Tuesday, July 2, 2013

ALA: The conference

This is actually the first ALA where I really attended sessions. I had committee meetings at midwinter, but I was so stressed and couldn't figure out how the schedule worked, so I didn't really go to anything else. Anyways, bottom line: The stuff I went to was generally good and I enjoyed it, but I think people are right when they say that for actual "conference" stuff you should go to your state conference or ALSC Institute (which sounds awesome and I hope to go in 2014 if I have enough money). My personal preference for attending ALA for exhibits is Midwinter - Annual has too many authors! I know this sounds weird and contrary to what most people want, but I am really, really not a "celebrity author" fan and I want to talk to the publishers/publicists and look at the books that are forthcoming, not stand in line for a couple hours to get a scribbled signature on a book my library already owns. Annual is annoying in this respect (for me anyways) because the lines are in the way and the publicists won't talk to you, they're busy talking to the people in the signing line. I get that it's a money/marketing thing, but anyways Midwinter is my preference.

  • We've had an extra-busy summer, so I finally grabbed an hour or two to print out maps and skim the schedule last Monday. Then on Thursday kindly friends informed me about the gazillions of people flooding into Chicago in celebration of hockey. Yay. So I decided to take a later train, worked Friday morning, got a ride to the train station, and arrived in Chicago around 3:30. I then walked over to my hotel, which turned out to be closer to 2 miles than 1 mile since I'd written down the wrong address. Oh well. After a little recovery time and an apple, I rode the shuttle down to register and dip my toes into the exhibit hall. Mostly just looked and then waited a looong time for the shuttle and went back to my hotel and ate crackers and cheese. (you wanted to know everything I ate, right?)
  • I got up at 7, drank some fruit, and went to catch the shuttle a little before 8. This was NOT enough time, as I didn't get to the conference center until 8:45 and missed half of the program I was going to attend. This was when I discovered that ending times on the scheduler are totally arbitrary. It said it was ending at 10:30 and it ended at 9. Anyways, lots of good ideas - it was 20 ideas for under $20 or something like that.
  • Then I wandered around until I found the Scholastic Book Buzz. These lists of "what I did" don't include all the walking! Everything was at opposite ends of the conference center and I don't know how often I traversed it, but it was A LOT. Why do publicists always sound like they're reading a script? Shouldn't they be able to booktalk freestyle? I guess it's unreasonable to expect them to booktalk their titles the way I do at schools, but I bet you I could get people more excited. Anyways, I am definitely buying their latest multi-platform series, Spirit Animals (fantasy, kind of a rip-off of His Dark Materials sounds like) and although I will groan about it, I will buy the next 39 Clues series. They've also got several historical fiction, graphic novels, and nonfiction about war which will be popular.
  • Then I went (other end of the exhibit hall of course) to another program idea session, Take 10 for Tweens and Teens or something like that. It was extremely crowded but I managed to get a standing spot near the door and got some good ideas. I left half-way through because the next presenter was too quiet to hear, especially with people holding the door open and carrying on their own conversations in my ear.
  • Exhibit hall, was very excited to touch Nathan Hale's latest, about the Donner Party and I got a galley of the two newest Beaver Brothers adventures and Tamora Pierce's Battle Magic! That last was totally a fluke - I almost never pick up teen galleys and I certainly never ask for the really hot items but I happened to be standing there when they were handing them out.
  • If you are missing lunch in here, it's b/c I didn't have any. I had some peanuts and a couple cheese sticks in my bag.
  • I wanted to go to a couple poster sessions, but they really should have put Melissa Depper's early literacy poster on the outside - the crowd was impossible to get through. I did catch bits and pieces of it. The STEM storytimes display was interesting and I'm looking forward to getting the pdfs via email. I can see that being something I'd use in preschool interactive (after I've made radical changes to collaborate with the schools, see next session!)
  • I was also really excited to see, as I drifted by the author signings that Steve Sheinkin has a new book! Pier 59 or something like that - it's in my camera (I decided the easiest way to keep track of new books I'm interested in that don't have galleys is to take pictures. Of course, I then have to remember to go through the pictures - I found some still on there from Midwinter last January!) I stopped at Lerner and had a discussion about their Graphic Universe line, especially why Mortensen didn't work for me or my library and whether there will be more Miss Annie (yes!)
  • Next I went to Dynamic Duos: Building and Sustaining Public and School Library Connections. This was a little dry, but sparked a LOT of ideas for me, especially the first two presenters. The one from Stratford, CT talked about how they organized regular tours for all their 2nd and 6th grade classes and the other librarian talked about monthly visits to the high school during lunch time. The third speaker I kind of zoned out on, she was talking about educating librarians about collaboration and at the end got all choked up over her idea of every library having their own "Youth Literacy Consultant" I have still to convince my director to even consider a part-time teen librarian and I'm currently trying to get a part-time summer assistant for next year, so I kind of rolled my eyes on this. Anyways, I really enjoyed the first two speakers and have some new ideas for outreach.
  • Then back to the exhibit hall, where I was excited to meet Anastasia Suen. We've "known" each other online in the blogging world and it was fun to connect in person. She has a beginning chapter cheerleader series that's cute, although I'm not adding anything new in this area at my library right now.
  • I glimpsed James Preller from afar - I am really excited about his new Scary Stories series for young readers and will have a review up in October for my Read Scary series.
  • I wanted to go to the Guerrilla Storytime, but first I couldn't figure out where it was, and then I discovered that the bag check (where I'd left my bag of books) and the departure gate (from whence my colleagues were leaving on a bus hopefully with my bag) were on opposite sides of the conference center, so I spent a while trudging to and fro. I did get to the program near the end and got to say hi to Melissa Depper and see some fun ideas, especially for music and movement.
  • I then went to a book buzz for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, whose publicists are a little more animated. I don't really see the point of promoting things like David Wiesner's Mr. Wuffles - everybody is going to buy it anyways, right? However, they had some other things that looked interesting, like a new Catherine Jinks title.
  • I got back to the exhibit hall in time to meet April Pulley Sayre before she left and had a nice chat with her about titles promoting healthy eating, and bought a signed copy of Here come the humpbacks, which I fortunately have not ordered yet. I also stopped by Albert Whitman to meet Kashmira Sheth and say how much we like her book, No Dogs Allowed Rule and she should write more *hint hint publisher*
  • And that was it. The lights went off, I dragged my weary self homewards via shuttle bus, getting back to the hotel around 6pm, and it was just me, the crackers and cheese, and my notes and photos to transcribe. I do not know how people have the energy to go out again in the evening!
  • I drank some more fruit and left really, really early, determined not to be late. I got there 30 minutes early which was fine since I was going to the Calde-Tots program with my committee so we had time to chat. I wasn't sure if I'd actually enjoy this or not (see previous remarks about celebrity authors) but it turned out really good. I enjoyed listening to Eric Rohmann, Beth Krommes, and Chris Raschka (even if I'm not a huge fan of his art) and Megan Lambert from the Eric Carle Museum had many, many, AWESOME ideas. I have to keep reminding myself that my director said no more new programs (except my winter reading program and my Mad Scientists Club) because I had a great idea for an after school stories/art club.
  • We'd forfeited our space in the all-committee meeting, so we then grabbed some chairs and had a committee meeting in the hallway. I'm sorry I could only be on the committee for a year because it was a really good experience and I actually enjoyed it (who knew committees could be fun?) but I just have two much work to do and not enough money to stay on. Anyways, what I got was good!
  • I then went and had actual lunch with one of my committee members - we are the two small public librarians. I feel it forms a bond. Plus, we didn't have anything to attend until 1pm.
  • This time, I managed to find the Preschool Discussion Group and it was great! Lots of great STEM ideas and I met a lot of people I only know online. Hmmm, definitely think I need STEM Storytime. I certainly have enough ideas...I had planned to go to another STEM presentation, but this was so interesting I stayed the whole time.
  • Then back to the exhibit hall where I met SUSAN STOCKDALE. Ok, maybe I do like authors, I just don't like the big celebrity ones. Anyways, I got to tell her how we use her books over and over in storytime and I bought the board book versions to add to our collection. I also bought 2 more counting books from Alison Formento, who was wearing a very stylish fish hat.
  • I was walking by another publisher and I was "is that..." and it WAS Cynthia Voigt and there was no line! I've been having trouble getting her older books to circulate, but I'm replacing them with the new covers and hope that will revive interest. Anyways, I bought a new copy of Solitary Blue for myself and got to talk to her for a few minutes about how much I loved it.
  • Then I did a complete circuit of the exhibits hall. My director was here Saturday so if she wanted to add any new technology or anything (I think she was interested in a new self-check machine) I wanted to know what she was talking about, plus I like looking at the furniture, although the prices can be ridiculous. One place, I think it was Discover or something, had these kind of cool modular tables - train, lego, tinker toys, etc. and she casually tosses off that one table section starts at about $2,500. Eeek! My train table (plus train) cost about $200 and that was a stretch!
  • I was drifting through the artists alley on my way out as things were closing down and I MET FAITH ERIC HICKS!!! Ok, maybe I am fangirlish about some authors. But she is supremely AWESOME! I bought a copy of Brain Camp for her to autograph. It's not my absolute favorite, but it's one I don't own yet (of course my library owns every one of her books and I have most of them, just not that one.) I have been a fan since Zombies Calling, so that was really cool. FAITH ERIN HICKS
  • Got back to my hotel around 6 and me, the apple and the cheese sticks settled in to process the day and pack to be ready to leave tomorrow.
  • Went out for breakfast at Yolk with my colleagues from No Flying No Tights and other like-minded individuals (if you're keeping track of my meals, you have probably figured out by now that my library is paying for two meals (-:)
  • Then back to the hotel to pack up and check out, then down to the conference center where I checked all my bags. I had sort of planned to go to some stuff, but I was pretty conferenced-out by then, so I went to check that I could get to Ogilvie on the Metra from the conference center...and I couldn't. Arggh! Spent a lot of time wandering from information booth to information booth to figure out how I was getting myself and my bags back to the train station.
  • Then I went to the exhibit hall. Publishers fall into two categories on the last day. Either they sell their books off at a discount or they let people into their booths a few at a time to pick free books. Unfortunately, they do not always advertise into which camp they are falling and people get confused. Generally, if there's a line (often starting at 10 or 11 for the giveaways at 12) the books will be free, if there's no line they are being sold. I refuse to stand in line forever for a couple free books, but I do highly recommend hitting the nonfiction publishers, especially Lerner and Abdo. You can get their books at a huge discount and if you're not paying shipping it's well worth it. I purchased a lot of books, picked up a few free books, and somehow accidentally got into a signing line for Steve Sheinkin, which was cool. I wanted the galley of his new book, but you had to buy a copy of his other title to get it and I gave in and bought a signed copy of Bomb to be a prize. I did stand in line at Capstone for about half an hour, but I was talking to a librarian from Wisconsin, so that was time well-spent.
  • I went to one last session, Unprogramming for school-age audiences with Amy Koester and Marge Loch-Wouters which was good. Lots of ideas and Marge is always fun and inspiring to listen to. Personally, I've beat their unprogramming planning time of one hour - my after school clubs have to be set up in 30 minutes! Speed programming!
  • I had intended to go to one last session on school/library collaboration to prevent summer slide, but they were telling everyone to sit at the tables and handing out pads and it was all too...school-ish. I just couldn't sit still any longer, so I took off.
  • Collected my bags, repacked, waited for the shuttle, shuttle bus, taxi, metra, waited again (of course there was an accident blocking the small country road Sara the Librarian was coming on to get me), back to the library, picked up my car and finally got home at 9pm.
Final Notes
  • Ignore all those blog posts about bringing sweaters because the conference center is sooo cold. It cannot be cold enough for me.
  • I found grocery stories in Chicago, so next time I will know where to find food!
  • I met everyone I wanted to meet, including old friends from school (all except for Meg Schmaus. Are you still out there Meg?) without going to any evening parties or bars. So THERE people who keep bugging me to be more "social" and gasping in horror that I don't go to anything after 6pm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this re-cap. I hope I can attend one day and experience a little book-heaven myself!