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.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

Alphabet Soup: AIMA, (now ASLA), Library Media Symposum, & AETC

Alabama educators met in Birmingham for the Alabama Educational Technology Conference (AETC) and its offshoots this week, many of them clutching their iPads and iPhones, postponing summer break for a little bit. It was the end of an era as the Alabama Instructional Media Association (AIMA) resolved to change its name to the Alabama School Library Association (ASLA). I will admit, I prefer that option not only because of the nice parallel with the American Library Association but because so many people are flummoxed by the possessives in the other possibilities (Alabama School Librarians' Association, Alabama School Librarians' Association.)

Monday was the annual day-long AIMA conference, this year at Hoover High School. Dr Carolyn Starkey from Alabama State University led two sessions on e-readers, and I was happy to share my 2nd gen Kindle hardware, iPhone Kindle app and the PC software version on my tablet during both of those. Carolyn has a 1st gen Kindle and the larger format Kindle DX, Dr. Averil Loague from ASU showed the Kindle for iPad and iBooks, and Becky Thomas from Shades Valley shared her Nook, so we had a great range of hardware.

I was able to sit in on a third session, featuring Derrick Waddell, a dynamite teacher from West Point in Cullman County. His district saved $30,000 in moving from a sharepoint server to Google apps for email alone. In Derrick's session and in other throughout the week, I sensed that cloud computing was really gaining momentum, and the undeniable truth behind that interest is that many schools don't have the funding for printers and copiers.

Tuesday was the Library Media Symposium, a sort of preconference for the Alabama Education Technology Conference. I worked the registration desk all morning, and facilitated two sessions, one by our Renaissance Learning reps on using the Neo 2 for Accelerated Reader testing and other applications (including Google docs!), the other by ASLA president-elect Leanna Mills on web 2.0 applications.

At the AETC , Peter Reynolds, an animator and filmmaker and author of the creativity manifesto, The Dot, was the keynote speaker Wednesday morning. Over the two day conference, I learned about some new features of APTPlus, our state's public television educational arm and got to play with our state's new virtual library interface, which uses geolocation to authenticate users, meaning no more issuing of virtual library passwords! One of my favorite sessions was Lisa Buck's talk on using GPS in education. She has a wealth of resources on the topic. I was lucky enough to get to have dinner with the Discovery Educators Networks Stars and Danny Forster from Discovery's Science Channel production, Build It Bigger at Cafe Dupont.

Some things I found interesting:

Mypluick, which offers a simple interface for easily synchronizing uploaded powerpoint with audio files. which I head about from Discovery's Jennifer Dorman in a session called "Beyond Streaming."

Derrick Waddell shared a great use for Google Tasks -- keeping track of your day's conference sessions on his phone. I cam going to adopt that strategy for ALA. He also gave a really credible testimonial for the Droid and Verizon, though I am not quite ready to make that leap.

Leslie Fisher, a conference regular whose rapid-fire, lecture-format presentations suit my learning style precisely, lead nonstop sessions over the two days. As a hardware geek, I sat in on one on gadgets and one on iPhones. In her gadgets talk, Fisher said that, among memory cards, speed varies radically, so she recommends SandDisk Extreme and Lexar Professional media. With that and the subsequent the App store recommendations, Fisher's sessions were expensive!

What everyone else found interesting:

Throughout the week, the two applications I heard the most chatter about in the halls seemed to be Glogster
and Prezi. They're both graphical in nature and produce a sort of less linear presentation experience. Hmm. That and Mac's market share is increasing in a palpable way. It's exciting to see so many Alabama educators getting excited about using technology, and exciting to hear about all the hardware for student access out there in some districts, too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Very Personal Travel Guide to Washington, D.C.

I've never lived in Washington, but have usually ended up there at least a couple of  times a year in my adult life. If you don't consider New Orleans as American city, Washington would be my favorite, one I prefer to New York and San Francisco because of its human scale, public transportation, and political and public service bent. So I thought I would share some my "musts" for the district for those who might be heading to ALA later this month...

Eating in DC Meskerem for Ethiopian makes it worthwhile to brave the throng of college kids in Adams Morgan. Two other of my favorites are Al Tiramisu (butternut squash ravioli!) and the perennially populat Pizza Paradiso in Dupont. For a casual meal, I love Teaism, which offers bento boxes and scrambled tofu is addition to a dazzling tea menu. The branch of Teaism by the Archives does an English-style high tea as well.  If you're lucky enough to be there on Sunday, you can catch the flea market next door, but any day of the week, the newly rebuilt Eastern Market is fun place to stop by for lunch. Lots of nice cafes nearby, too. I have never been disappointed by Firehook Bakery, which has locations in Cleveland Park as well as Dupont. For drinks, you can't beat the comprehensive beer lists at the Brickskeller in Dupont -- be warned, I've seen mice there more than once! -- and its offshoot, RFD (in Chinatown, near the Convention Center).

Shopping in DC I shop a lot less when I travel now, but I always make time to drop into Beadazzled, my favorite bead store anywhere. I love the Dupont location, but there are others in the Mid-Atlantic. The Dupont shop is just a stone throw from two great bookstores, Kramerbooks & Afterwards Cafe and a great place for used editions, some of them quite interesting, and prints, Second Story Books.

Sightseeing in DC I love being able to drop into a museum and not feel you have to spend the day because of a $20 investment in admission (or worse, that compulsory recommended donation). So, the free museums  and National Zoo -- with pandas Mei Zhang and Tian Tian, two of the eleven pandas stateside, their cub Tai Shan (pictured) having recently been sent back to China -- really makes D.C. a treat. The National Gallery of Art is my favorite art museum, and I always check the event calender at the Library of Congress, which has some nice film and concert series in interesting areas of the library after hours. The hour-long highlights tour at the Library of Congress is a must if you haven't done it.  If you are going to pay for a museum, the Newseum would be my vote for the best, and the Spy Museum, which has tremendous promise as a concept, is disappointing.

Two of my favorite places to see movies in DC are the Uptown single at the Cleveland Park Metro stop and the incomparable AFI Silver in Silver Spring, the closest thing to a contemporary film palace I've seen.

Now, if I can just manage to sneak away from the Convention Center...