Tuesday, January 28, 2014

All about Midwinter

I'm writing this in a hotel room at the Philadelphia airport...the insane weather conditions in the southeast thwarted my trip home, but didn't put a damper on my mood. After bracing myself for a rough ride, I had such a great time hanging out with some of my favorite librarians and dearest friends in Philadelphia. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I checked everything, so I don't have pajamas, a change of clothes or even toiletries beyond the toothbrush and toothpaste I caged from the Sheraton desk clerk, but I DO have a digital projector with me. I hauled it to and  around Philadelphia because I freaked out about not being sure there would be one for the USBBY program on Friday. I needn't have worried, the room on the top of the Loew's Hotel was well-equipped and had an amazing view, much like the Council suite on the same floor, which I finally availed myself of on Sunday evening. The USBBY event went off without a hitch, with more than eighty people there, and Maryann MacDonald was such a pro, and Bloomsbury had a nice reception after, too. I'm really looking forward to the next USBBY event at Annual now. And every Batchelder winner was on the Outstanding International Books list the committee announced Friday night, so that was a little thrill.

Council? The wheels grind slow but exceedingly fine. It's interesting to see work started at one conference adopted (as in the case of the "no prayers, only moments of silence" policy at meetings) or not (as in the Code of Conduct). Well, the COC (with clarification about peaceful protesting added by SRRT) has been adopted by the organization, but it is not policy per se. I was actually having a pang of regret about not running in the election again. It took five meetings for me to feel like I know what's up, and now my term is almost over, with just Annual to go.

The Youth Media Awards? I sat with my friend the incredible Angie Manfredi, just behind the Carnegie committee, and it was a real party. I sort-of couldn't believe how many winners and honors books I'd read this go-round...and I am thrilled about Midwinterblood snagging the Printz. Marcus Sedgewick is amazing in both range and craft. And I can't wait for the Odyssey work! Can Daniel Kraus come up with something quick so we can give it another medal?

I might not see much of school this week -- weather day tomorrow, delay Thursday, then Friday is an ALLA PD day in Birmingham. But, with all the apocalyptic weather craziness, I just can't worry about much. I'm running at about half speed. But I feel like I have a better sense of proportion. And for everyone who was kind and supportive, know that was very healing for me. I love this work.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Some sisterly love

Will you be at Midwinter? My last dining guide to Philly is sorely outdated, many of my favorite places (Bindi, TBar), going out of business, but here are some suggestions.

I hope everyone will come to the USBBY program at 8:00 p.m. Friday at Loew's Hotel. I've had the privilege of talking with author Maryann Macdonald, who will be speaking, and she is absolutely delightful. This year's Outstanding International Books list will be announced, too, and Bloomsbury Children's Books is planning a nice reception.

I also have ALA Council (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday mornings) to look forward to, and some really fabulous author events on my calendar, too.


Also, an update on the YALSAblog situation: I really appreciate all the gratitude and support from my wonderful colleagues around this. I am really over any hard feelings about it, and hope the division will find someone who will move it in the direction they want, since I just don't think that IS me.

Friday, January 17, 2014


I've been reading (and loving ) Alex title Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Like Eleanor & Park and The Interestings, it's SO '80s. And it's got me thinking that people in my generation are in a strange position. When I was born, it had not even been thirty years since people were held in Nazi concentration camps. That seemed like a particularly ancient history, even then. The eighties are about the same distance from kids born today. So, my upbringing must seem at least as remote to the teens I work with as those of Sally J. Freeman, or Elizabeth in Lois Lowry's Autumn Street.

I also think that Generation Y is almost a "lost" generation in terms of leadership in the workplace. We spent so long being subservient and respectful of our elders (the Greatest Generations and our Baby Boomer parents) that some of us still don't feel grown up enough to tell other people what to do. And our lifestyles aren't grown up. I think about my own parents, younger than I am now, dressing up and going out to formal events. There are no formal events in my life, and, having been to an opera and a couple of symphonies lately, I can say there seem to be very few left in our society. And maybe something's crushed our capacity to dream. We graduated college before the tech start-ups, before projects like etsy and kickstarter would have enabled us to follow and monetize our bliss. Now there are younger, hungrier Millenials nipping at our heels, and we're being told that we're too traditional, or lack the requisite skills of the "digital native."

Awesome image from Kim France's Refinery29 article on the '80s
I work in a state where the emphasis on college and career readiness is, in my opinion, out-of-whack. At the state level, and in many local school systems (thankfully, not my own, which has particularly robust arts and humanities courses), there doesn't seem any interest in teaching anything that doesn't lead directly to a particular career path. I thank my lucky stars for the "cultural literacy" vogue when I was in high school. I feel that all that knowledge -- call it useless or arcane because you can look it up on your phone -- has served me well as a citizen. But now I guess all this rote random factual information might be merely cluttering up my brain and inhibiting some of the strange and uninhibited creativity I see in younger people.

But I really don't want to spend all day making gifs or youtube videos or taking pictures of myself or my food. I'd rather read a book (or really do just about anything else) than reddit or do quizzes on buzzfeed. And I prefer face-to-face learning to virtual, and lecture at that. So I'm feeling like a dinosaur in many regards.

And as for the recent college grads who are finding the employment climate so rough, I have little sympathy. It took six years and two master's degrees before I made five figures a year. But, truth be told, I now have little ambition for a job beyond the one I have now. I could do it, happily, until retirement. I just hope someone younger, cheaper, and less inhibited doesn't edge me out of the way before I'm ready.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Alabama Author Award Winners

Part of my favorite part of professional service is getting a sneak peek of which books will be honored by association awards. In December, the Alabama Library Association approved its author awards in four categories: Adult fiction, nonfiction, teen and children's books. I spent part of a January afternoon reading the youth winners.

Every Day After by Laura Golden (2013)
2014 Alabama Author Awards Winner -- Children's
I heard Golden speak about her debut at the Southern Festival of Books, but didn't seek it out -- I think I was a little turned off my the Mirette-esque cover art. But, actually, the narrator is going into sixth grade, considerably older than the image suggests. And it's quite a read. Golden uses evocative language to bring us into the world of Lizzie Hawkins, a place replete with rough-hewn overalls and lye soap, with layers of clay caking her too-small red shoes. The plot centers around missed mortgage payments, an absent father and a mother that might as well be. Lizzie takes in mending, opens her home to boarders, does every little thing to keep the wolf from the door, The scene where Lizzie sells her heirloom locket is not for the jaded. It's Golden's well-considered sensory details which make Lizzie's story Bittersweet (like Lizzie's small town), instead of just bitter. Her language evokes some of our best Southern storytellers.

See what I mean?

Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols
2014 Alabama Author Awards Winner -- Teen
What is your years of playing bluegrass with your sister for years at music festivals had become a dirty little secret, as she sheds her past to prepare for her recording label debut?  It's the summer between high school and college, and Bailey is supposed to be laying low while her sister's album is being promoted. When she finds some simpatico bandmates -- including  a hunky former football player, a Buddy Holly-lookalike who's also headed to Vanderbilt -- who appreciate her fiddle-playing, it might be time for her to rethinking abandoning her musical dreams. This one is "new adult" in that it a little sexy, but these kids are playing gigs at bars on Broadway, so perhaps it's not surprising. The Nashville geography and landmarks are well-done, too. It actually reminded me of one of my favorite books of all time, Them That Glitter and Them That Don't, by Bette Greene.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Shock and awe

As of February 1, I guess the YALSAblog, which I have tried to shepherd along for the part year, is no more...or I guess it's going to be "reimagined" and "repositioned."

When I talked to YALSA President Shannon Peterson, she connected it to the report from the summit on teens and libraries. This is the message she sent to the advisory board shortly after:

As you may be aware, YALSA's report on the Future of Teens and Libraries was released this past week. The report, which calls for a major "paradigm shift" in the way in which teen services is addressed and implemented, will have major repercussions for our members as well as for the greater organization.

In order to address and support this change, we will completely reimagine and reposition the YALSA Blog. As of February 1st, the current Manager, Advisory Board, and roster of blogger postions will be disolved in order for us to lay the groundwork for a new vision.

I thank you wholeheartedly for the dedication that you have demonstrated during your respective terms and hope that you'll consider other avenues for contributing to the organization. On a particularly timely note, Chris Shoemaker will be collecting volunteer forms for other process committee and advisory board positions through February 1st.

Thank you and please let me know if you have feedback or questions.

At first, this felt like a personal failure. Was I not doing all I could to make the YALSAblog relevant? But maybe it's the platform. Nieman says so.  But then, it felt like a relief -- I spend hours every day editing copy, begging for posts, posting other people's content, marking spam. Precious time I can use for other projects...but it's left me feeling bereft. I spent so much time there this past year, and I really believed we were creating a repository of ideas and experiences that would be useful for practitioners for a long time to come. And if I feel that way, my guess is that the bloggers and readers will be sad, too.

Meanwhile, we stopped at this pub in the West End last week. The graphic made me conscious of something I'd never realized: being a chairman? Sort of sucks.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Midwinter slump, and cyber-eavesdropping

I got to go to London, again, over New Year's, this time with my husband. We saw a dozen shows ranging from foul-mouthed comedy to opera, ate some terrific food, and just soaked up the differentness of it all. I even scored the Downton Abbey Series Four dvds, as a birthday present for myself, and an Archers encyclopedia, in the Oxfam bookstore on the Marylebone High Street.

We were back Sunday night, I was off school Monday because of the polar vortex, which was a lovely way to get over the jetlag, but now that make-up day is schedule for President's Day, which I was planning to spend in New York anyway, so there goes all my personal leave -- by February. April and May are never-ending in schools as is, and my year is unprecedented in terms of stresses. I have my USSBY co-sponsored sessions at the ALA conferences in January and June, and the state conference in my hometown (where I'm presenting, hosting events, helping with speakers, and assuming the presidency, all at once) this April. I still have my dissertation to finish up/defend, and am at this very moment begging to be allowed to register for another four-figure tuition bill for this semester and write up some application my advisor wants for university funding for conference expenses.

I keep feeling as if I should be a little happier than I am. I feel like I'm paying the piper for some past songs, and, while I'm dancing as fast as I can, I just can't keep up. I guess I've noticed that there are a lot of people who don't even try, and that's what's driving me nuts.

My  vacation DID have me peering over lots of shoulders at devices. My takeaways:

Mobile data access abroad still sucks. I've got my second UK SIM card in my iPhone 4, this one ostensibly data-only, but it stopped working altogether a couple of days into the trip. As a week's AT&T roaming mounts up to enough to buy another international ticket, what's a web-addicted girl to do? Meanwhile, our hotel offered simultaneous wifi device connection, so that's something. But even Costa Coffee wants a UK post code for a half-hour's wifi.

People LOVE Candy Crush. Odds are about even that person tapping on their phone is playing it. 

Twitter is dying the death of a thousand (PR) cuts. Does every performance at the Royal Albert Hall really demand a hashtag? And the most of the people using the #ArtistRAH on New Year's Eve seemed to be part of the performance. So much for generating buzz. Meanwhile, kids on the tube were buzzing about Tumblr's gif-y reception of Sherlock, "less than an hour" after the season debut. And snapchat is just as buzzy there, judging from the teens I sat near at Cirque du Soleil. "Where you in London all day? Oh, right, you snapchatted me."

Choose your poison. Cute patterned Cath Kidston cases for Samsung Galaxies are an exciting suggestion of less iOS-centricity. Meanwhile, I saw several people reading The Times via its app on iPad minis. It was gorgeous and legible.

People want to be comfortable, damn all else. The largest line I saw was the controlled access queue for the Ugg store in Central London, and every-other-tourist sports a pair and lots of locals, too. All I can think is that there will be a delayed boon for podiatrists.