Monthly Archives: July 2013

Moving Onward

Since I last made a post, I’ve been in the process of preparing to move from Michigan and head to the East Coast where my family lives as I keep looking for the next library where I’ll work. My days are mainly full of those tricky decisions that come with moving including what books do I keep and which ones come with me. I’m slowly working my way through my two tote bags full from ALA. Every book that I finish, I review on Goodreads, which can be found .

As I’ve been preparing for my move, I keep thinking over my experiences at ALA and how wonderful it was to be surrounded by librarians, publishers and people who care about books. I was impressed by how much the authors gave of their time to connect with readers and librarians through events like the YA Author Coffee Clatch, the various awards dinners and all the signings. Since I spend a good deal of time on Twitter and book blogs, I’ve seen there how some authors reach out to readers, but it was wonderful to see that same care happen in person. I know that those kinds of interactions ask for the authors’ time, so it means a lot that they’re willing to make themselves available for us.

I don’t know when I’ll next get to an ALA conference, but I hope its not too far in the future. When I next do, I’ll be better prepared for how multiple conferences go on at the same place and that when you attend, its important to decide what are your priorities. Most of my time at ALA 2013 was spent exploring and trying to get a sense of everything that was happening. That meant that I missed certain aspects, I didn’t attend any of the various governance meetings or as many workshops or programs as I might have. Yet I spent a good deal of time on the exhibit floor and had wonderful interactions with a variety of people. I have no regrets about my experience and look forward to my next one.


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ARCs, signings and cheap books, oh my

Before I attended ALA, I was aware of how publishers gave out ARCs and sold books for cheaper at conferences. I’ve read many posts about taking and using books, who should get them and what does it mean to have an ARC. My first experience with ARCs was in a graduate school course where the professor gave ARCs to our class as a way to broaden our reading and helping her to clear out her shelves. Through that class, I discovered one of my favorite authors, Cinda Williams Chima as the ARC for The Demon King wasn’t as fancy as the others but the blurb made me curious. I had read her Heir series but The Seven Realms’ books clicked for me even more than the Heir books. It felt like a wonderful symmetry when I was able to pick up an ARC for the newest Heir book at the Disney-Hyperion booth.

At ALA, I ended up spending a great deal of my time wandering the exhibit hall but in particular the aisles where the publishers were gathered at the back. It felt like an almost separate space and I was fascinated by all the ways that publishers and authors were reaching out to librarians and to see the various forms that relationship took.

Due to another commitment, I wasn’t present when the exhibit hall opened and so didn’t see as one of the librarians at Real World, Real Tools called, “the running of the librarians.” Instead my first glimpse into the exhibit hall was at about 11 on Saturday morning, when due to a happy accident, I took the escalator that came up on the exhibit hall. This put me in the perfect place to stop in at the ALA Joblist center where I had some wonderful meetings. Then I was able to walk straight into the publishers’ aisles. I think I ended up acquiring the majority of my books in that first morning as I was swept up in this feelings of scan my badge, get a book, this is amazing. It wasn’t until I took the time to sit down, have lunch and look over my books that I began to be more thoughtful. For the rest of the conference, when I went through the aisles, I tried to have more conversations with publishers, authors that didn’t have long lines and think about what I was taking. The types of books I chose to take were YA novels, books I might not normally read and nonfiction. My aim as I stated in the other post is to do reviews for every book that I bought or received at ALA. Since it feels like that’s part of the trade off for the publishers being willing to bring their books for such discounted prices to librarians. We generate word of mouth for them in exchange for them giving us better opportunities.

picture of books in two tote bags

Books from ALA 2013

I had been aware that author signings were a major part of the conference but just like the amount of books and set up for their giveaways, seeing them happening was another matter. Since I spent most of my time wandering and not going to anything in particular, I would keep coming across lines as they curved around or see the author at the front. It was a little disconcerting but I was impressed by how well they were managed. Though I found it a shame how some authors didn’t have a lot of lines and others were long. It was a sign of the differences between the large publishers and the smaller ones, but it was refreshing how many smaller publishers were there.

One of the best surprises for me of ALA was the Artist’s Alley and Graphic Novel Stage, which felt like they had been dropped in from a fandom convention. I’ve been to a number of fan conventions from small ones like Conclave in Michigan to large ones such as Armageddon in Wellington, New Zealand and the Artist’s Alley appears in all of them. It was small at ALA, only taking up about one aisle and it appeared to be where mainly the graphic novel and comic book artists spent their time. I found it refreshing for the lack of lines and how open the artists were to connect as I was told this was only the second year that the Artist’s Alley had been set up. The Graphic Novel Stage was the perfect complement as it was a small and intimate space where artists and authors talked and the range of topics was fascinating.

On Monday, it was sad to see the exhibit hall being packed up but I enjoyed having another chance to get a closer look at what publishers had. There were books that I was curious about but didn’t pick up as I wanted to make sure I did justice to the ones I had picked up. Its a difficult balance knowing how many books and which books to bring home. I appreciate how publishers have to balance selling books and giving away books at a conference like ALA. Overall, the exhibit hall was my favorite part of ALA with the many worlds mixing and seeing the conversations and moments that happen when librarians, fans, authors and publishers exist in one place.


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Real World, Real Tools: Don’t try to be Wonder Woman

My first day at ALA was spent attending a program put together by AASL (American Association of School Librarians) called Real World, Real Tools that was run by Deb Logan, Laura Pearle and Wendy Stephens. This was an intense workshop that ran from 12:30 to after 4 and left me with many thoughts that I’m still processing. Here I want to write about some of the main things I learned in it as well as the experience of spending that amount of time with other school librarians.

The session was divided into five smaller parts that covered; Budgets, Staffing, Administration, Technology and Self Care. Each part began with a presentation and then we talked into smaller groups before coming back together. I’m not certain of the exact number of people who attended but I don’t believe it was more than 30 people, which was a good size. The way the program was put together reminded me of classes I’ve had in graduate school where a lot of information was covered but there was time in groups to process and discuss. I think any of the presentations could have stood on its own as a panel or poster but putting them all together was a great way to understand all the aspects of what a school librarian does.

My main impression looking back on this program was a mixture of I wish I’d attended something like this before I began my job last year and feeling grateful for going to it this year. A great deal of information was shared about ways to manage with a small or no budget, how to deal with staffing issues or the problems when you’re a lone wolf librarian, speaking the language of administration, making the best technology choices for your community and taking care of yourself.

At this point in my experience, the part that I found the most relevant was the administration section as a major issue I had this past year was knowing that I had to communicate to administration but not managing it as well as I needed to. That part of the presentation was a good reminder that good communication takes work and that as librarians, we can fall into the trap of forgetting that not everyone thinks like a librarian. Also that even if you’re in a fairly secure position, as a school librarian, you need to be constantly showing and proving to your school community what you do so they can observe you with more understanding. As a young librarian, I had hoped that perhaps this was something that was more tied to budget issues but now I understand that its part of being a school librarian. This was something I think I was aware of considering the rhetoric that surrounds libraries of what do you do and the huge lack of understanding from many sides. I’ve had many conversations with friends of my family, people I meet when I explain what I do where they look confused at the existence of librarians. The program shared a lot of good strategies for sharing your work to a community though it seemed like many of the ideas would require a good deal of thought into what works. All of these ideas are based around the idea of keeping the community aware of what you do and their basic gist was share your calendar of these are the classes you work with, these are activities happening in the library. The manners of sharing varied from posting a calendar, keeping a weekly record on a blog, using an erasable poster to share what kids have learned and directly emailing stakeholders. My main concern about these ideas is how to walk that fine line between informing people of your work and not having it feel like you’re going see, see all I’m doing. That aspect I think depends a huge amount on the community and how people communicate. Its something I plan on taking to my next job as well as the other part of it which is the importance of making your goals and ideas explicit and connected to the school’s goals. Build programs around tasks and goals that are key to the administration and district, be in constant communication with teachers about how you can tie in with them. A good school librarian connects to all aspects of a school and a great one needs to be able to show all the ways they work with and for everyone in the school.

The other major lesson that I took from this program was about not trying to be Wonder Woman, which is a common trap for librarians. That its easy to get pulled into the feeling that you have to do everything for everyone and if you don’t, if things fall by the wayside then you’re failing in your job. This is even more acute when you’re the only librarian in a building, there’s this feeling that you have to be the perfect example of a librarian, this isn’t realistic and can be unhealthy. Instead its incredibly important to make long term plans, look ahead and if there are a lot of big issues to deal with focus on what’s important now. Then share these goals with the community so they understand why you’re making the choices you’re making. This way, even if you’re the only one doing the work, other people are aware of what you’re working on and what takes the most time. Then the next and I think most important part is taking care of yourself. This was something that I didn’t do as good of a job with last year, I got so caught up in being the ever present librarian that my own health suffered for it. The message of don’t try to do everything and that you can’t succeed if you’re not healthy is incredibly important. Powerful change takes time and its hard to make change happen when you’re not at your best.

As I came out of this program somewhere around 4:30, I felt tired but in a good way since I had been immersed with people who were successful school librarians. I had conversations about my first year and the caring and advice I was given was wonderful. We as librarians are a powerful community and one that will always listen when you ask, “Am I doing this right? Do you have any ideas?”

I know as I look into the future, I will refer back to my notes from this program as I go forward as a librarian.

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ALA 2013: Among the librarians

Yesterday, I returned from ALA 2013, this was the first time I’ve gone to this conference and it was amazing. I have a lot of thoughts about it which I think I’m going to try and put into two posts, one about the programs/events I went to and one about the exhibit floor and physical feel of the conference.

As an overview, this was an amazing experience for me, because I’ve spent the year one of two librarians at my school. So going to a huge conference where everyone was a librarian or connected to the world of books and education lifted me up. One of the main reasons I love being a librarian is the variety of professions and ideas that fall under the heading of librarian and walking around the conference and the exhibit floor that was in view.

People were welcoming, I had a lot of conversations that started because someone noticed where I lived or I asked a question at a booth or just talking. I can be rather shy at times, but I went to ALA with idea of being more outgoing. This was the best way to do it and as I look over the business cards, brochures, posters, books and notes I have from it, I made the right choice. Since I’ve gotten behind on my book reviewing during the school year, I’m taking ALA as an excuse to get back into it. For every book that I picked up there, I plan on writing a review.

There’s a lot I’m thinking about in terms of interactions between librarians and publishers, artists, authors and what being a school librarian means. Those are going to come into other posts as I want to write in depth about the strange world of the publisher’s aisles and ARCs and signings as well as YALSA and AASL.

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