It's been a couple weeks now and I'm terrible because I've said diddly about my recent trip to ALA Annual Conference at the end of June. Partly that is because I've been pretty much non-stop busy since then (it is the middle of summer programming, after all) and partly because I've still been digesting my experience and thinking about what I wanted to write. I still haven't figured out that second part, but I figured I'd better get something down before my ramblings become completely obsolete.
I was nervous about this conference. I've never been to Chicago, despite going to grad school in Indiana. I'm not really a big city person and Chicago was a place I never wanted to visit on my own (as in, I wanted a buddy to travel with me). Unfortunately, that's the situation I found myself in. While I knew a few people going to the conference, there was no one I was terribly close with. Additionally, I had a really hard time finding a roommate for this conference and I was paying for the whole thing out of pocket, plus using vacation time to be there, so it was all in all a bit of a stressful experience (can we talk about the fact that I had to use vacation time to go to a conference for my profession? No, because I will just get angry). Moving on...
I attended the conference Friday through Monday and I'm really just going to provide the highlights here, expanding on sessions that I found particularly interesting or relevant. Friday was the official start of the conference, with preconferences scheduled during the day before the opening session in the late afternoon, though, since I was paying out of my own funds, I didn't attend a preconference. I did make my way down to the opening session, given by Steven D. Levitt. I don't have any particular interest in economics and have never read his book, but it figured it wouldn't hurt anything to listen. He was an interesting person to hear and actually raised my interest in checking out the book sometime. After the opening session, the exhibits opened. And the librarians bumrushed. Well, not really, but exhibits can be fierce on opening night. Unlike previous conferences, this was the first time I had to fly to attend, so I wasn't planning on taking many ARCs (as I didn't want to pay for extra baggage). It was a different experience for me, as I've definitely been caught up in the frenzy at conferences before.It was interesting to sort of stand back and watch the madness happening. Being a victim of the book need, I, of course, ended up grabbing a few things that interested me and shipping them home, but I definitely restrained myself. One thing I don't like about ALA is that authors do their signings in the publisher booths, leading to even more congestion as people line up for the signings while others are simply trying to browse the booth. I understand the reasoning for it, but it just leads to huge traffic snarls and can be frustrating.
After browsing, I headed to one of the conference hotels for a panel on dystopian YA lit, featuring Lois Lowry, Veronica Roth, Patrick Ness, and Cory Doctorow. It was a packed (actually, overcrowded) room and it was definitely a very interesting panel. My main reason for attending was to see Patrick Ness - and after the panel, I am unequivocally in love with him. He was charming and smart and funny and adorable. And he was followed by Cory Doctorow, who I'm not ashamed to admit scared the poop out of me.
Saturday I got a bit of a late start, so I hit the Scholastic Book Buzz. Honestly, I don't know why I bother going to the Book Buzz sessions - I'm so hyper-vigilant about upcoming releases that I generally know about every book they mention before I attend the session. Still, I suppose it's something to do when I don't have any other sessions I'm interested in. After that, I saw Kelly Jensen (of Stacked) and Liz Burns (of A Chair, A Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy) give a presentation on ARCs, along with two publishing reps. I found it a really interesting panel, and I really liked hearing from the publishing folks. As a librarian who does collection development and readers' advisory, I find ARCs very useful for my job, letting me preview things before I decide to add them to the collection and letting me familiarize myself with more titles I can suggest to patrons. I also then use them as giveaways at programs and for summer reading prizes (print ARCs, of course). I don't necessarily have easy access to them, though - I don't work directly with any publishing reps and we never get them sent to our library. I'm glad that publishers are offering digital ARCs now, as I can still use them for my collection development and readers' advisory, but sad that I don't have those print ARCs to give away to my readers. I understand it, of course, and I'm glad to have easier access to pre-release titles. It's definitely an interesting topic.
Saturday afternoon I headed to another conference hotel for my committee meeting. Oh, did I forget to mention? I'm currently serving on a YALSA selection committee! I was both nervous and excited before my meeting - this is my first time serving and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but I was excited to meet my fellow committee members and have some discussions. This was a pretty quick meeting as we are all still getting our hands on what's been nominated - I imagine the meetings during Midwinter will be a bit more intense and lengthy. But I left with a really good feeling about doing this committee work.
I ventured back into the exhibits to snag a signed ARC of Patrick Ness' forthcoming book, More Than This. One of the Candlewick reps had already sold me on it back at the TLA conference, so it was one of the few ARCs I definitely wanted to get my hands on. After getting my signed copy, I rushed to try to get a signed ARC of Tamora Pierce's next book for a colleague. Unfortunately, they cut the line right as I approached the end of it. Boo! I called it an early night after that, still feeling beat from my travels (yeah, I didn't tell you I had a 6 a.m. flight on Thursday morning and then trekked all around Chicago with my bags all day since I couldn't check into my hotel yet).
Sunday I had kind of a quiet day. I dropped by the Bloomsbury Book Buzz and then, for my own interest, popped into the Random House Adult Fall Preview. I grabbed some lunch and then attended the PLA President's Program, which included a talk by Ann Patchett. I kind of went on a whim - Patchett is another author I've never read, but one I've actually wanted to, and that only increased after seeing her speak. She was engaging and delightful and she definitely won me over. I liked her so much that I stuck around to get a signed copy of her next book. I swung through the exhibits again, just to see if I had missed anything awesome, then headed to my last session of the day, Late Nights at the Library. The teen librarian and I have been talking about doing an after-hours program, either with teens or tweens, so I wanted to hear more about what other libraries have done. Unfortunately, this program focused exclusively on after-hours programming for adults, so it wasn't really relevant to my line of work. However, it was still interesting to hear about what other libraries are doing for adults and I definitely got some ideas I want to share with my colleagues.
Sunday night was my big splurge - a ticket to the Newbery-Caldecott banquet. It was my first time attending and, while I had a good time, I don't think I'd pay for a ticket again. It was difficult to find a table - they really should have had a map of the reserved tables when you first walked into the room because the reserved signs were not terribly large. Additionally, all you're really paying for when you buy a ticket is the meal, which, while pretty good, was not worth the price of my ticket. I suppose you're also paying for the privilege of sitting during the speeches, but, once again, I don't think that was worth what I paid. However, it was a good experience. Jon Klassen's speech was great - heartwarming and humorous and it definitely made me cry. It was just so obvious how much this award meant to him and really made me feel thrilled for him. Katherine Applegate was a delight - she kicked off her speech by reading a passage from a Harlequin novel she had ghostwritten at the beginning of her career, likely the only time that's ever happened in the banquet's history. I've seen her speak before and I think she is just such a lovely person. I'm thrilled for her as well. This year's banquet also included a speech from Katherine Paterson, who was the recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for a "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children." Confession time again: I do not like Paterson's books. I've read three of them now - yes, a small fraction of what she's written - but I have not enjoyed any of them. However, I thought Paterson herself was a pleasure to listen to and I'm really glad I got to hear her speech as well.
Monday was my last day at the conference. I kicked things off with the New Adult Fiction Conversation Starter, once again featuring Kelly and Liz and this time including Sophie Brookover. This was a completely overflowing room and a really interesting discussion. As I'm a tween librarian, I don't deal much with people looking for New Adult books, but I find the whole topic incredibly fascinating. Additionally, I think all three of these librarian ladies are pretty awesome (if you're not participating in the #readadv chat on alternating Thursday nights, you are missing out) so it was great to hear their thoughts on the subject. I made one final loop of the exhibits and sent a final box home, then listened to Alice Walker. The final session I attended before making what turned out to be a never-ending journey home was on Unprogramming. I liked it, but it didn't really break any new ground for me, as most of our library programs follow the "stations of stuff" model, but I am always open to hearing about programs at other libraries.
And that was my ALA Annual conference! How was your experience? I'm looking forward to Midwinter (though not necessarily Philadelphia in January). Hope to see you there!