ALA Annual 2011 was the first time I have attended Annual outside of Washington D.C. I’m so glad I was able to do so. I had a great time, although I also experienced some frustrations. Here is a recap of what I did – or tried to do – after the cut.
I attended the YALSA pre-conference “Give Them What They Want: Reaching Reluctant YA Readers.” I have to admit that I came away a little disappointed. The session started off awesome with Linda Braun going over ten web 2.0 tools you can use to engage reluctant readers. I had not really considered that if teens are creating content, they have to read to do it. Linda had some really great ideas that I can’t wait to investigate further. The rest of the session just didn’t live up to the description. One tip was to have a graphic novel collection. Um, gee, thanks? Julie Halpern suggested having a zine collection. I’m interested in looking in to this and the cost and ability to find appropriate materials.
Author Chris Grabenstein spoke about improv, which was interesting but not something that I think would work with my reluctant reader population.
James Kennedy, another author, spoke next. He did an exuberant reading from his novel. A long, extremely exuberant reading. And he showed dark, loud videos from a costumed program he did. Maybe if I had read his book before I would have understood the costumes and what was going on. He ended with a brief mention of the 90-Second Newbery. I REALLY would have loved to hear more about this contest that engages teens and less of what felt like promotion for his book.
There was a professional panel that discussed programming for reluctant readers, but it was short. I had hoped that most of the pre-con would be centered around ideas and “how I did this and maybe here is how you can do it” but alas…
The session ended with an author panel consisting of Jay Asher, Sarah Dessen, and Carolyn Mackler. They spoke passionately and were interesting, and I loved getting to hear their thoughts. I would have appreciated it more if this was the only author-related part of the pre-con.
After that, I headed to the exhibits. I enjoyed getting the chance to ask publishers about what upcoming releases they are excited about.
I wanted to wander and find dinner to see a bit of New Orleans and ended up on Bourbon Street without meaning to. Holy cow, that is an experience I never need to experience again. Bourbon Street has a smell that is unique to it (at least as far as I have experienced in my life) and it is not a pleasant smell.
I tried to attend two different sessions that morning, and could not get in to either. First up was “EBooks – Has Their Time Come?” I was greeted with this view:
I tried to get close to the door to hear, but it just wasn’t happening.
I left and walked to the other end of the Convention Center (which might have been another time zone) to try to squeeze in to “The Embedded Librarian: Engage, Evolve, Educate — A New Model of School Librarianship.” But that one was just as packed, spilling in to the hall.
What was really frustrating: the amount of larger, empty rooms I passed walking between the two sessions. On the ALA Connect Scheduler, 680 people marked the EBook session as a session to attend. I know that users mark several sessions happening at the same time so they are able to flex their schedule, but if that many people are interested in attending a session (and that is just the people who use ALA Connect, which, from conversations I had, is a minority of members), should the conference managers think about changing the room being used? With the focus on ebooks being so huge, both within the library and publishing communities and in the current culture at large, any session that was publicized to focus on ebooks should have been expected to be heavily attended.
YALSA’s Strategic Planning Session was next on my schedule. I’ve been a member of YALSA for several years now, but only actively involved for two, so I sometimes feel like I am still a “newbie” – still standing on the fringes of the group. I was interested to listen in and maybe give opinions from this perspective. We broke in to small groups and were asked to come up with five strengths and five weaknesses of YALSA. Our group actually came up with six strengths:
- Awards and Selection lists
- Professional development opportunities at conferences and online
- Electronic presence: blogs, listservs
- Staff support in the main YALSA office
Finding five weakness led to a lot of discussion. Some of the things we touched on:
- Too focused on public libraries – We suggested trying to collaborate with AASL and try to make sure to include the school library side in programs, training, etc.
- Lack of communication with non-members – YALSA doesn’t mean much to outsiders, and our awards, lists, and resources need to be promoted more.
- Lack of data/research – We are all too aware that budgets and support are data and research driven. YALSA needs to be more involved in supporting and promoting research centered around young adults and what libraries do to support their growth in education, literacy, and even things like civics.
- Too clique-y
We provided individual feedback on the goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan. YALSA will be working on it in the coming months, and I’m interested in seeing where we decide to go.
The food was delicious!
After that, I hurried back to the convention center to attend the program “From Gutenberg to Google and Glogs, From Books to Vooks.” I was a little late so I missed the beginning, but really enjoyed what I heard. The presenters talked about the pros and cons of ebooks and the various formats in which they can be used. Some random thoughts from the session:
- Students who use Kindles can make annotations and send it electronically to teachers, but Kindle can access said annotations. So who owns the annotations? Is there not a line of privacy for children?
- We are moving in the direction of limitations on data packages – how will this affect home use for students?
- When it comes to fiction, students still like to use covers and blurbs to find something to read. How will we provide this in an ebook environment?
- Some books have yet to be able to be replaced by an electronic version – Pat the Bunny is an example.
- With Project Gutenberg and Creative Commons, teachers can create their own textbooks.
- In some school districts, there is a distinction between what is a library issue and what is an equipment/technology issue, and some refuse to allow librarians to give input or cross that line, which can make ebook use restricted sometimes.
There was a lot of food for thought in this session and I will continue to mull it over.
I took a break after that, and then headed to YALSA’s Happy Hour, where I had a good time chatting with some YALSA folks. After that, I walked to the YA Blogger Meet-Up where I was able to spend some time with Kelly, Katie, Sarah, and Abby, who are always an awesome bunch.
That’s the end of my first two days! Stayed tuned for Sunday through Wednesday!