Monday, April 30, 2012

Best ALLA ever!

We were all rock stars last week. At least the Alabama Library Association convention theme held true, from the inspiration keynote from Janis Ian to acapella singing from Mountain Brook teens. Seeing Janis sing and speak brought back two poignant personal library memories. The first was my assignment, in middle school music class, to present a biographical report on Ian. It was the first time I used Current Biography, which I immediately adored and dove right into.

But, since this was well before the era of digitized music, I was never able to actually find a recording of "Society's Child" or "At Seventeen," the two singles which figured most prominently in the Current Biography article. that was, until I found the music library at my college. The first time I swung into there was to request Janis Ian to listen to in a soundproof booth.

Skyping with Myra --
Photo by Nikki Robertson
All Access to YA Authors --
Photo by Nikki Robertson
And I even attempted to incorporate the theme into my presentation, "All Access to YA Authors." It was basically a dump of the more YA-literature related selections from my RSS reader into powerpoint, so many of my favorite blogs might see a tiny uptick in subscriptions. You can download the slides, but they are not embeddable -- too big!

 Another fab literature presentation was "Access YA Reads: The Latest and Greatest in Young Adult Literature" by Barbara Bowling and Cendy Cooper, who reported from the What's New in YA literature and How to Use it in Your Program workshop from the Bureau of Education Research. They were followed by the YASRT book talks, which are always a highlight as they introduce me to new thing to read and recommend...

My favorite poster session was that of Laurie Charnigo, a former UA SLIS classmate of mine from way back, who pulled together all sorts of resources on Underground Newspapers of the 1960s Counterculture. I am thrilled to know this is available for my students.

Speaking of the 1960s, another highlight was hearing that there will two more books following the decade are planned from Countdown author Deborah Wiles, who won an Alabama Author Award, in her groundbreaking documentary novel fashion. One will center on freedom summer, another on the counterculture.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Alabama Library Association Annual Conference

This week, it will be my tremendous pleasure to catch up with my colleagues from around the state at the Alabama Library Association Annual Conference. Last year was the beach - this time it's Birmingham.

I'm especially looking forward to seeing Deborah Wiles, whose really innovative novel Countdown was awarded the organization's Alabama Author Award for children's literature. (Confession: until the awards were announced, I did not realize she was an Alabamian!)

At the Thursday morning Youth Services breakfast, I will be introducing my good friend Beck McDowell, whose book This is Not a Drill will be published by Penguin this October.

My presentation, just after the breakfast, will focus on using social media to track what's going on with YA authors and big trends in YA. It will feature a skype-in from the amazing Myra McEntire (whose Hourglass blew me away, and I keep hearing the upcoming Timepiece is even better!).

Ya'll come!

Monday, April 16, 2012

What is going on with the postal service?

I don't use the Postal Service to mail a lot of packages. If I DO mail something, it tends to be a book, an ARC or something else I'm passing to a friend. Something I can slip into a manila envelope and sent media mail for a couple of dollars. But I have had a few experiences lately which left me scratching my head...

I mailed three smallish books (a hardcover Madeline, a paperback Fancy Nancy, and a hardcover of Hilary Martel's Giving Up the Ghost) to my friend in Wales. "Surface is fine," I told the postal clerk. No more surface, she tells me, air only. Three books to Wales by air = $21.

Then I went to mail a hot water bottle, a vintage copy of Valley of the Dolls, some origami paper and some plastic hair ornaments to my bestie in Portland and her girls. $17.00, USPS Freight NOT Priority. Again, does that strike you as a bit much?

Then I read about how our local mail will be trucked to Birmingham (200 miles round-trip). We will lose our postmark, and local mail will take 8-10 days? Insanity.

The post office seems to determined to price itself beyond reason (I will consider DHL next time I ship internationally and  UPS for domestic), and then slows service to something approaching the glacial. They could do ONE or the OTHER -- keep it reasonably but tortuous, or pricey but speedy, but choosing both seems like it is forfeiting the game. As does this PostSecret secret:

I'm wondering what libraries can take away from this previous public good being decimated by an attempt at profitability.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A narrative compass

Some of the most difficult aspects of working on my dissertation are surrounding the concepts and language people used to describe their reading. I spent some time over the long weekend with A Narrative Compass, a wonderful volume I was introduced to at ALISE 2009 (the last ALISE I attended), which invited female scholars to look back upon the fictive texts which influenced their thinking.

I often grapple with identifying the touchstone text which influenced me as a reader, writer, and thinker during different phases on my life. I think everyone in Alabama is obligated to claim To Kill a Mockingbird, but frankly A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was much more powerful for me as a pre-teen, and Little Women at an earlier age and The Bell Jar and Franny and Zooey in high school. As a graduate student in English, I would have chosen Vanity Fair or Middlemarch. What has surprised me is that I keep coming back to The Diary of Anne Frank. It was the first book I checked out of my middle school library, and I can still see and feel the yellow Bound-to-Stay-Bound cover of that particular copy in my mind's eye. There has scarcely been a year sincewhen I haven't read either the critical, unexpurgated, or original edition, or something related like The Hidden Life of Otto Frank or the writing of Etty Hillesum, another Jewish Dutch woman who kept a diary of the German occupation of the Netherlands.

I have put together a research proposal to study Anne's life over the summer, which is an exciting prospect. I feel like working through my own Rosenblattian reader-response reactions to the text over time will help me develop a better framework to talk about my students' reading.