bookish posts Library

Midwinter fun, part 2

Part 1
I took it easy Sunday morning too, but I did end up getting to the conference in time to hear LeVar Burton speak. I’m so, so glad this worked out, because it was definitely a highlight of the conference and maybe my entire life. His talk was so powerful and rich. First he read the picture book he wrote recently and talked about how he was trying to carry on Fred Rogers’s legacy in writing it. Then he talked about his inspirations and heroes, including his mother, Alex Haley, and Gene Roddenberry. He talked about how powerful it was for him to see Uhura in the original Star Trek and how it made him feel like there was a place for people who looked like him in the future. He also talked about flawed heroes and how he came to realize that we can be inspired by people without turning them into impossibly perfect idols. Then there was a great Q&A session. Highlights: he would love to be in an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s books because he loves how she deals with the human condition. He was asked about his favorite picture books and one of the answers was Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and it turned out she was in the audience. He looked so overjoyed when she stood up.

There was a lot more, including a great quote about the value of libraries, but overall it was just one of the most wonderful things. I was choked up or in tears most of the time. I am really grateful that he spoke in a year when I could be there and that ALA got a speaker who has so much grounding in years of literary and literacy advocacy. LeVar Burton clearly knows what he’s talking about and it shows.

In a daze of happiness/tears, I wandered over to the exhibit hall and happened to see Leila and Kelly. I actually worked up the nerve to say hello, and I’m glad I did–it’s always nice to have that in-person connection, however brief. I walked through the exhibits and picked up a few books. Disney-Hyperion had put out ARCs of Black Dove, White Raven, but since I had an eARC from NetGalley and also plan to purchase it, I didn’t pick one up.

After that, I went to an Ignite session, mostly for the Crossover RA part. That was fantastic, and I want to read all the books! I am curious about how these sessions are grouped (for those who don’t know, they’re 5 minute presentations on a variety of topics) since it seems like the interests are very broken up. Why not group them at least by age or library type? I was also interested in the iDiversity student group at the University of Maryland and would like to find out some more information about their efforts.

My last session of the day was “Diversity Matters,” a follow-up from the Day of Diversity on Friday. The original Day was invitation-only, but this session was open to everyone. It was a thought-provoking and somewhat frustrating session. It opened with a brief recap of some of the key points from the discussions at the Day of Diversity, and then had several questions for the audience members to consider and answer. I think my issue is that the room really wasn’t laid out to have a good discussion (not at all the fault of the organizers!) and that some of the audience members seemed to come with a prepared agenda. Which is understandable when you feel passionate about an issue, but doesn’t necessarily make for a good in-depth discussion.

I did very much appreciate that the questions challenged me to think about my own role and assumptions, and what I can do to advocate for diversity in my own situations. If anything, I wanted more discussion of the nitty-gritty. When there’s an emphasis on stats and circulation, how do you talk to the board and community, for instance? I also appreciated that the organizers pointed out that books by and about diversity DO sell, and that the conversation has actually been going on for years, whether or not the wider community has been aware of it. Also, that STEAM and STEM success is not a matter of aptitude, but of preparation, access, and motivation, and that library programs can help break down some of those barriers. Someone also mentioned increasing opportunities for book giveaways, especially for minority kids, so that those who can’t necessarily afford to purchase books have a way to get books about kids who look like them.

After this, I went back to the hotel and then went down to Brandy and Sondy‘s hotel to have dinner with them (Cybils panelists united in person!). At this point, the snow had started, but I felt perfectly safe walking (though I would never have driven!). We had a great dinner, and a fun time talking about books and libraries and etc. When I tried to walk back to my hotel, though, the wind had picked up and it was way colder and I walked four blocks and then turned around. Brandy had very kindly offered her extra hotel bed if I needed it and it turned out I did. (Thank you once again, Brandy.)

I had to get up way, WAY too early to walk back to my hotel and pick up my badge, but fortunately, I got on a shuttle and got down to the conference for the Youth Media Awards. I was pretty early and managed to get there right after Brandy. I was a bit worried about how big the room for the awards would be, but it seemed to be enough space for everyone. Brandy & I got good seats too, with a nice view of both the stage and the video monitors.

I felt like the excitement of being there kind of had a cumulative effect. At first it was just fun, but then by the time half the awards had been announced, there was this hum of anticipation. It was great sitting next to Brandy too, since we have such similar reactions to a lot of books. Lots of cheering and few raised eyebrows.

Reactions to various awards
Alex: I will admit, I was disappointed not to see Girls at the Kingfisher Club. But the only one I’ve actually read is Lock In, so I really can’t judge how strong this selection was.
I am resolved to read the Schneider and Stonewall books, since I had only read Morris Micklewhite.
I loved the choices for the Coretta Scott King books this year, especially the illustrators. Great stuff, and a wide range of talents. I think the CSK Award for Brown Girl Dreaming was exactly right.
And then Sharon Draper won the Margaret A. Edwards award, which is for lifetime achievement! Huge cheers from everyone at that. I’ve loved the Edwards award picks the past few years.
I was really happy that Gabi, A Girl in Pieces won the Morris–I loved Story of Owen, but I think it’s great to see Gabi’s story being recognized.
I have read exactly one of the Printz books, This One Summer. In general, I don’t think this was a year with a strong body of work for the Printz committee to choose from, and I think the committee built a good slate out of their options.
I also loved all the Pura Belpre illustration choices this year. Again, a wide range of illustrators and talents.
And then Donald Crews won the Laura Ingalls Wilder award. I love his books, and I was so happy to see him recognized.

So then the Caldecott. I remember there being a gasp when six honor books were announced, and what awesome books they are! I love Lauren Castillo’s art, and Jon Klassen is also a huge favorite of mine. And then the absolute shocker, This One Summer. I’m actually really happy to see the committee pushing the boundaries of the award a little bit, while still remaining within the rules. And I thought the illustrations for This One Summer were incredibly strong.

After the six Caldecott Honors, there was another gasp when only two Newbery honors were announced. But I think it’s perfect: the three books that were honored are individually and collectively wonderful. I am so happy that all three got the recognition they deserved. And since The Crossover was absolutely one of my favorite books last year, and I didn’t expect that it had a real chance of winning in such a strong year, I was incredibly happy to be proven wrong.

What I remember from the awards is the point at which everyone realized that this was an absolutely exceptional year, and that the committees had done an amazing job of individually choosing wonderful books that represent all different kinds of experiences. And, let’s just be honest, the gasp when This One Summer got the Caldecott Honor and the cheers when The Crossover won the Newbery.

Since ALA, I have heard that some librarians are unhappy with the awards this year, that they weren’t what was expected, that there’s too much diversity. But I completely disagree. The excitement and joy in that room were palpable. And if you think kids don’t love these books, take a look at this video. As far as I’m concerned, the ALA committees put principle into action, and I love the results. I only hope that the committees continue to honor the diversity of our world and test the boundaries of the awards.

After the awards, I did one last circuit of the exhibits, and saw a copy of Brown Girl Dreaming absolutely covered in stickers. And that was my conference, although I did have a chance to visit with an old friend who lives in Chicago now.

I am so grateful to the library, which sent me to the conference, and it will always be a treasured memory for me. Parts were frustrating or challenging, but the highlights were amazing, from LeVar Burton, to the YMAs. Meeting some of the people I’ve known online was also wonderful, especially getting to see Brandy as much as I did–it’s so great when you get along well in person too!

bookish posts Library

Midwinter fun, part 1

All right, I’m going to attempt to recap my experiences at ALA Midwinter last week. This was my first time at Midwinter, although I attended ALA Annual two years ago.

My plan was to drive up from Indianapolis on Friday. Even though I woke up with a cold, I did manage to get to Chicago around 4:30. I had been nervous about the fact that it’s such a big city and the hotel is right in the middle. Fortunately, I managed to time it so I didn’t hit rush hour, and the worst part was trying to find a place to park. (I later discovered that all the parking garages I thought were close just have doors that shut automatically.) I got settled at the hotel and went down to try to get to the conference. One shuttle pulled off just as I got there and the next one was completely full before I could get on! It was quite a long line, but fortunately this never happened to me again. Funny moment: while standing in line, I was chatting with the person next to me and said, “Well, at least it’s not too cold,” which from my point of view it wasn’t. Apparently, they disagreed.

Eventually I got there and checked in at the conference. I decided to look at the exhibits briefly and ended up meeting up with Brandy! I picked up a couple of ARCs, but it was too busy and I was too tired to spend much time there. Brandy and I had been planning to have dinner at a Noodles & Co. that was near my hotel, which was a nice low-stress thing for the first night. After that, I went straight back to the hotel and pretty much crashed.

There were a few things I had been possibly interested in attending in the morning, but I opted to sleep in a bit, because colds are the worst. I ended up walking over to Argo tea for breakfast. Quiche and really good chai.

The first thing I went to on Saturday ended up being “YALSA Trends Impacting YA Services: Designing the library of the future for & with teens”. This was a program I thought would be relevant to my job and was hoping would be interesting and inspiring. It was definitely thought-provoking, and I liked several of the principles, but I didn’t myself find the details translated well into other situations. Of course it would be great to have teens and tweens invested and helping plan programs, but it’s not going to be every library’s reality. The ideas also seemed very education focused and for a lot of the kids that we see regularly when they come in after school, more education is not at all what they want. I wish I had been able to stay for the discussion and question part of the talk, because my hesitations might have been addressed.

Next, I headed up to the Macmillan/Tor Teen Book Buzz event, and eventually connected with Jenny. I was expecting to be really interested in the Tor titles because, well, Tor. But I ended up being far more interested in what MacMillan was putting out. (All the Rage, Delicate Monsters, Bet Your Life–it sounds like they have a really strong line-up.) Also, I found out that apparently Lovecraftian YA is a thing, which I really am not excited about.

I did duck into the Ignite session, hoping to catch Angie Manfredi’s 20 Diverse Titles booktalk. Alas, I was a little bit too late and walked in to a discussion of library website layout. Sigh. There was a look at diverse comics which was interesting, but I am sad I missed out on the booktalk.

I ate a sandwich I bought in the morning (I recommend this for lunches, since everything is expensive and the lines are long at the actual convention center). And then Brandy and I met up and managed to find the BFYA teen feedback session. This was simultaneously a great experience and a really frustrating one. The teens themselves were awesome–I love how willing they are to just say that they hated a book. There were several who were super articulate and thoughtful. And I have a lot of thoughts about how many of these teen girls LOVED Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and why this totally validates my thoughts on that book. But the format of the session was really annoying: apparently in the past, the teens have been asked to choose one title per page of the list. This time the adult moderator literally went through EVERY SINGE TITLE. I left about 10 minutes after the session was supposed to have ended and they still hadn’t reached the Js. I had problems with this for a few reasons: 1) it seems really disrespectful to the teens and their adults to have them prepare for all of these books and then not even get to 3/4 of them and 2) it meant that a lot of time was taken up with teens saying the same things. I know that the possibility of getting through the whole list is slim to none anyway, but again, 3/4 of the list was left. All in all, this is a great event, but the people organizing it fell down on the job this year.

Because that session had gone over (and was still going when I left), I was late to the next thing, which was another Book Buzz–HarperCollins (which I completely missed), Disney-Hyperion, and Bloosmbury. Disney-Hyperion is such an interesting imprint to me because they have such a mix of really commercial titles and some very thoughtful ones. Takeaway titles from this session for me: Watch the Sky, Black Dove, White Raven, the last Clementine book, Shadows of Sherwood, Women Who Broke the Rules, The Devil You Know (new Trish Doller!). Also apparently a retelling of The Princess and the Pea, which I have questions about.

At this point, I was feeling really terrible, so I went back to my hotel and rested for awhile. I managed to get myself up and get pizza (spinach artichoke feta, SO GOOD). One of the weirder experiences ever was sitting in Giordano’s eating and having “The Hanging Tree”–you know, the song from Mockingjay–come on the music station they were playing. Anyway, after I got food, I went straight back to the hotel and bed.

Part 2


Midwinter planning

I’m going to Midwinter this year! I’m really excited to be there, especially for the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. I’m lucky enough to have a library that is sending me.

I’ve just had a quick look around the schedule, and there may be sessions I missed or things that haven’t been added yet. I learned when I went to Annual a year ago that having a schedule but not being stuck to it is the way to go for me.

At this point, here are a few of the things I’m interested in:
Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers
Crossover Reader’s Advisory is relevant to my interests
20 Titles to Diversify Collection also relevant to my interests

Is anyone else going to Midwinter? (I know Brandy is, SO EXCITED!) What are you planning to do?

bookish posts Library

Libraries and life preservers

This is a story I have never told before. It’s about libraries and me, and how I ended up as a library person.

Middle school was a pretty terrible time for me. It is for most people, but I had the special awfulness of having been homeschooled until fifth grade, having no fashion sense, and being awkward in my own skin. I was book smart and smug about it. I was convinced that everyone hated me, based on the constant teasing and the paranoia that constant teasing produces. To be honest, I simply don’t remember large swaths of my middle school years.

English class was its own misery. I was reading at a college level and devouring books. And I didn’t have the patience or grace to see that for some people reading is not a joy. I suspect that I could easily have ended up hating reading, hating school even more than I already did.

And then one day Mrs. Hughes, the school librarian, came down and asked my English teacher if there was someone who could come up regularly during class to help her, and my English teacher said I could. I still don’t know if the librarian genuinely needed someone to help out or if she and the teacher had cooked this up between them.

I still had to read the books and take the tests and quizzes but most days, instead of sitting in class and hating everything, I went up to the library and helped check in books and shelve them. By the time I was in eighth grade, I was helping with processing (sticking the labels and card pockets on the books, anyway). I had a job. I had a place.

At this same time, I was just discovering fantasy. Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Nancy Bond, Elizabeth Marie Pope, Robin McKinley, JRR Tolkien–I drank them in, like a thirsty plant. The rule at this school was that you could check out two books at a time. At some point, Mrs. Hughes said, “Maureen, you can check out as many books as you’d like.” And I did. I would check out three or four books every day and sneak them home (yes, sneak, which is another story) and read them and return them the next day and get three or four more. Everything was terrible at that point: at school, at home, in the world. But in books I found hope that things would not always be this bad, that good would win in the end.

Years later I would read Tolkien and LeGuin on the kind of escape that stories offer, and I would cry because that’s why I read. That’s why I checked The Perilous Gard and The Blue Sword out over and over again, clinging to them like life preservers, because that’s what they were.

In my memory, that library is always full of golden light. There’s some actual truth to this–it was a long room on the second floor of the building and it had lots of windows. But I’m also investing it with my remembered emotions. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the library was my haven. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it saved me.

There was one librarian at this school, and one assistant and what I remember about them is a vague sense of what they looked like, and their kindness. I was weird and bookish and awkward and out of place. They made a place for me and I am convinced to this day that Mrs. Hughes bought the rest of the Dark is Rising sequence because she saw I was reading them and realized I couldn’t get them any other way. At some point, I was talking with some other students and they said how mean Mrs. Hughes was and I didn’t know what to say because she never had been that way to me.

I don’t know if I ever really thanked her for everything she did for me. But in a very real way, I am where I am today because of her. Not only in the sense of making it through middle school without completely collapsing into misery and depression, although that’s true. It’s also because of her that I first thought, “Hey. Maybe I could be a librarian.” I spent some of high school thinking I should be an English teacher, but in the end I came back to libraries. I came home.

Library life

Notes of a personal sort

I am in a bit of a slump, reading-wise. Well, I am in a bit of a slump everything wise. Not sure if it’s summer (ugh) or the state of the world or just the mood of the moment, but regardless, I’d be fine with some enthusiasm showing up. All of that to say, I haven’t been posting quite as regularly lately. I did start Gillian Bradshaw’s Dark North and I love the premise and the beginning, but it lacks focus which is not helping things. Likewise, I am forcing myself through the sleeves for my Pretty (Me) sweater and would just like them to be done now, thanks.

HOWEVER! I do have cool, exciting news. I’ve been working as an part-time assistant for the Plainfield Public Library for the past few years and they recently offered me a job as a full time programmer for tweens and homeschoolers. We have a great teen area and program, but some kids are too young or not quite ready to be there, and I’ll be focusing on meeting that need, as well as developing relationships with local homeschoolers. I’m a bit nervous, but mostly excited and very honored as well.

This probably won’t affect posting here much, but I may morph my library display feature into more of a general library + programming thing. We’ll see.


Going to ALA

As I mentioned in passing yesterday, I am headed out to ALA this week, and by the week I mean tomorrow. So if you’re picturing me quietly panicking, you’d be about right. On the other hand, the pre-conference panic is forcing me to do things I should have done a month ago, so that’s good, I guess.

Anyway, ALA, in case you did not know, is more properly ALA Annual, one of the two big conferences of the American Library Association. This year it’s in Chicago, so I’m driving up. I have never been before, and I’m simultaneously really excited and really terrified. But I think I will be learning a lot and since this is my first professional conference while actually employed, I think it’ll be good.

So, because I will be trekking my way through the nation’s largest convention center (they say 2.6 million square feet like it’s a selling point), posting will probably be light to non-existent around here. I will hopefully be back to regular posting next Tuesday or Wednesday.

And if you happen to be going to Annual too, I’d love to say hi! I will be doing several YA/children’s things and one or two circulation things.