I am heading home from the second YALSA Literature Symposium with enough must-read titles on my list to see me out this calendar year. The Lit Symposium is a bi-annual event, and I feel very lucky to have gone to the inaugural symposium in Nashville two years back. Despite the logistical challenges involved in travel to Albuquerque – I had to take a personal day Monday, because getting there and back from Alabama is a day-long proposition – it was well worth the rally. To be surrounded by 450 other librarians, authors, and academics with a real interest in young adult literature was really invigorating experience.
The conference had a diversity theme, and while I know I immediately think of racial and ethnic diversity, the conference did make me think of inclusiveness in a new light. My Friday began with the excellent preconference (organized by the incredible Angie Manfredi, who was also an excellent local hostess), which talked about Body Acceptance and Fat Positivity and how to connect young people with a range of books that discuss these important issues so they can begin to develop a sense of self-worth beyond the basely physical.
Other sessions expanded that knee-jerk definition of diversity to focus on the portrayals of disability, religious experiences, sexual orientation, sexual content, and diversity in graphic novels (with the extremely knowledgeable duo of Francisca Goldsmith and Robin Brenner) and historical fiction (Melissa Raby, with authors Christina Diaz Garcia and Ruta Sepetys). I also especially enjoyed meeting Megan Frazer, a high school librarian in Maine who is living the dream as author of Secrets of Truth and Beauty. The closing session with Lauren Myracle and Ellen Hopkins was phenomenal, as they shared correspondence from readers. Hopkins believes all middle schoolers should read her books to discourage drug use and will supply compelling testimony from teens about the worth of her novels should they be called into question in your library.
The only thing I would like to have seen more of was on technology, perhaps the digital divide and as a diversity issue and how libraries help. The symposium was also rather short of take-aways in terms of programming and ideas for implementation in your practice, but I am sure the literary love-fest will affect all of our collection development as we attempt to fill these gaps with the resources showcased.
I have also been reflecting on how new media has completely changed my conference-going experiences from rather lonely to completely social. So many of my YALSA friends I got to know in various ways online before meeting face-to-face. Twitter was HUGE at this conference, possibly more so than at any other I’ve attended, not only for backchanneling sessions but for building community. I had dinner with one tweep, lunch with another, and caught a movie with a third, none of whom I’d laid eyes upon before this weekend, but with all of whom I am eager to remain in touch.
I will point you towards Gretchen Kolderup's blog for more thoughtful analysis. I have a presentation to cobble together for NCTE in the meantime. The next YALSA Lit Symposium will be November 2-4, 2012, in St. Louis. I’ve marked my calendar!