Saturday, June 30, 2012

ALA Anaheim

The last time ALA was in Anaheim, I left mid-day Sunday to fly to San Antonio for ISTE (worst idea ever, for the record, don't do it). So I had sort-of dreaded going back, but even with the mile-long blocks and chain food, it was all good this year, probably because I didn't have to up-stakes mid-conference.

I don't bring a lot of paper home with me, since recycling seemed like the rule of the day after Council, but I am the kind of geek that would like to save everything. But this IS the 21st century, musn't it all available online somewhere? I did bring back some paper -- the resolution School Librarians and Libraries Are Critical To Educational Success, which it was thrilling to see supported by both academic and public librarians -- and the proposed changes to ALA Conference (think more closely located campus, everything captured electronically, with themed strands and fewer sessions at the same times). I also have some numbers I jotted down on attendance -- Anaheim 16,231 (11,850 + 5,381 exhibitors) versus New Orleans 18,061 (12,792 + 5,269 exhibitors). I know the treasurer gave use a three-year breakdown on figures including Exhibits Passes at Council II, but I think I recycled that document. I need to find it as it seems germane to #arcgate.

I have been under the weather with a post-conference bug, but my feed reader is dominated by one topic. I have only one thing to say about #arcgate. A few midwinters back, I had a couple of roommates. One was a school librarian, another a college student. Neither needed to be at Midwinter for committee work, but both came, taking days off work and school. To get ARCs.

They practically moved into the vendor booths for the duration, wrangling invitations from the publisher's reps and carrying away bags after bags of books (including a couple for me, which was kind as I was busy running from meeting to meeting). But as I drug myself out of bed at 6:45 one morning, I remember looking at their recumbent bodies and thinking this was not fair. But It's not fair in a human decency sort of way, but neither are many acts of discourtesy and rudeness that cannot be legislated against.

I think it's interesting how this is playing out. For the organization, isn't it all ultimately about attendance? That bottom-line metric used to negotiate everything from conference rates at hotels to, most relevantly, pricing for exhibits and sponsorships. And more exhibits only badge-holders figure increases that overall total. So even if you, as a librarian and active organizational member, are offended, I am not sure that selling an $25 exhibits-only pass to any random "blogger" is dissimilar to the organization in revenue terms. You, in your meetings, require all that AV set-up, and pitchers of ice water, and hard candies in dishes. And there seem to be too many options, too many half-empty rooms.

I took 17 ARCs during the exhibits opening Friday night, few enough to send in a box FedEx described as small, but enough to cost me $45 to ship. If my past pattern holds, I will buy about half of the titles. Which is much better odds than if I just see the book in a catalog. And, frankly, I buy almost all the books Little, Brown sends me, because they are particular in what they promote. And I've found once you read something, you want to be able to recommend it. So I do think ARCs are a good investment for publishers in terms of both selling books and generating buzz.

All told, I was in the exhibits those first 30 minutes and then for another half-hour on Sunday afternoon. On my second trip in, I got one other ARC. It was one I knew a friend particularly wanted, and the rather illustrious, Printz-honor winning author was standing right there to inscribe it for her. And there was no line. I had to get to a meeting.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Trend I love: historical fiction

I can really get into this trend for gritty and smart and suspenseful (if occasionally supernaturally-tinged) historical fiction. It's definitely the coming thing this fall:

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron (Scholastic, September 1)

The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper (Knopf, October 9)

and Libba Bray's The Diviners (Little Brown, September 18) , which more than lives up to the hype

of course all pre-saged by Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion, May 15), which was my go-to when teachers asked me what they should read over the summer.

Will it be enough to get the backlist moving? Judy Blundell and This Girl is Murder.... I'll have to compile a booklist, after Anaheim!

Friday, June 15, 2012

ASLA & AETC debrief

I just spent three days in Birmingham, or its outskirts -- Mountain Brook (for ASLA), Trussville (for AETC), and Inverness (to sleep). I was joined by eight other librarians from our district, which was an unprecedented turn-out for our group.

AASL President-elect Susan Ballard gave the ASLA keynote, and I stayed after for her session on positioning yourself and your program in the best possible light. She mentioned a continuum for collaboration that she used with each of her teachers, which completely inspired me to think about my own faculty in those terms. And I loved hearing Susan's voice, it transported me back to college in New Hampshire. Next, I went to a fascinating session on copyright law in the digital age, delivered by an attorney husband pressed into service. I think it's always good for librarians to get together to discuss copyright concerns. He did a good job of emphasizing Educational Fair Use permissions rather than being overly restrictive about possible infringement. Most of the audience had no idea that restaurants had to pay royalties when they aired television. We had a visit from the State Superintendent at lunch, and,  as with all conferences, the best part was the conversations with colleagues.

AETC was on the Hewitt-Trussvile campus, and both it and the Mountain Brook facilities make me realize how truly resource-poor my own system happens to be. I have come to grips with the fact that we will never have an auditorium, for example, or the state-of-the-art projection and audio systems in every classroom as in Trussville, which was a showplace the likes of which I had never seen. I left feeling both repelled and attracted by the opulence of it all. It reminded me of a visit to a city high school campus for a school concert, where parents and children alike were exclaiming So many stalls! Paper towels! Soap!

You don't have soap at your school? My husband asked when I told him about the oohing and ahhing. Well, the student bathrooms certainly tend not to. And the hand-dryers are not the super-efficient kind. But I actually think the physical plant is pretty sparkly considering the 1300 often slovenly children there everyday.


I write that to say that I find it all the more remarkable I am able to soldier on. Carolyn Starkey and I were given the 2012 Carrie R. Robinson award for Outstanding School Library Media Program, and Carolyn also took home the Ann Marie Pipkin award for technology innovation, which I got last year.

AETC was, as always, really well-coordinated by our state Department of Education Technology Initiatives. It is really energizing to see how many interesting things are going on around the state. Tuesday we went to the auditorium for the Marbury awards, then had Alan November for a keynote. He is always fascinating to hear, and I was thrilled that so many librarians from my district (five!) were there. My concurrent session on webtools was in the first set -- will post a complete version after I expand it for NAETC next week.

I always think it's a good strategy to choose sessions based on the presenter, and I pretty much stuck to sessions led by people I knew and liked. Most of the rooms were full to overflowing. I went to Carolyn Starkey's resource-rich session on the Common Core, then went early to snag a seat for a webtools one from Melissa Mann, an incredible elementary school special education teacher from my district. I ended the day with Leslie Fisher's iOS support group, which had me downloading new apps like crazy. I'm loving Calendars (which beautifully renders and makes fully workable GCal on iOS),

I started Thursday with Amanda Dykes' Google Docs presentation, which was delightfully pithy and informative. then I went to hear Patrick Crispen on social networking tools -- he was especially funny about Klout, before I had to skip a session to dial into a YALSA incoming chair conference call, I was able to pop into Nikki Robertson's crazy full Pinterest session for a little. I'm still not sure it's for me, but it's catnip to so many people, I have to respect it.

So now I've got lots to get together before NAETC and ALA next week, and some books I'm dying to read and also some things to figure out. Today I am meeting a former student for a girly lunch, and then tomorrow is museum-going, my absolute favorite thing to do. And I had entirely too much fun with the women from my district. I feel our librarian powers increasing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alabama & Anaheim

Things are going to get a little crazy here for a bit.

For the first time in my memory school went past Memorial Day, ending May 31. Graduation was June 1, and then I went to New York to visit friends, see some shows, do some shopping, and swing by the Javits Center for School Library Journal's Day of Dialog. It reminded me a lot of ALAN, an amazing parade of dazzling authors, including the up-and-comers. It was equally rapidly paced, contained in one room, and full of hyped-up book junkies. In other words, utterly recommendable. While I couldn't stay for BEA proper, because I am still in the middle of a muddle of projects, it was well worth the flying visit.

I'll be on the road again Tuesday, to ASLA. I am really looking forward to this year's program, put together by Elizabeth Hester.

Then there's AETC, our state educational technology then NAETC, the North Alabama regional variant.

Then there's Anaheim for ALA Annual.

And I've been to school three times already (or every school day I was in town), and I have to go back tomorrow.

Schoolteachers get summers off, right?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The school year that just wouldn't end

I am hundreds of miles away from school as I write this, and skipping town the day after graduation was a most excellent idea. It was a long and difficult year for a variety of reasons: the retirement of our long-time principal, the palpable anxiety amongst the faculty as the new principal (a former faculty member, too) started making changes, and the continuing stress of not having instructional support funds, which include library allocations. I also started poking aroud, considering jobs I didn't really want, just from some sense that a decade is rather long to have been in one position, especially when there is little opportunity for advancement within the district.

Nonetheless, we survived the staffing analysis with out faculty units intact, which is better than many high schools fared. But now we have a positively hellish calendar to look forward to next year, without any real breaks except one week at the holidays and another for spring break.

I gave away hundreds of books and ARCs the last week of school. Many of the books were donations from a book sale fundraiser which left me with thousands of cast-offs that I'd hung onto just in case the community library got underway, but I was tired of waiting on that project which no one wanted to spearhead. (I DO already have one library to run.) So I decided to let the kids at them, so they would have as much to read as possible over this longer-than-usual summer break.

I will be going to School Library Journal's Day of Dialog tomorrow and then will have Tuesday to myself before heading home for some stressful meetings Wednesday. New York was an excellent choice for these days away, not only because of the opportunity to meet up with friends I haven't seen in eons, and not just because cities always makes me so happy to be back at home afterwards, but particularly because my husband is so terrorized by the thought of bedbugs we haven't been since 2009. He was especially anxious when I told him how close to Times Square I was staying...fingers crossed he doesn't force me to incinerate my luggage upon returning home.