agency in Western New York that supports 22 small, rural school districts. He has been speaking around the country about generative AI, computational thinking, and other library technology ideas for 20 years. Dr. Harris also serves as a Senior Policy Fellow with the American Library Association and is on the board of trustees for his local public library.  



Joanna Ho is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of many children's books including Eyes that Kiss in the Corners; Eyes that Speak to the Stars; Eyes that Weave the World's Wonders; Say My Name; and Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma, recipient of an Ezra Jack Keats Honor. Her debut young adult novel, The Silence that Binds Us, received the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, Young Adult Honor. She earned her Masters in Educational Leadership at the Principal's Leadership Institute at the University of California, Berkeley and has been a classroom teacher, program designer and high school administrator. Her passion for equity in books and education is matched only by her love of homemade chocolate chip cookies, outdoors adventures, and dance parties with her kids. Visit her at 



LaTresha Jackson is a Sourcing Manager but for this crowd, and  is also a mother of 2 amazing children in Forsyth County Georgia. She is a proponent of education. She grew up in New Jersey and was raised by a single parent. LaTresha holds an accounting degree and an MBA from Rider University. Education changed her life, which is why it is so important to her. She is a member of the Forsyth Coalition for Education, a non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to safeguarding the integrity of education in Forsyth County. 



Melissa Jacobs is the Director of Library Services for NYC Public Schools and the New York City School Library System. Melissa started her career as an elementary school librarian and then spent 14 years as the Coordinator for Library Services. Melissa has been named a 2022 EdWeek Leader to Learn From, Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and has contributed to School Library Journal, Knowledge Quest, Teacher Librarian, and School Library Connection. In her spare time, she enjoys relaxing with her husband, two daughters, stepson, two orange cats, and Chiweenie.  



Michelle Jarrett is a Library Supervisor in Florida. She is the current president of the Florida Association for Supervisors of Media and a two-time Past President of the Florida Association for Media in Education. Michelle has served on legislative committees and lobbied extensively for school libraries in the state of Florida, including serving on the state of Florida workgroup for school library trainings. Michelle has enthusiastically led the charge for increasing digital offerings and services and has assisted with the planning of ongoing school library construction projects. Additionally, Michelle is successfully navigating the district role of maintaining student access to high quality literature while ensuring Florida's statutes and laws are followed. Michelle has been married for over 25 years and is the parent of 2 college age children, 2 Australian Shepherd puppies and one very old poodle. 



Amanda Jones is a 23 year educator and grassroots organizer in Louisiana on the frontlines fighting against censorship in libraries. She is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, and the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year.  Amanda is the 2023 AASL Intellectual Freedom Award winner and recipient of both the 2023 ALA Paul Howard Award for Courage and 2023 IFRT John Phillip Immroth Award. She is an international speaker and author of the upcoming book “That Librarian: Book Banning in Today’s America.” Follow her journey against censorship at



Cicely Lewis, 2020 SLJ School Librarian of the Year, is an author and the media specialist at Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, GA. She launched Read Woke in 2017 in response to the shootings of young unarmed black people, the repeal of DACA, and the lack of diversity in YA lit. When she is not reading, you can find Cicely writing for her bi-monthly column in the School Library Journal where she shares her book recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @cicelythegreat or check out her blog CicelytheGreat.



Kasey Meehan is the Program Director for Freedom to Read at PEN America, leading PEN’s initiatives to protect the rights of students, individuals, and communities to freely access literature in public preK-12 schools and public libraries. Kasey oversees and supports our research on school book bans, communicates widely on the state of book banning in the US, drives advocacy and mobilization actions, and supports parents, students, and authors in defending the freedom to read. 



Elissa Malespina serves as the Teacher Librarian at Union High School in Union, NJ. Beyond her educational role, she authors "The AI School Librarian Substack Newsletter," delving into AI applications in schools and libraries. Throughout her illustrious career, Elissa has garnered significant accolades, including the ISTE Making Happen Award and the 2022 LJ Mover and Shakers Award. (written with the help of AI) 



Tara Peace joined La Jolla Country Day School as the Program and Outreach Librarian in 2021, coming from a background in customer service related roles. She holds a Bachelor and a Master's in History from James Madison University and Cal State University, East Bay, respectively and completed her MLIS at the University of Alabama. Since joining La Jolla Country Day, Tara has actively worked to support teachers and students in the library and in the classroom, whether that be helping students learn to love reading independently or with the many research projects she assists them with! 



Steve Sheinkin is the acclaimed author of fast-paced, cinematic nonfiction histories, including Impossible Escape, Fallout, Undefeated, Born to Fly, The Port Chicago 50, and Bomb. His accolades include a Newbery Honor, three Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, a Sibert Medal and Honor, and three National Book Award finalist honors. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, with his wife and two children. 




Jennifer Sturge, Specialist for School Libraries Calvert County (MD) Public Schools, has been a proponent of school and public libraries since she won the bookmark contest at her local library at the age of seven. She has been in school libraries since 2006 and has served as an elementary librarian, district coordinator, and college professor. She has published and presented widely and enjoys connecting with others in her field. 


Shonda Tolliver is a Library Media Specialist for Booker T Washington Magnet Performing Arts School in Montgomery, AL. She has served in various positions in education for more than 20 years as a mathematics teacher, accountability/ curriculum specialist, media specialist, and educational consultant serving grades K-12. She believes in utilizing emerging technologies to enhance education. 


Kerry Townsend is the Library Media Coordinator for Columbia Public Schools in Columbia, MO and a former middle school librarian. She is also a PhD Candidate at the University of Missouri with a focus on effective school libraries, media and digital literacy and mediated communication. She holds graduate degrees in Education Technologies (MEd) and Educational Leadership (EdS) from the University of Missouri. She loves learning and hopes you do too. 



Dr. Judith Uchidiuno  

School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology,  
Judith Uchidiuno is an Assistant Professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing. She designs culturally-informed education technologies and increases access to computer science education for students from low-income and underserved communities. 



Dr. Kevin M. Washburn has 22 years of experience working as a School Librarian and District Leader. He also currently serves as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Maryland, master’s in library and information science program and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville for the School of Information Science. In addition, he is the current president of the District of Columbia Library Association.



Lee Wind is the founding blogger and publisher of I'm Here. I'm Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?, an award-winning website about books, culture, and empowerment for Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Questioning and Queer youth, and their Allies. He is the author of No Way, They Were Gay?: Hidden Lives and Secret Loves, which won the ILA Children's and Young Adult's Book Award and was named a 2021 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book. Lee also works for IBPA and SCBWI. Visit him online at to see and share how #QueerHistoryIsEverywhere. 




Jamine Amiri, Editor, Graphic Novels, School Library Journal 



Formerly at BookOps, technical services for New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library, Shelley Diaz is the reviews editor at School Library Journal. She has worked in several areas of publishing, including stints at Penguin Young Readers and Scholastic, and was formerly a children’s and YA selector at BookOps, technical services for New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library. She currently adjuncts at Queens College, where she teaches young adult literature to future librarians. 



Kathy Ishizuka is Editor in Chief of School Library Journal and directs partnerships and innovation for both SLJ and sister publication Library Journal. She has served on the board of trustees of the Freedom to Read Foundation (two terms) and the board of directors of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). In her partnership work, Ishizuka has spearheaded co-productions with NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), the Children’s Book Council, Facing History & Ourselves, and We Need Diverse Books. She was named among FOLIO's Top Women in Media in 2019, A member of the Asian American Journalists Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, Ishizuka is a graduate of AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program. She has also served on the board of the National Forum on Libraries & Teens. 



Kara Yorio, Senior Editor, News, School Library Journal 


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SLJ Summit Advisory Board

Becky Calzada, District Library Coordinator, Leander ISD, TX

David Wee, Director of Library & Media Services, Mid-Pacific Institute, Honolulu, HI

Donna Gray, Library Coordinator, NYC school system

Jennifer Sturge, Library Coordinator, Calvert County Public Schools, MD

Jonathan Hunt, Coordinator, Library Media Services, San Diego County Office of Ed, CA

Kara Thorstenson, Director of Digital Learning & Libraries, Chicago Public Schools

Kerry Townsend, Library Media Coordinator, Columbia Public Schools, MO

Dr. Kevin M. Washburn, Director of Library Programs, DC Public Schools

Lakisha Brinson, Dir. Of Instructional Tech & Library Services, Metro Nashville Public Schools, TN

Liz Phipps-Soeiro, Director of Library Services, Boston Public Schools

Margaret Adjoga-Otu, District Coordinator, Newark Public School District, NJ

Melissa Jacobs, Director of Library Services, NYC DOE

Michelle Jarrett, School Library Supervisor, Osceola County School District, FL


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