Monday, June 28, 2010

ALA Annual, 2010

I've been in Washington since Thursday, attending the American Library Association's annual conference. It's been a working meeting for me for the most part, rather indistinguishable from Midwinter. I chaired a preconference for YALSA on Friday, and have spent much of the subsequent time recovering from the anxiety that coordinating those 14 speakers induced. Here's the introduction I prepared for that event, in case you are interested in what all transpired:
My name is Wendy Stephens, and on behalf of YALSA and the preconference committee, I am happy to welcome you here today.
When then-YALSA President-Elect Linda Braun approached me about chairing this preconference, she had come up with the title “WTF? They ARE Reading?” Many of my files related to the conference still contain that acronym, but someone at YALSA thought “Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools” might be a little less questionable in case your library board was picking up your preconference registration expenses.
When talking about the changing nature of both books and the reading experience, I thought of course of Dr. Eliza Dresang whose ground-breaking theory of Radical Change has informed an entire generation of youth services librarians who recognize the truth in her exploration of how contemporary text has begun to mimic hypertext and web conventions.
I know I look to the Pew Internet and American Life project regularly for the up-to-the-minute statistics about young people are using technology.  The group’s assistant director, Dr. Kristen Purcell, will give us the hard facts about what young people are doing in terms of content consumption and generation.
We know that texts are changing as are teen media consumption habits, but what about the production of texts and how those producers are interacting with their readers? We as librarians usually remember the first time we met an author whose work we cherished, realizing that they ate and breathed, but many young people today will never have had that experience, because they are interacting with their favorite writers almost daily through social networks including facebook, livejournal, YouTube, and twitter, as well as closed social networks like nings.  I am curious to know if whatever authors might forfeit in terms of mystique is more than compensated by the deep and reiterative relationships with readers.
The author who has most conspicuously harnessed his readership using the power of social media for forces of good is John Green, whose nerdfighters are a testament to the community that literature can generate.  Joining him is his collaborator, David Levithan, who almost dialogic collaborations also hint at a changing model of authorship. David is also well-known as an editorial director responsible for the Push imprint at Scholastic, the publisher responsible for some of the more interesting multimodal books, so perhaps he will give us an inkling about the editorial process for books involving web or video content.
We will be hearing from Malinda Lo and Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, three first-time authors who used social media to create buzz well ahead of their publication dates, eventually earning the Morris award for 1st time authors, and from Melissa Walker, a young adult author and journalist will speak about using online forums as incubators to create a range of online conversations around the work of new and established writers alike as well as pioneering online projects like her teen consumer blog I Heart Daily and her latest venture, Before You Were Hot.
After hearing how reading, writing, and authorship are all changing in the digital landscape, our panel of all-star practitioners will give some practical extensions for teen readers as well as mechanisms for the facilitation of author-reader interactivity. Among other topics, we will hear about fan fiction, digital book trailers, virtual author visits, and author guides which highlight user-generated content. For teens who can’t get enough of a particular fictitious world, bringing the considerable amount of associated media into your library is a way of expanding your collection and offering them new literacy opportunities.
We hope that you will enjoy the afternoon thinking about the changing nature of reading and writing, much of it technologically facilitated, and that you will discover opportunities for your teens to experience the social side of reading.

I was absolutely thrilled to have some of the most amazing practitioners around share their work: Angie Manfredi, Bobbi Newman, Buffy Hamilton, Kelly Czarnecki (who was also on the preconference committee), Liz Burns, and Tiff Emmerick. I owe them all tremendously for their time and generosity. 

I've had some other fun, too -- a tea for Katherine Paterson Saturday afternoon was a real highlight. I actually got to have a conversation with her, about Jacob Have I Loved, and Vermont, and Read for Your Life, the electronic collections of her speeches I had read to bone up. She said she didn't know anyone else who had bought them!

At last night's Newbery/Caldecott, I sat with the DC Kidlit Group, spearheaded by the amazing Susan Kusel. She started an ambitious project to gather original art from everyone in the room, and brought the creative supplied to facilitate that.

This morning, I went to the first meeting of a new committee charge, as an "intern," no doubt the world's oldest individual in that capacity, but it's with the ALA Web Advisory Committee, so it's giving me all sorts of new insights into our professional organization, which can seem so monolithic and bureaucratic. It's a new world for me.  

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