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  • 1 May 2023 7:06 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    T- I don’t even know and after today, does it even matter?

    One thing I was not prepared for was the Call to Present. After accidentally deleting the entire thing and having to start over, I thought, “This couldn’t get worse.” I was wrong.

    The e-mails of whose proposals were accepted and were not went out yesterday (Sunday). I was unprepared for the vitriol that would be directed towards me from people whose proposals were not accepted. I did explain in the e-mails that the proposals were evaluated and scored using a rubric by several people. We took the averages of those scores and arranged the proposals in order of that. We have fewer than 90 available session slots and had 160 proposals. I would have loved to accept everyone’s proposal. But it just couldn’t happen. The committee never saw any presenter’s name. The evaluations were done blind, with just the session title and description. I did that so the merit of the session would be how it was evaluated. Not by name recognition. Was that wrong? Obviously so. I have never received so many e-mails where people are mad at *me* and ready to drop NCSLMA and not have anything to do with us. 

    I understand being disappointed. I truly get it. I have applied for tons of awards, grants, sessions, etc. that I didn’t get. Did I think I deserved them? Abso-freaking-lutely. Did I lash out to the committees who made the decision? Abso-freaking-lutely not. Did I send a polite e-mail asking for feedback so I could do better next time? Yes. I did receive one of those and I am grateful for it. I will e-mail you back after I have had time to recover from the other e-mails I read today. I probably wouldn’t have been so upset about this whole thing if it had only been one or two e-mails. Y’all. So far, it’s been almost a dozen. That many people angry at *me* because their session wasn’t chosen. 

    The committee that read the proposals and helped score them gave so much of their time to go through 160 sessions. Should I have gone through every one of them and said, “Well, that person is this person so they deserve for me to cancel out what the committee believes.” Maybe I should have. But then I would have had to eliminate sessions who scored higher to make room for sessions who scored lower. That doesn’t sit right with me. I value EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. Who took the time to submit a proposal and those who helped score the proposals AND those who are planning this conference. This is not a thin-skinned person’s position. And I don’t usually have thin skin, but after what I received today, I’m reconsidering everything about being President-Elect and planning this whole conference. 

    But I committed to this and I’m going to see it through. Obviously with several people who now hate me, but the friends I have made while being involved with NCSLMA make it worth every tear I have cried today and every e-mail draft I didn’t send because I am not that person. 

    Anyway, there’s other conference stuff going on, but I’ll write more about that next week. I’m done with this week.

    Still here,

  • 6 Mar 2023 2:24 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    First, the reminders.

    There is just under a month left to submit your proposal to present at Conference. 

    Vendor registration is open. If you have a vendor that you love to see each year, let them know you can’t wait to see them in October!

    The Magic in Your Library promotion will be going through September. If you haven’t submitted some magic you’re making, please consider it.

    And now, the updates.

    In the two weeks since my last post, there have been even more meetings. I know. You’re surprised. I can tell. 

    The PR committee met to catch up on things. And y’all! They are WORKING! We already have our first door prize donation from a local Winston-Salem business. Camino Bakery (Downtown 4th Street location) has donated six coffee mugs and they are NICE! When you’re planning your time outside of the sessions, please consider adding them to your list of business to visit. 

    The Featured Speaker committee has been BUSY brainstorming and then contacting storytellers to fill our storyteller panel. Emily had some ideas on how to get even more storytellers, so we’re going to meet soon to discuss that. It was a brilliant idea and I’m mad I didn’t come up with it. 

    ***The President Council met and decided we could keep the registration rates the same as years before. We also decided to lower the presenter registration rate to $50 (and that will include some special NCSLMA swag). When we looked over the survey results (if you haven’t filled it out, check it out here), most people said the cost of conference kept them from going. While we can’t lower it, we can keep the cost the same. We hope to be able to still provide a fantastic conference experience and some awesome swag. We want you to be able to sport NCSLMA logoed stuff everywhere you go and show your pride in our organization!

    Speaking of swag, we’re currently running a sale of 20% off everything in the NCSLMA store

    I hope everyone has a fantastic week and I look forward to updating you again soon on what all is going on with the conference!


  • 12 Feb 2023 9:00 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)


    I feel like every week I say things are happening, but that’s because things are happening every week! It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

    This past week, the Call to Present went out. We’re up to 10 submissions already. Keep them coming! The Magic in Your Library promotion went out as well. The PR team is really looking forward to hearing your stories so we can share what you are doing with the world. 

    Speaking of the PR team, we met briefly on Tuesday. Mandy created the Magic in Your Library form and the group fine-tuned some of the tasks they will be working on. They have such great ideas and will help make conference a special experience!

    The Featured Speaker committee met Sunday and we got a LOT done. We met for almost an hour and a half. Remember, I really do love meetings AND I absolutely adore Pam and Emily so I was just excited to see and talk to them. :-) We discussed the changes from years past and the Featured Speaker and Storyteller Guild rosters. I’m very happy with their vision and plans and can’t wait to see what storytellers they are able to secure.

    I have been listening to the School Librarians United podcast and one of the episodes was with the Conference Planner for another state’s school library organization. She said people kept asking her if she was stressed about planning a conference for so many people and she said she wasn’t, that she trusted the people she was working with. I am so lucky to have such amazing people helping out. I’m a bit of a control freak (don't laugh or roll your eyes - I know what I am) and I am absolutely going to stress about it, but I know all of these amazing librarians are fantastic and I’m not stressing because of them. I’m stressing because it’s who I am. LOL I have met so many amazing people and I am honored that they wanted to be part of the planning of this conference. 

    Speaking of amazing people, Heath is still working on getting the rooms straight at Embassy. He has probably spent hours at this point trying to get someone there to respond to his e-mails or phone calls. We try to stick with e-mails so there is a paper trail and because we all have full time jobs that do not include conference planning. Fingers crossed that this week we’ll have those rooms firmed up.

    Outside the conference, things are happening with NCSLMA as well. Our book club, Page Turners, meets on Saturday to discuss Mad Honey by Jodi Piccoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan. It’s not too late to sign up for the book club! Jennifer Long is our new Book Club Coordinator and she has taken to it like a duck to water. Or a librarian to a book club. Hahahahahahaha 

    We also have the Winter Tune Up starting Monday. Check out for our winter PD opportunity. Each day this week, the recordings will be linked so you can learn and earn! The PD certificate will be available on Friday so you can submit them to your district for CEUs. Shoutout to Lori Munroe and the Regional Directors for putting it together this year! 

    Be on the lookout this week-ish for the notification that our Awards, Scholarships, and Grants are available. Did you know that you can apply to be the Media Coordinator of the Year even if your district doesn’t choose one? Self nomination is absolutely encouraged! Share your magic with the Robin Rhodes and the Awards Committee!

    Y’all know I like to talk and write a lot, but I thank you for reading this far. I hope these glimpses of the behind the scenes of planning a conference help paint the bigger picture of what all goes into it. We put on our conference really as a love letter to our members and I want you to know that we keep that in mind with every decision that is made. 

    I hope your week is full of love!
    Kristy -
    Heath -
  • 5 Feb 2023 8:59 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)


    Whew! This week was a WHIRLWIND!!! 

    The Benton space planning is pretty much done. Heath and I are so appreciative of them for taking time to make sure layouts and rooms look good and feel good. The vendor hall will be halls this year to make the best use of meeting space. The bulk of the vendors will be in the main hallway. But we’ll also have some in the dead-end hallway when you first walk in and in the main meeting space. 

    Of course, all of this changes if we end up with 600 people there. That would be a good problem that we would be thrilled to have happen.

    Some fun things to share. We have our first keynote speaker mostly secured. I have to send the contract and get that signed and then we can officially announce who it is. Those who are in the NCSLMA Facebook Group already know. Shhhhhhhhh.

    We are now working on scheduling storytellers. Instead of an author panel, we will be hosting a storyteller’s guild. We are working with a production company to have four Drag Queens run a session and tell us a story or two (and party with us at NCSLMA-Jama!!!). I am working to get a HUGE name in storytelling as another keynote speaker. I still have three slots to fill and I have reached out to a few people to pick some brains. 

    The Call to Present went out or goes out, depending on when I get this published, on Monday, February 6. I really cannot wait to see what awesome sessions you all come up with! And I really can’t wait to see the session titles. It’s a little embarrassing how much I’m looking forward to reading those. 

    The Vendor application went out. We have had exactly one vendor already fill it out. Shout out to Becky Henry with Bound To Stay Bound for being on top of it! They will have first dibs at their booth of choice.  

    I think I only met with Heath this week, but I texted and e-mailed Jennifer and Jenny so much, it felt like a real meeting, so we’re going with that. My week absolutely flew by and I really don’t know what happened. 

    Heath was able to get the hotel room blocks finalized. He called and e-mailed so many times I’m sure the good people at Embassy and Marriott were thrilled to finally be done with us. But it got done! Kudos to Heath!

    The PR Team meets this Tuesday and after that meeting, we will send out the Share Your Magic promotion. I’m really excited about this. It was not my idea and I’m mad I didn’t come up with it because it’s so good. You’ll see on Wednesday what it’s all about! 

    The whole team will meet on Saturday, February 18, to get up to date on everything that’s going on and that will happen. I look forward to these check-in meetings. Who am I kidding? I love meeting period. I’m that fool who still looks forward to faculty meetings, if that tells you what level of nerd I am. I feel so isolated in the library and my NCSLMA family means so much to me. I am grateful that I am part of this organization, this family, and I hope you all can feel that through these blog posts and all the fun stuff we are planning. NCSLMA is the best PLN out there!

    Upcoming dates to know:
    February 13-17 - Winter Tune Up PD Series
    February 15-ish - Awards, Scholarships, and Grants window opens
    March 31 - Call to Present ends
    April 14 - Notification of session acceptance
    April 15 - Early Bird Registration Opens

    I hope you have a fantastic week. We'll be working on the conference!
    Kristy and Heath

  • 29 Jan 2023 8:41 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)


    We’re rolling! 

    Timelines are being set. Meetings are being scheduled. Seriously, we had so many meetings this week. And I feel SOOOOOO good about where we are right now.

    Heath, Jennifer Abel, Jenny Umbarger, and I met with Koury to talk about their proposal to move the conference there for the next bit. They are putting something formal together and we’ll look at it when it arrives. Later that same day, Heath and I met with Benton and that was FANTASTIC! I wish we had done that sooner. We sent them our tentative conference schedule and they were able to make magic happen. So now we have space for everything we wanted and we can start scheduling Featured Speakers!! I am ridiculously relieved that that part is done. I am grateful to Ayshen and Shelly at Benton for their patience and their amazing ideas. 

    Heath, Colleen, Jenny and I met Saturday afternoon to finalize the vendor stuff. That will go out February 1 to everyone, so if you know someone who would like to be a vendor you can send them the information! Please send the information. We need to have all the vendors we can so we can afford to do the stuff I’m planning. Who knew I had so many expensive ideas? LOL Eek.

    And Heath was on the phone all week long. He scheduled the calls with Benton and Koury. He has been working tirelessly to arrange rooms at Embassy. By next year, he will be a complete pro because he is learning trial by fire this year, for sure. His tenacity is a thing of legend at this point. 

    One of the things I’m hoping to add this year is a party. A real party with a DJ and drinks and food and dancing. We’re calling it NCSLMA-Jama and hope everyone will be able to attend. It’ll be in Benton Friday night at 7:30-ish so you don’t even have to go anywhere else! Bring your cardigans and boogie down! If you’re not laughing at that, you should be.  

    We’re still planning to send the call to present out February 6-ish. Jenny sent me some stuff that I neglected to look at this weekend, so hopefully I can get all that done Monday night. Selected presenters will receive discounted registration of $75 for the main presenter. We are also going to have some special edition presenter-specific swag as a thank you. We’re excited to see what great ideas you all have! And don’t forget the magic themed title (not required, but would be fun!). 

    I remain grateful every day for Heath for his patience with me as we bumble through this together. And there is no way I would feel any kind of confidence at all without the mentorship and support of Jennifer, Jenny, Bitsy, and Cindy. You all are amazing and I cannot say Thank You enough. 

    As always, if you have any thoughts or suggestions for conference, send them to me ( or Heath ( 

    Have a great week and I’ll keep you updated!
  • 11 Jan 2023 12:14 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    Welcome back to hot mess central! 

    Not really, but when you're in the thick of it and have a worst case scenario immediately mindset, it feels like it. :-)

    We don’t have a ton of new stuff to share this week. The biggest item is that we still don’t have enough space at Benton. We have been back and forth with them, but our last response was over a week ago and we haven’t heard back. We are in a literal standstill because we can’t book speakers until we know when ( or even if) we can accommodate them. We can’t plan events or open up vendor registration because we don’t know if we’ll have to move the timeline of the conference. Having enough space is KEY to having a successful or even adequate conference and we are at the mercy of Benton to make sure we have it.

    While we’re waiting on Benton, we are working on some behind-the-scenes stuff. 

    • The Vendor registration form should be completed this week so whenever we have the space issue settled, that can go out and vendors can start signing up. 

    • The Call to Present form is being worked on (Thank you Jenny Umbarger!) so we can get that out in early February. If you haven’t started thinking about presenting at NCSLMA, start thinking today!

    • We are investigating which scheduling app to use at conference. We have used Sched for the past few years, but there are other options available now. If you know of any, let us know! 

    • The conference webpages are slowly being built and should be public when the Vendor Information goes out, but definitely by the time the Call to Present goes out.

    • The PR Committee meets later this week and will go over specific duties and work on a plan for everything Magic and NCSLMA.

    Several members of the Conference Committee met Sunday for a check in and catch up so everyone knows what’s going on. After I moaned and complained for 20 minutes about lack of space, we finished the rest of the meeting quickly.

    And since I’m late getting this out, I can add the PR Committee stuff. We met Tuesday afternoon and I am so thrilled with what Mandy Keziah is doing with the team. They are building a multi-platform Conference playlist so you can get in Magic Mode while on your way to Conference. They are also working on getting us discounts and prizes from local businesses so we can pass those on to our attendees. And I’m REALLY excited about our “Magic In Your Library” project. We’ll be asking for you to submit ways you see and create magic in your library. We want to know the small magics and the big magics. This will be a social media bonanza and we’ll get to show the world what magic is happening in NC School Libraries. That form will be going out soon so you can start sharing your magic!

    As always, if you have any thoughts or suggestions for conference, send them to me ( or Heath ( 

    Have a great week and keep making that magic happen!

  • 19 Dec 2022 2:30 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    Where did the last three weeks go???

    I'm sure we're all in the same boat and this month has been BUSY for all of us outside of conference planning. BUT we did get some things accomplished this past week. I met with the PR Committee and it was such a great meeting. Mandy Keziah has this group off to a great start. I was thrilled to see how she took our humble initial ideas and is running with them and making them even better. They will start really going in early January. Be on the lookout for information from them on their side of conference planning. 

    Heath and I met with Colleen Graham to go over Vendor stuff. We’re going to have a larger vendor space and while that is awesome for our attendees (and bottom line), it does make for more work, so we needed to get on the same page and get ready for the craziness that will be January. During this meeting, we promoted Colleen to Assistant Co-Director of Conference, which isn’t exactly a title yet, we made it up, but it seemed appropriate since she’ll need to know everything going on conference-wise to be the vendor liaison. :-) We had a really fantastic brainstorm session and decided to change some things up so we can keep our Conference fresh. 

    • Change #1:The cost of food at Benton is ASTRONOMICAL. Like, seriously, ridiculously high, and went even higher for this past conference, with no sign of coming back down. Our food minimum is $12,000 and meals start at $36 per person. Snacks start at $10 per person per 30 minutes. Check out the menu here to see what we’re working with:
      We discussed and discussed and discussed (we met for almost 2.5 hours!) and decided we had two options: 1) Increase the cost of registration by $20 across the board to be able to cover the big meal for everyone. 2) Ask that people who want the big meal to add $20 to their registration to cover half the cost. It’ll be an Italian buffet, $40-$50 per person. We chose Option 2 because when we go to conferences, sometimes it’s fun to find your own food and do we really go to a conference for the convention center food? There will not be a keynote during this lunch time. It would be a time for relaxation and camaraderie. There will also be no extra tickets, so if you don’t buy the ticket up front, you will need to eat in one of the fantastic restaurants around Benton. But fear not! Our PR Committee will be putting together a list of restaurants that support NCSLMA. 

    • Change #2: We are making sure there are times for breaks, snacks, and drinks throughout the day. By having part of the big meal covered, it helps us spread the love around. 

    • Change #3: Instead of having an author panel, we will have a storyteller’s panel to match this year’s theme. We are working on getting professional storytellers from all different points of view to share with us how they make magic happen via storytelling. Storytelling is such a huge part of our jobs and I am really excited at the prospect of having professional storytellers there. 

    • Change #4: (tentative) The Vendor Reception may be going away. I have reached out to some vendors to see what their thoughts are on it. It is not well attended and the food for it would cost around $6,000. It may be time for something new. 

    • Change #5: We heard from a lot of you that the workshops weren’t well-attended. So in 2023, we will only have a couple of workshops, but they will be given by our storytellers and/or keynotes on Saturday. We know Saturday is usually sparsely attended, but with our main keynote (fingers crossed) being Saturday morning and these professional workshops afterwards, we are hoping you will stay and get the full conference experience. 

    Then I met with Bitsy and Cindy to talk about some ideas they had that jived exactly with the changes we had in mind and we talked through all of those and potential issues that might come up. It helps so much to have the guidance and support of people who have done it before. I looped Heath in on that and he has sent off a request to Benton and Embassy to see if we can make some of these happen. Due to meeting space constraints at Benton, there may have to be more and bigger changes, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, hopefully sooner rather than later. I'm a planner and not having things lined up in plenty of time stresses me out. Heath is having a heck of a time getting people at Benton and Embassy to return e-mails. The struggles we're having make Koury Convention Center and its one-stop-shop look really good right now. 

    I say it every time and I still can’t say it enough. I am so grateful for the people who are helping with Conference. I don’t know how anyone can do all this with just a couple of people. We literally have a minimum of eighteen people helping with all of this. It is definitely taking a village and I hope we are laying the groundwork for an easier conference-planning experience for everyone in the future. 

    If you have questions, ideas, comments, etc., feel free to e-mail me at or Heath at

  • 28 Nov 2022 2:48 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    After taking a break for Thanksgiving, we are back in full force with conference planning! Heath and I met with our new Conference Committee Chairs this past weekend. Thank you so much for stepping up! Mandy Keziah is our new PR Chair. Colleen Graham is our new Vendors Chair. Marcia Wingerd is our new Technology Chair. And Emily Golightly is our new Keynote Chair. During our meeting, we went over some basics about what their jobs will be, the expectations of the positions and communications, and then we answered questions. We hope this is the beginning of a fruitful, productive year of planning and fellowship. 

    The weekend prior, I met with Cindy (Heath was having technical difficulties) about the Benton space and how to plan the vendor room and session space and eating space. We’re thinking about moving the vendor hall downstairs so we can have more vendors in attendance. We did have to turn vendors away for this past conference because of the limited space for them. In the downstairs Piedmont Ballroom 3, we can have up to 44 vendors. That will also free up some space to have sessions. We would then be able to use the upstairs Winston 1 as three meeting spaces, giving us 10 rooms for sessions. ***But then I just looked at our contract again and we don’t have the downstairs Piedmont rooms at all on it. So we’re back to the drawing board…and e-mailing Benton to see what we can do. The fun never ends. 

    Seriously, it is not easy planning a conference. You have no idea how grateful I am for Heath, Cindy, Bitsy, and the entire conference planning team. My last e-mail had as the subject “I might be freaking out a little”. Which as everyone knows is going to be just great news. Stay tuned each week for more conference news!

  • 17 Nov 2022 8:59 AM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    This week we had a meeting of people who are interested in helping out with conference planning. We're "hiring" volunteers for three committees - PR, Vendors, and Technology. Twenty-six people showed up for the meeting and many of them have already applied to be on a committee. We're excited to see that so many people are willing to help. You are all appreciated!!

    I have started playing with conference budget numbers because apparently I don't have enough stress in my life.  Food is the #1 expense for a conference and we will only have a vague idea of how much it is until we submit final menus and attendance numbers 4-6 weeks before the conference.  However, the rental costs of the space and the technology are a really close second. The convention center will cost us $23,000 and then $17,000 more for the technology and vendor hall setup. Our required food minimum is $12,000, but that would *just* cover two days of breakfasts (one continental and one small buffet) that will feed 300 people each. Our hope/goal/plan is to feed 300 people breakfast for Friday and Saturday as well as hors d'oeuvres on Thursday evening, and 500 people for dinner Friday night. As of right now with this plan, the food will cost around $55,000, around $110 per person.  And that is IFF (if and only if) food costs don't go up again. So we’re looking at $95,000 before keynotes, authors, and registration gifts. 

    So how do we pay for it? We have had anywhere from 400-550 people attend conference. Around 70% of attendees take advantage of the early bird rates and 17% get presenter rates. There is never enough from registration costs alone to cover the conference and that is one of the reasons we absolutely love our vendor support. And we haven’t even talked about keynote or author fees. Or other miscellaneous conference expenses that come up. Or registration gifts. Or …. 

    This is our yearly dilemma. How do we provide the very best conference experience we can on a moving target of a budget? As we go through the year, we’ll talk more about this and how hard we’re working to be good stewards of your and NCSLMA’s money because we REALLY want to offer a great conference experience and who doesn't love being fed and gifted and able to listen to amazing keynote speakers and authors?

    Have a great week!

  • 7 Nov 2022 11:44 AM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

    This week was somewhat quiet on the conference front. I have been searching for swag for our members. If you get a chance, fill out this form so we can see what you would like to have as a registration gift. We don't want to get things you won't use. I did receive a sample of the planner I really want to get and I am really happy with it.

    We sent an e-mail out to all our members recruiting for conference committee members. That meeting is Tuesday (11/8) at 7:30pm. If you are interested in attending, it's not too late! Check out the event at Conference Help Meeting. You can sign up to attend the meeting or fill out the included form to receive more information after the meeting. 

    Heath has been working to get quotes for Conference 2024 and beyond. He's also working with Marriott and Embassy to fine-tune the room requirement. We have to have so many rooms reserved for the conference dates so everyone receives a discounted rate. As expensive as they are, they're even more expensive without that discount. And there's a lot to be said for the convenience of being able to walk to Benton and not have to worry about parking every day.

    Heath and I are meeting tonight to go over the agenda for the meeting tomorrow. I would say that shouldn't take too long, but when we get together, we talk. A lot. A whole lot. :-) 

    In the next few weeks, we will be firming up committees and chairs and inviting keynote speakers, authors, etc. to attend and sign contracts. We will also be working on vendor contracts to get as much lined up as early in advance as we can. Things will really start rockin' and rollin' so stay tuned for more updates on what is going on behind the scenes!

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NCSLMA is a professional organization dedicated to supporting, promoting, and empowering school librarians across the state as they transform their school communities.


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