ALA 2013–Chicago!

ALA conferences have a particular arc to them. A couple of weeks beforehand, I am scrambling to get everything done so I can take some time out to immerse in professional development. I worry and worry, with a little fussing thrown in, about the travel logistics. Surprisingly, that is more true when the conference is here than when it is there, because when it is here you have to figure out your clothes and your parking, and it is challenging to make a firm division between everyday work life and conference life. In short, before conference I tend to be a little anxious and cranky.

But then conference gets started, and so many great moments take place, like:

Driving down to the McCormick Convention Center at 6:30 in the morning and turning the wrong way for parking and driving around a freight area and underneath McCormick and…oh wait, that wasn’t one of the great moments. Try again:

Successfully parking and successfully getting a shuttle and successfully making it to a committee meeting. The Carnegie Medal (the original Carnegie Medal, not the new adult book award that took the same name because apparently there weren’t any other good names available) gives an award to the producer of the best children’s DVD.  So I get to sit in a room with smart and interesting people and analyze short movies for kids. Obviously that is fun work, and I’m glad it’s a two-year committee because you learn a lot the first year about film-making techniques. I notice much more now than I did at the beginning! I can say, since it is combined with Notable Children’s DVDs, and that is a public discussion, that there are already some great DVDs out for kids.

Made it back to McCormick only a little late for the Teen Feedback Session of Best Fiction for Young Adults. Nine of our teens made the trek to conference, and stood at the microphone and gave their opinions of the newest crop of YA novels. They were smart and interesting and funny, and the fun continued as the teens and their chaperones were given a pizza lunch and a panel discussion with three YA authors, where they asked very smart and interesting questions. We then hit the exhibit floor with them, and one of them went to the Penguin booth and pitched an idea she had for a book. She didn’t realize at the time that she was pitching to the President, and came away with his card and the cards of two agents. How many adult potential writers would kill for that opportunity?

Next day, I got a ride from a kind, smart and interesting friend–yay! We heard some hilarious readers theater presentations from six Scholastic authors. Let me tell you, it is very entertaining to hear authors act out each other’s books.  It was also a great chance to reconnect with old friends.
Next up, the PLA President’s Program. I came away very inspired by the work being done out in other public libraries around the country. And then, author Ann Patchett spoke, not about her writing but about her love of books and reading. “Books made me,” she said, and she pointed out that whenever you hand a book to someone that book becomes a part of them. It was all a big celebration of Readers Advisory, and her stories of taking away books from people trying to buy them in her Nashville Bookstore, Parnassus Books, were hilarious. One really nice part about moving up in the library chain of command is I feel like I can now think more about how adults use the library, too, and I haven’t done that since my early librarian days at a branch library.

At the exhibits, I heard about streaming independent movies (IndieFlix), streaming classical music (Naxos), a gigantic book dispensing machine that shall be nameless because it was insanely expensive and didn’t even hold a book longer than 200 or so pages, a 3-D printer, and a set of off-site lockers where patrons can pick up materials. I also got yelled at by a vendor who also shall be nameless because of some interaction between his company and my library that I had absolutely nothing to do with and is over anyway. It frankly didn’t seem like the best sales technique.

The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet was delightful as always. We sat with people from all around the country and traded stories, and then we all sat back to listen to authors talk about their work. I love being a librarian!
The rest of the awards were presented this morning, including the one for our last year’s winning film, Anna, Emma and the Condors (by Katja Torneman, distributed by Green Planet). One of the high points was being congratulated by several people afterwards–we picked a great movie, but it was very gratifying to have our choice confirmed and applauded. We went out to lunch with Katja and her distributor, Susan, and had wonderful conversations about filmmaking and libraries and Anna and Emma and all sorts of things.

Now I am at the other side of the arc, where I am happy and exhausted. I’m simultaneously very sad and very relieved that I decided against attending the Printz Award tonight–I love hanging out with the cool and fun and smart and interesting YA librarians, but I am beat. The unbelievable thing is how much I missed–I saw one speaker, but there were 12! I saw many many friends, but looking at Facebook I suddenly realize I never bumped into another ten or so.

So that is that for another year (with many other pieces left out). When I am going through the worrying/fussing phase next time,  I will try to remember the happy/exhausted end of the trip and just try to enjoy it all.

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2 Responses to ALA 2013–Chicago!

  1. Robin Smith says:

    I saw you from across the room…alas.

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