Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The 2011 National Book Festival

I can't stop talking about the National Book Festival. It had been on my radar since I arrived in D.C. on October 9, 2004 -- just after that year's event -- to visit the new National Museum of the American Indian. Little had I known, I would had left home a day earlier. This year, I finally got to go...
I arrived about an hour before the speakers began, which put me in a prime viewing location for Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison, who wrote Song of Solomon (which I read for class in high school), Sula (which I read for class in college) and Beloved (which I wrote a paper about for my English M.A.). Our Nobel-prize-winning American woman author. And since I scored an awesome seat in the second row, I felt like she was making eye contact with me the entire time, as she talked about:
  • the excellent education she obtained from her normal-school educated teachers in Lorain, Ohio
  • Muhammad Ali, and how his religion shaped his attitudes towards women
  • William Faulkner, who wrote perfectly realized characters across race
  • Washington, D.C., black intellectual life the 1940s
Next, I did beat a path to the Teen tent next, to hear Sarah Dessen (and hear the questions from her many adoring fans. To the college girl who announced herself  "on the upper end of [Sarah's] readership" -- I don't think you are anywhere towards the limit of that bell curve. But the real *shocker* for me was the fact that Sarah used to work for Lee Smith. Lee was also Susan Gregg Gilmore's seventh grade English teacher... what an amazing literary legacy there.

I was able to stay just long enough to hear Katherine Paterson. Jacob Have I Loved (which I read in middle school) is one of the most powerful books I keep coming back to again and again, and hearing Paterson speak about the primal sibling relationship (as well as showcase her new book, The Flint Heart, with illustrations by John Rocco, who did the covers for the Percy Jackson series) was terrific. Their emphasis on books as gorgeous objects was especially dear to my heart (and gorgeous The Flint Heart is, as it was published by Candlewick).

I had met (and gushed) to Sarah and Katherine before, but I certainly hadn't attended a book festival on this scale. I really do recommend it if you ever have the opportunity to go. Being surrounded by tens of thousands of people who all love books is quite heartening. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

School Library Journal Leadership Summit -- Best of the Best

The School Library Journal Leadership Summit is probably my favorite conference, because of the baseline presumption that everyone is sort of with-it when it comes to technology, and all the exciting backchanneling and just generally top-notch attendees. That was doubly true this year, as everything dealt with the shift from print to digital.

I spoke on a ebook panel, a first for me at this event and a tad intimatidating given the fact I knew and stood in awe of so many in the room. I was a little leery about the whole thing, frankly, because I don't want people to copy my sometimes half-baked strategies wholesale, because I think every library is very different. And I had to follow Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, so no pressure there. But it was fun to share a model that wasn't about the big ebook players (sorry, vendors), but about leveraging student devices and using the simplest hardware to access public domain works. And to hear Chris Harris say, "Do what Wendy is doing. Buy hardware," was a bit surprising, but very validating.

Other highlights included the amazing Brian Selznick sharing the process for Wonderstuck, his latest, and screening the trailer for Hugo, the upcoming Scorsese movie version of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which looks so much like the book it's eerie. Evidentally, it's being called Hugo Cabret in France. It was a sort of strange flashback to this same weekend last year, when I'd seen Brian at the Center for Puppetry Arts as part of the ALSC Institute in Atlanta. And I finally met Laurel Snyder, who I'd been looking for that night last year but never found. And I actually got the first signed copy of her new book, Bigger than a Breadbox.

I'm staying over for the National Book Festival, but the forecast is for a rainy Saturday, which makes me happy it's also Museum Day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Book

is the perfect camouflage for your computer! My husband said he catches himself wondering what that very old book could be. I just like the meta aspect, myself...

Where I've been

I felt as if I spent all last week away from the world during my administrative internship. This week, I scrambled back, only to have the rug yanked out from under me again next week, going back to another school to finish up those certification requirements.

Being unplugged made the time at the K-6 school much more immediate. I was definitely registering more stimula than I do sitting working at the computer (and now often at two computers, since I have the kiosk going for the catalog and printing and email and troubleshooting). It was actually a relief not to be swallowing whole raw information about ebooks or social justice or machine intelligence or whatever else I'm obsessing over at the moment all day long.

But, in some ways, I need that distracting stream of content to keep me focused. My acuity decreased, I lost hours of time offline once I went home. I found it almost impossible to write anything much all week. I can usually crank out copy, so the mental effort it took me to readjust was a marked change. All that reminds me of the AASL 2011 One Conference, One Book selection, The Shallows. Minneapolis looks like a great conference...

I do have lots of comings-and-goings before then. I will be at the School Library Journal Summit in Virginia, September 21-23, then at the Kentucky School Media Association, September 29 - October 1.

With this internship wrapping up next week and the Praxis on September 17, everyone wants to know what is going to be next. After this certification, all I am concerned with is finishing my dissertation. I keep saying I won't commit to much else, and probably have been better about parsing back and getting rid of clutter, like deleting Google+ and cleaning out my file folders from 2003. There are aspects of my job from which I continue to derive great pleasure, but I can't say I'm not scanning the horizon for the next thing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Echo chambers, ostriches, and navel gazing

Preaching to the choir here, but if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

We are abandoning the cornerstones of democracy, couching it as temporary austerity, and no one seems to care or even notice. Communities are evolving without oversight. And all everyone seems to care about is the Hunger Games, when very real ones are being played out daily.

A local superintenedent with a mere year of educational experience crows about his cost reductions in using a temporary service for instructional support staff, so they didn't have to be provided benefits. Paying people starvation wages and then expecting them to nurture our most vulnerable children is unrealistic, especially when you don't even support them with basic needs like health care.

I didn't think it was possible for me to get more upset than I was when I wrote about similar issues for the Future of Libraries ebook project spearheaded by Kristin Fonticiaro and Buffy Hamilton, but I am very worried that as a society we have abandoned any pretext of equality. And without that undergirding, we might as well just fight hand-to-hand.

And, really, I feel like our students (and their families) need really fundamental survival training now.