Thursday, June 28, 2007

And now, from our nation's capitol...

I've just returned from the annual ALA conference in Washington, D.C. Some colleagues from the MSLA executive board and I blogged about our experiences on MSLA Does DC. I'll write here about some of my favorite events and one of the more frivolous aspects of going to "a national" - the free food!

Our first night in DC, David and Gwen from Scholastic took me, Sandy and Eva, a school librarian from New York, out for dinner at the M&S Grill. We got there after going reception-hopping at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. First we enjoyed wine and appetizers provided by Publishers Group West, where we met Nancy Pearl, model for the Librarian Action Figure. After that, we went downstairs to the Holiday House party where there was a bigger bar and even more sumptuous buffet. There we met and actually stood and chatted with Walter Dean Myers. Much later that night, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) had a 50th anniversary celebration at the Renaissance Hotel with more food and drink. All this on Day 1!

Every year at ALA, ProQuest sponsors a Scholarship Bash to support ALA's Spectrum Scholars, a program to bring more minorities into the profession. This year we were entertained by comedian Mark Russell and political satirists The Capitol Steps. All were hilarious and we were proud that one of our own members, Alma Ramos-McDermott was among this year's group of Spectrum Scholars.

Our third day started with a breakfast provided by Scholastic Publishing where they announced the publication of a new forensic science series. Everyone walked away with a book from the series and a Scholastic mug inside an attractive canvas bag. Later, in the exhibit hall, YALSA served cookies and gave away buttons and free books, signed by author Simone Elkeles.

That night, we had a delicious and fun meal at a fondue place called the Melting Pot courtesy of our friends Donna and Paul from ProQuest, preceded by a reception co-hosted by YALSA and - of all things - the WWE! They are collaborating on a reading initiative with posters featuring wrestlers.

A highlight of the conference for me was the AASL Awards Luncheon. Having served on the committee that chose the winners of the National School Library Media Program of the Year Award, it was great to see the talented librarians from the winning schools again, but the best part for me was author/storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy, shown here with my friend Gerri. She had us alternately laughing and crying with her poignant story, Love in the Library, about how she was "found" by the first book she ever read and was forevermore thereafter a voracious reader and later, a writer of children's books.

One thing that's frustrating about these conferences is that you can never fit in all that you want to see and do. Case in point - we all had invitations to a World Book reception at the Smithsonian Castle, but that was trumped by another at the Library of Congress. Which would you choose? The LOC is magnificent and we just couldn't pass it up.

We spent a lot of time in the exhibit hall scoffing up as many freebies as possible that we boxed and shipped home to give away at our conference next fall. Most of the publishers had authors signing books at their booths and at any given time there were always lines of people waiting to have their copies signed. Some were first time authors and were easy to get to, but many like Judy Blume, Ken Burns and Garrison Keillor had lines snaking well past their publishers' booths. At various times throughout the conference different vendors had wine, champagne, cake, cookies, cheese, strawberries dipped in chocolate and other delights to attract browsers to their booths.

These national conferences always have a packed program and it is impossible to fit everything in, but that is balanced by the fun of making new friends and seeing new sights. Other personal favorites from this conference:

  • meeting Teri Woods and getting a signed copy of True to the Game

  • listening to Lois Lowry read from The Giver

  • hearing Ken Burns speak about the creation of his new series, The War

  • dining at the Melting Pot with the librarians from Illinois we met in San Antonio

  • having Julie Andrews walk by me in the hallway close enough to touch

  • participating in the press conference at Library Day on the Hill, even though it was 96 degrees and terribly humid.

    My friends and I are already looking forward to the next ALA Annual this time next year in Anaheim, but before that, we have the AASL National Conference in Reno in October and the ALA 2008 Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in January to enjoy.

    All of our photos from this conference are posted on Flickr.

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