Monday, April 25, 2011

Alabama Library Association wrap-up

I spent last Wednesday and Thursday in Orange Beach, Alabama, at the Alabama Library Association Annual Conference. Alabama has a tiny shoreline, but it IS rather gorgeous and unspoiled by development -- I was actually rather distressed that they put the beach on our latest license plate. I guess don't want to share it. The conference opened on the anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, but the beaches were pristine.

Mystery writer Carolyn Haines opened the conference, touching on everything from the 99 cent ebook price point to her covert check-out of the once-scandalous Forever Amber from her childhood public library. Some other highlights:

Jane Daugherty from the Gulf Shores public library talked about helping patrons with workshops and one-on-one in using the Overdrive ebooks available from their eresources consortium, Camellia Net. Very interesting to hear about a tech-y topic from someone working across a digital divide unrelated to income, given their influx of snowbirds.

The CUS Research Forum featured three presentations of award-winning research, including one practitioner study about improved collections in a middle school library and increased circulation among underprivileged students. Elizabeth Hester, who worked on her National Boards certification at the same time I did, is the librarian and Melissa Sherman her collaborating reading specialist at Irondale Middle School where they compared circulation statistics by low SES after an infusion of Title I money for materials. They also recommended ordering multiple copies of popular titles and improving subject-related signage, including anticipatory signage about popular sequels.

The CUS/YASRT breakfast is always one of my favorite events, and we were lucky enough to have Irene Latham come to speak about the process of writing and the reception of her terrific debut novel, Leaving Gee's Bend. Our Teachers as Readers book group had skyped with Irene in the fall, but getting to meet her and thank her face-to-face was very special. There were also some very provocative booktalks from librarians around the state which I will be using for collection development.

I attended David Brown from the First Regional Library System in Mississippi's presentation on reader's advisory for graphic novels, which took an interesting approach -- pitching graphic novels to the readers of traditional formats, especially when it involves graphic format versions of their favorite books or informational topics of interest. Brown really stressed that additional cataloging was required if these items were to be discoverable via the catalog.

My co-librarian Carolyn Starkey and I presented on ebooks, and the crowd was incredible. We had some women from a small public library come up afterwards to talk about their few requests for the format from patrons and discussed ways they could satisfy their patron's desire to read in that format without heavy investment by connecting them with free sources, which was one of the best conversations of the conference.

ALLA is always fun because of getting to catch up with friends I don't see anywhere else, and it was really on-point this year. Next year's conference will be in Birmingham, April 24-27. I have marked my calendar.

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