Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Unpacking after Midwinter 2011

My school district's on its third snow day this week, but I am feeling very fortunate not to be stranded in San Diego. I can use the extra time to follow up on ALA Midwinter, which began early with Friday's all-day #alaremix unconference convened by Allen McGinley and JP Portero, featuring a really invigorating cross-section of librarians from all different settings, sharing challenges and opportunities common to all information agencies.

That afternoon, I had an ALA intern meeting. It was really rather exciting to get to participate in "big ALA" or "ALA proper," and to my relief, I was far from the oldest intern in the room. We were welcomed by ALA President Roberta Stevens who, along with a range of other former interns, shared their experiences and encouraged our organizational involvement. I recognized a few faces from the Emerging Leaders program, another leadership development project. As far as the intern thing goes, I  feel very lucky to have a really interesting committee to work with, the Website (soon perhaps Web Presence) Advisory Committee, an umbrella group where divisional representatives come to share their group's observations, concerns and visions for networked organizational communication. Because of the scale and variability of the membership and myriad different requirements, the organization's online presence is particularly interesting. While the committee's Monday morning meeting conflicted with the Youth Media Awards, but I was able to watch the announcement hashtag to learn about the winners in what was almost real time.

Between the exhibits opening and a couple of publisher previews, I felt especially fortunate in finding the 2011 titles my students are particularly looking forward to, including Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins, What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen, and Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer. Now, a decade into librarianship and largely because of social media in general,  I am finally beginning to associate authors with houses. Understanding publishing has been vital to obtaining the ARCs my teens are already buzzing about, as well as the most lauded debuts. I expect the haunting, lyrical Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma to be a Morris contender. I'm also totally jazzed about Beth Revis's debut, Across the Universe.

Among the sessions I attended was a joint RUSA/YALSA discussion where the topic of young adult reference services were eclipsed by general Oh tempora! Oh moraes! teeth-gnashing on the part of academic librarians decrying teens as rowdy, prevaricating, disorganized, and exasperating, forcing the school and public librarians there to defend their kind wholesale. An antidote was the Best Fiction for Young Adults feedback session, where local titles weigh in on titles under consideration for that list. I am always intrigued with the reactions of actual teens to the range of literature under consideration.

I am almost always exhausted by Monday evening, but this year, a walk on the Pacific restored me sufficiently to rally for the AASL/ALSC/YALSA joint divisional reception. It was a terrific chance to see everyone all dressed up, with ambient lighting and grown-up food, especially the giddy selection committee members, done with their year's work. I don't think I'll ever miss it again and will plan to stay for the signings after, next year.

I came back from California with a handful of projects, one of them being the videotapes of the AASL candidates speeches to post to ALA Connect. As always, I was impressed with the prescience and accomplishments of my colleagues.

All the terrific conversation that will give me food for thought, and at the end of the conference I ended up with a signed petition to run as candidate for ALA Council. The real genus of that was hearing, again and again, that school librarians won't participate in ALA when asked. I think it is especially important to represent the professionals that work with the next generation of taxpayers. One of the women at the unconference made the comment that one of her concerns was helping to elevate the status of school librarians so it was more equivalent of that of public and academic librarians. My knee-jerk reaction was outrage at the perceived slight, but I have been thinking about what she is saying, and really believe it is because we are the one arm of the profession that most often works independently, without a cadre to support us in our overarching professional goals. Also, I am really compelled to better understanding the organization, its component parts, their constituencies and concerns.

There are always session conflicts, but I was especially sad to miss Nancy Pearl's interview with Neil Gaiman, where he announced an addition and expansion of American Gods, Vernor Vinge, and the session on Turning the Page on eBooks. And next time, I'll know about the Seuss Collection. There's always Anaheim next summer...

Also, in the spirit of newspaper corrections, Blythe Woolston is the Morris winning author with the uproarious speech. So sorry for misspelling her first name, which I especially hate as her pithy, "shit happens in your head when you read" was retweeted.

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