Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ref Ren part 2 - Fun ideas

For me the most exciting thing about the Reference Renaissance conference was the sharing of great ideas for getting Reference out of the "box". I know its a cliche but it seems to me that we are stuck in a box right now. Virtual Reference is great but we are currently at the comfortable limits - at least at SPL and at least right now. Technology will undoubtedly change that.

However, in terms of P2P or live in person ref we haven't really innovated much here at SPL. And there were some great ideas in Denver.

Predatory Reference or Ubiquitous Reference - Taking reference to the people. Using a hot dog cart to do roving reference outside the building. Going to condominums and office buildings and setting up tables. Putting librarians on city or neighborhood committees to provide reference research as needed. Even just setting up a table on the 4th Ave plaza on a sunny (we do occasionaly have these) day during the summer and catching the passerby who maybe wasn't thinking of coming into the library but who might have a question. One library even talked about doing weekends at grocery stores, complete with up to the minute hands out telling people important info like where the cheapest gas was that day.

The Pew Foundation reported that for most libraries their "brand" was books. We know we are much more so how do we change the brand image in the minds of our public. Well one way is to confront them where they live and work.

Carol Lo in HTM wants a Sequey (sp) and a wireless laptop. She'll roam the streets of Seattle taking Reference to the people. Amen and halleluia brother.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Reference Renaissance - In Hot and Steamy Denver

I was the only SPL staff person at the Reference Renaissance Conference in Denver on August 4-5. But I was far from the only Washingtonian. There were librarians from Timberland, Spokane and Sno-isle systems as well as a bunch of people from the State Library. There was also a distinctly international flavor to this conference with presenters and attendees from Singapore, South Africa, India, and Canada.

My general impression was of a very well thoughout and organized conference. The sessions were 90 minutes with the usual panel of 3 presenters. There were 6 tracks and frankly I had to make some hard choices. (We were also provided breakfast, 2 snacks and lunch each day so I can't complain about a lack of networking time!)

The attendees I spoke with were about evenly divided between academic and public libraries with a smattering of special libraries for good measure. The presenters were slightly weighted towards academia but that isn't really very surprising.

I'll blog about a couple of specific session that were particularly intriquing but here are a few observations of other sessions.

There was an entire tracking on managing reference service. It included training, staffing and interestingly 2 sessions on automating collecting reference desk statistics. There seems to be a real move into using various software programs to click rather than tick.

An absolutely fascinating - although very theoretical presentation was Mary Cavaugh's "Reference Librarians' Personal Theories of Practice" Using methodology from Education and Social Science she discussed the differences and conflicts between the individual librarian's views about "what reference looks like" and the institutional expectations for reference service.

There were several presentations on various 24/7 alignments and on the variations of im, chat and e-mail reference. We are pretty on the curve in this area.

I'll post on specific sessions I really clicked with later.
Heather McW

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jen Baker's ALA

My First ALA
By Jen Baker, Fiction Dept.

I was so excited to be invited onto RUSA’s Reading List Council, an ALA committee whose main objective matches my own: read everything. In this case what we read is genre fiction and as near as I can tell by my own experience so far, we really do need to read pretty much all the time in order to judge the best book in eight different genres for the current year. The genres are: Mystery, Horror, Adrenaline (suspense, thrillers), Women’s Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Historical Fiction. As the Annual conference in Anaheim drew near, I found myself skipping choir, not answering my phone, refusing to do any housework and sometimes staying up all night in order to fulfill our directive. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who didn’t finish every word of all 60 books we reviewed together at the conference, but no one admitted it! Our process involves each of the eleven members suggesting genre titles. We had about 400 accumulated by May. Then each person has to read all the books they suggest and either withdraw them from the list or nominate them. If nominated and seconded, everyone has to read the book and it gets discussed at the conference.

But back to my timeline account of Jen’s Adventure in Anaheim…

My boys (husband and 17-year-old son) came with me – they wanted to play at Disneyland and go surfing, etc. All three of us flew down together on John’s frequent flyer miles, so air ticket was free! When we got to the Fairfield Inn, which costs $149 per night, we were a bit disappointed. It was a bit of a dive – situated between two alleys full of parked cars and guarded by Security so the guests could park, since the Fairfield is pretty much AT the entrance to Disneyland. You can guess how crowded it was around the grounds! Not being a traveler, I was interested to note that the advertised refrigerator and microwave were stacked next to the television at the foot of our bed and the “Continental breakfast” served in the dive next door wasn’t bad (looking), though it was so crowded we had to fight surly parents (anticipating a full day at the world’s happiest place) for a seat. I think what really did it for me, though, were the crabby non-English-speaking staff and their friends hanging out in the “parking lot” (i.e. alley) at weird hours. We stayed a couple nights and then moved to a Marriott. It was better, but no Continental breakfast and no coffee… The coolest thing about being on the eighth floor facing the Matterhorn was that we could see the fireworks every night from our balcony (along with the rest of the denizens of floor eight) – just don’t lean on the railing!

So, the second day (Thursday) after I registered in the nearly empty Convention Center, the “boys” and I went to the California Adventure Park since we’d never been. I rode my first “scary” ride: the Grizzly River Run. My daughter had told me how fun it was – as long as you didn’t have to be the one who rode the huge inner tube raft down the “waterfalls” backward. Guess who went all the way through the bumpy and stomach-dropping parts backward? Sopping wet and shaking I still had to admit afterward that it was a blast! Note to self: be more adventurous. Then I watched Nick and John on the roller coaster, California Screamin’, which John emerged from rather green in the gills! We wandered around looking for lunch and feeling like eggs frying on the hot pavement.
That evening, I went to the Cheesecake Factory with several of the Reading List Council members, whom I had not yet met (with the exception of Joyce Saricks). We had a blast, and I just know how well-loved we were by the wait staff, who had to figure out at least 10 separated checks while we were ordering drinks and appetizers and passing our plates around the table! THEN I scurried out to go back to Disneyland for the fireworks, followed by Mickey’s Fantasmic, which was absolutely amazing. Only Disney could come up with the 40 foot dragon that emerges from the lake, breathes fire and then burns up. They also projected Mickey’s “dream” onto sprayed fountains that rose up out of the water. Now you are thinking, “Did Jen actually attend the conference?”

Of course I did. After staying up until 3:30 am desperately trying to finish the last five books I was supposed to have read by the conference, I presented myself at the Hilton for our refrigerated eight-hour discussion of 60 books (why is air conditioning so freakin’ cold in the small rooms and non-working in the auditorium?). Each person had to defend the books they nominated, one in each category, which meant that eleven people talked eight times. I had to go pretty much first, which was a bit daunting, given that Neal Wyatt and Joyce Saricks are on the committee and that I am new to the process. Neal was so kind and told me I was doing very well. I guarantee my notes will be more comprehensive next time! It’s hard to remember what all those novels are about. Anyway, we all ate lunch together and then closeted ourselves again for our top secret negotiations until 3:30. Note: if you want to look at last years’ genre winners, including all the top nominations, search the ALA website for “reading list 2008.”

After that I wandered aimlessly around the Convention Center and environs, admiring all the librarians wandering around with their bright orange ALA bags. Smart people really come in interesting packages!

That evening I attending a NoveList contributors’ dinner, hosted by Duncan Smith, where I saw David Wright, but sat at the older folks’ table. Still, we had great discussions about readers’ advisory work and books, of course. Dinner was quite good – it was in a small room with just two tables, our own private waiters and fabulous food, including prawns, salmon, filet mignon/tenderloin and three or four gorgeously presented desserts EACH.

The next morning at 8 am we were at it again at the Hilton – finalizing our top secret genre choices for midwinter (so far) – until about 11. While I was talking about books, John and Nick moved us to a better hotel – a Marriott, where we got one night free on John’s hotel points (finally his business travels are paying off!). After the Reading List meeting, I wandered around the exhibits for awhile, then met my boys for lunch and a quick trip to Seal Beach, where there was supposedly surfing. Well, there were a lot of sunburned people, including us, but no surfing. Nick took off on his skateboard for parts unknown and returned a couple hours later – just before we ignited from the heat! That evening, we dumped Nick off in Santa Ana (or some other Santa…) at a huge skate park in an “interesting” neighborhood. John and I were meeting Tracy Li (formerly of CHI and now a children’s librarian in the Orange County Library System) and her husband, Bob, for dinner at a restaurant we thought was nearby. Ha ha! After several frantic turnings of the map and a couple cell phone calls to Tracy and Bob, we discovered we were supposed to go to Mission Viejo (Veeayho? Vielljo?), which is basically down south near San Diego. Well, not really, but man were we late. And then poor Nick had to hang out at the Seven-Eleven near the park for hours until we could get back to him. Tracy is doing very well (she even learned to drive and got her California license) and Bob is ecstatic about his new job, despite a long commute.

Sunday was full of sessions I wanted to attend and I had great plans to sweep the exhibit hall clean of fiction! First, I attended the Literary Tastes breakfast at the Hilton, in honor of the Notable Books committee and the Reading List Council for their excellent work in choosing last year’s winning authors, a few of whom attended. The Notable Book authors who spoke were: Lisa Margonelli (Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank), Joyce Antler (You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother), and Jon Clinch (Finn). The Reading List winning authors who spoke were: Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Natural Born Charmer) and Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind). All these authors spoke glowingly of librarians and of their amazement and delight at being chosen by librarians as “best!”

Then … I learned about the conference shuttles (there were seven different ones, color coded, to all the different hotels). I snagged a seat on the one going to the Disneyland Hotel to take in most of the Readers’ Advisory Committee’s “Book Group Therapy” session. Unfortunately Nancy Pearl cancelled at the last minute, and the committee had to come up with its own content and speakers. I must say they did very well. David Wright’s portion of the program, “Why men don’t join book groups,” was the most interesting and entertaining! The committee used Linda Johns’ and my handouts from our 2007 “Book Group Tune-up” program. If you’re curious, you can find it at:

Another shuttle (after waiting through three other shuttles-worth of hot “dewy” librarians) took me back to the Convention Center for a quick bite ($8 snack wrap and water) and to attend an authors’ panel discussion of “Post – 9/11 Fiction,” led by Keir Graf, senior editor at Booklist and author of My Fellow Americans. The other authors featured were: Ellen Gilchrist (A Dangerous Age), Carolyn See (There Will Never be Another You), and Janette Turner Hospital (Orpheus Lost).

Afterward I wandered the exhibits finding basically nothing (not even ribbons from my editors to compete with David’s colorful badge panoply – they were out!), until Neal Wyatt spied me and introduced me to some people at the Random House booth and from Tom Doherty publishers. The only free books (4 of them) I got I ended up giving (except the Rothfuss) to the hotel concierge! I didn’t feel like shipping or hauling them. Obviously I need to learn the strategies involved in getting good stuff at conferences. Maybe Hannah can give me some pointers.

All in all I had a blast and didn’t suffer too much from being geographically challenged. I will be a bit more confident and purposeful in planning for the midwinter conference in January 2009 in Denver. Brrr.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Post ALA Brown Bag and News

We had a great post-ALA brown bag discussion today! I'm sorry that we couldn't find a date when everyone could come, but we did have great reports and good conversation today. In attendance: Julie Ann Oiye, Marilyn Sheck, Marilynne Gardner, Truc Ha, Valerie Wonder, Jennifer Giltrop, Jane Gibson, Bo Kinney, Mary Power.

Also, in case you haven't seen it, one of Bo's posts was included in the AL Direct Newsletter: You have to scroll down a bit, but it is there! Also, Bo added our blog to the ALA Conference Wiki: Just so you know that now the whole library world knows how your conference experience turned out! :-)

Thanks again to everyone who has participated so far on the blog. I encourage you to keep posting and to comment on each other's posts! Keep those good conference vibes and energy flowing!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

David's ALA 2008

Let me give you a summary of my ALA this year. This is mostly in lieu of all those great program notes you’re waiting for, as I actually got to attend very few programs this year. The good news here is that if you look up the various ALA cognotes and online program stuff for the conference, you can find far more than I ever, ever could have shared with you, which is a good reminder for us that these days even when we can’t attend a conference, we can almost always get some great stuff out of it. Finding this stuff can be as tricky as finding your way around an actual conference, as ALA is a virtual ant farm of divisions and committees, and there are some very good programming found in places that you wouldn’t think to look, but it is worth the hunt.

The main reason I didn’t get to do many programs was I’m on a committee here – the Reader’s Advisory (RA) committee, under RUSA CODES (which translates Reference & User Services Association, Collection Development Services division, or close to that, anyway). This is the committee I moderated a panel for at last year’s ALA, one of two national RA committees, the other being the PLA; both work closely and amicably together, I’m pleased to say. (PLA is undertaking a bold experiment w/ their committee structure, btw, changing traditional committees into largely virtual communities of interest and building a new website and structure for those groups to work in. They are starting off with just three of the many PLA committees as guinea pigs, and one of those is Reader’s Advisory – quite a testament to the importance and innovative spirit of RA given that this is also one of their youngest committees. It is very exciting, especially for folks who may have felt that national committee involvement was beyond them because of travel limitations, and if any of you want to know more about this, the PLA RA folks are looking for some dedicated RA people who want to participate and help figure out this model. I’m definitely in the loop: talk to me).

Back to my committee. Owing to the unavoidable absence of our presenter (Nancy Pearl) for our program – Book Group Therapy – our committee swung into action to assemble something in very short order out of the prodigious talent of its members. It went pretty much like this: “Hey – my uncle Jeb has use of a gigantic ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel…” “Yes, and momma can sew the costumes!” “Bucky can put the handouts on the wiki, right Buck?!” “Gee, kids – Let’s Put On a Show!!” It really was inspiring how everybody pulled together to put on a panel that wound up having almost too much stuff, and all of it pretty high quality. SPL’s own Jen Baker and Linda Johns were a part of that, contributing their own Book Group Therapy handout to the effort; Jen almost certainly would have been on the speaker’s platform too, but had a time conflict w/ her own committee. Our first 8 a.m. meeting was on Saturday, and we worked on the program, talking about what we would do and kicking around ideas for each other’s portions, as well as discussing the results of a book group survey we’ve done and are still doing. The group is just great – I love and admire everyone on there, and there is a real spirit of camaraderie and a lot of laughing and play, so much so that Andrew Smith and myself have to force ourselves to stop cracking wise or we’d never get anything done. (There are a lot of surreal things about being in Disneyland, like using a urinal to the strains of “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” – are those mouse ears on the urinal puck holder? - that just require serious comment and discussion, folks).

The program that emerged on Sunday morning was as follows: Megan McArdle (Chicago PL and our chair and a wonderful person) kicked things off with some introductory framing and a quick review of some of the survey, including a fun sampling of unexpected titles on our ‘your group’s best / worst titles’ section that included “The Yiddish Policeman’s Ball,” “Like Water for Elephants,” and “Water from Elephants.” Sharron Smith (Ontario Canada, a great person and presenter, and good pal – I spoke last year at her RA conference in Toronto, and will be going back next January to speak there again) took the main section of Book Group Therapy, and the part of her piece I liked best was how she modified the tenets of readers advisory – appeal characteristics like story, language, character, etc. – to her book group, helping readers to see books not just as a matter of taste, but of various storytelling styles, and encouraging them to view each other with the same tolerance and respect that advisors strive for in working w/ the public. (One great tactic here was asking members to go around and talk about the ideal book for them now & then, again helping them to know & respect each other’s reading differences as a good thing. Good Stuff).

Andrew Smith then spoke about his library’s ‘Gab Bags,’ and SPL’s Book Group Collection, as different models for that kind of service, and why this was a good thing to provide and for all the work involved in doing it, how it actually save a lot of work for library staffs while promoting book groups in a very tangible way. Andrew, if you don’t know him, hales from the Williamsburg Regional Library RA ‘hot zone,’ – a gravitational anomaly in our field where a bunch of really innovative folks are all working and advancing RA from a fairly small system, and he’s a great representative of their ethos of hard work, smarts and collegiality. He’s the model of a stand-up guy, and a blast to be around. Michelle Boisvenue-Fox of Kent District Library (home of the much loved ‘What’s Next’ sequels resource, among other things) then spoke about thematic book groups of many stripes that they’ve been doing as a way of attracting members in some neighborhoods that were a fairly “saturated market,” – too many of those ideas to go into here – you can check our online handouts @ later on - but all really good stuff. Aside from being a partial doppelganger for an old theater buddy of mine who went on to join the Secret Service, Michelle is really smart and insightful, and I look forward to working more w/ her in future. Next Julie Elliott spoke about book groups and one-reads at college libraries. ALA is a huge tent, and public libraries just one part of that, and Julie’s contributions from that angle were really valuable, and got folks thinking both of things that Academic libraries can do to support leisure reading, as well as ways public institutions can work w/ academics (summer reading club for college folks, anyone?), so this was really great. In fact, in our follow-up meeting, her ideas about RA in non-public libraries got us all really excited about potential future programming and article ideas, and much-needed outreach to other ALA divisions who don’t have RA on their agendas. Great stuff.

Lastly, I spoke. Those who know me know that I’m hardly qualified to talk about book groups, hence my topic: Why Men Don’t Join Book Groups. 51% of our survey respondents so far said they wanted more men in their groups, so this was definitely an area of interest for many attendees. I spoke for about 15 minutes (without aid of Powerpoint sight gags, btw) about various factors that might or might not come into play here, reflecting on my own experiences moderating one group (outside SPL) that turned into a meeting of the She-Woman-Man-Hater club (“…present company excepted, of course…”), and talked about the inclusion of ‘male’ among the great diversity of views we often find in book group selections, w/ suggested authors. I mentioned other strategies that can help groups become more co-ed, such as adding more non-fiction to the mix, non-fiction only groups, Media tie-ins (book & a movie), Great Books, online book groups, and father/son groups, as well as – of course – the wonderful variety of men’s book groups out there, many of which are quite ‘non-traditional’ in their approach, including feats of skill, trivia contests, beer, and atypical book group reads such as sports or periodicals. I talked about the benefits of gender diversity in a library book group, how even the most homogenous of communities have men in them, and referred to a few areas where differences in communication styles can prove challenging (e.g. you think we’re too argumentative / we think you’re avoiding conflict. Or the differing yet equally valid styles of talking about feelings, or around feelings.) Finally a plea about how one man in a book group is very scary (for the man), and two men in a book group is often a contest, even if nobody realizes that. The answer: more men!

The program went very well, though we didn’t wind up w/ time for Q&A. ALA is quite far-flung this year, so we were a good half-mile from the conference center, which worked in our favor in terms of reducing the exodus that might have otherwise occurred when folks got there and saw that Nancy wasn’t on the bill. We did have her action figure there, and all touched on it in some way. I felt it appropriate to my hirsute topic to use it as a ‘talking stick,’ or conch. Almost everybody stayed, and we have a pretty good turnout. Afterwards we went for lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, and had lots of fun and beer and sang Happy Birthday to Michelle in about three keys. To wrap up committee business, we had another 8 a.m. meeting on Monday, where we did brief postmortem, followed up on next steps for the book groups survey (, and planning our program for ALA 2009, which is on Paranormal fiction, a very hot and very broad topic embracing lots of areas. We discussed moderators and speakers for this, and are now going after some A-listers (Gaiman, Meyer, etc) to see what we can get. We also talked about future programming ideas, and some other business; it was a full meeting. I’m sad to be one of the (rather too many) folks rotating off of this committee after my quick two-year term (mainly owing to the expense of going to all these conferences – almost all my cohorts in the RA pond are more fully-funded that we are for this), but do intend to keep plugged in to their work as an ex-parte virtual member for the year ahead, and also to be a presenter for them – and PLA – in the not too distant future.

As for the rest of the conference, much of it for a jaded attendee such as myself (or aging rouĂ©, as I like to think of it) had to do with touching base, chewing the fat, or breaking bread with a whole lot of folks that I collaborate w/ in various ways, but only see at these things. This includes editors and assorted others at Booklist, Library Journal, NoveList, Kirkus, ALA and Libraries Unlimited, as well as admired colleagues/pals w/ things like LibraryThing and Unshelved, and wonderful contacts in the publishing world such as Nora Rawlinson. It is attending the annual dinner thrown by NoveList’s Duncan Smith for NoveList contributors, where we got into a really lively and laughter-filled discussion about the changing shape of the online world and libraries’ role in that, between salad, steak and sorbet. It is catching up with Joyce Saricks, or Barry Trott, and mapping out the future of the He Reads / She Reads column w/ Kaite Stover as we walk one of those long walks between venues. It is bumping into old classmates and workmates - like bumping into Kristin Buxton at Target where I’d gone to buy a toothbrush - and it just wouldn’t be ALA if I didn’t run into Tracie Hall and get very real with her for five minutes – we always run into each other and have these great little mind-melds that we both love. It is going to the iSchool reception to see a few old pals, and meet some new ones, and watch vegans attempt to navigate the House of Blues bar snacks. It is gawkish fanboy approaches to folks like Jessamyn West or Jon Scieszka. It is talking with a couple of New York library systems about the possibility of my coming out there to do some talks some time – an East Coast tour. It is talking with a number of other SPL attendees such as Marilyn Sheck, and it is checking in with and throwing out little unasked conference tips to a number of iSchool & SPL newbies and ALA first-timers who were in attendance, such as Bo Kinney and Jay Mann. This whole species of thing gets lumped together under the mildly derogatory term "schmoozing," but as you can see it is so much more complex than that. Also, oddly enough, it takes a huge amount of energy – sort of like working a busy 12 hour at DTH or BAL – so I was pretty zombied out by the 3rd day.

Speaking of zombies (you’ll see), probably the best unasked conference tip I threw out to those newbies was to be sure and attend the Book Cart Drill Team Nationals on Sunday afternoon. I don’t think many of them had planned to go, and it would necessitate the tragedy of missing at talk by Joe Janes, but I think we’re all glad we did. This year was a much stronger and larger field that last, with eight entrants, and three serious contenders for the prize: a small all-woman team in glittering coats who did a live-miked version of Hey Big Spender (Hey Big Reader, actually) that included a lot of sashay, bump & grind and a spectacular move with one librarian going under another as she did the splits between two carts(!!); a very creatively costumed group with books on their heads that spun, who did a great medley using sultry sign-language (on the whole it was a pretty sex-drenched contest this year), and a costume extravaganza that went from a Weird Science thing w/ dry ice reactions to a full-on Thriller Zombie Dance. (This group – ‘the Well-Stacked Scibrarians’ from Santa Monica, took the gold cart.) In the bottom five was a sweet number to Bjork’s ssshhhh song; a very adorably unpolished group of California Raisins; a complicated James Bond routine that was sort of like one of those elaborate Gene Kelly mimetic dance numbers, only with no actual dancers involved, and book carts in the middle; a feel good California Girls routine that had everybody bopping and clapping; and a younger group that kicked serious butt with an ambitious surf-rock hip-hop routine that just missed the Bronze cart: I predict great things for those kids. The whole thing is hilariously emceed by Jon Scieszka and Mo Willems, who have several running gags, and at one point looked like they were going to get into a free form rap using just the words 'DEMCO' (who sponsors) and a Flava Flav-esque ‘Daayyyymm!”

Why am I telling you all this? Because in truth, I think that aside from the aforementioned schmoozing, things like the Book Cart Drill Team Nationals are really the heart of conference going. The more, shall we say, content-centered programs vary wildly in quality, and with a very few exceptions are the sort of thing you can pretty much get out of reading our professional literature. Those of you haven’t been to conference can approximate much of that by taking a few days an immersing yourselves in Computers in Libraries, The Progressive Librarian, RUSQ, Library Journal, and things like that, plus a few books. The part you can’t do from home is stuff like the drill team event: an utterly joyous, deeply silly, thoroughly heartwarming celebration of our mirth, our spirit, and our place in the American pageant. It makes me cheer, and tear up, and laugh. (Laugh almost as hard as the guys I flew down here with – two perfect strangers in the plane’s back row, where we convulsed over our favorite South Park sketches and stuff like that). It is a welcome opportunity for hundreds of librarians to not take ourselves seriously, while bursting with pride over who we are and what we do. This is where I truly recharge.

A similar not-well-attended but deeply special program I attended was a stellar panel of authors assembled by Booklist – Carolyn See, Janette Turner Hospital, and Ellen Gilchrist, all talking about their post 9/11 novels. I had to miss the first part of this, and came in during Hospital’s remarks, and was transfixed and deeply moved by what she was saying. You know I’m not always crazy about author events, but here were three really outstanding author events, strung right together. Fantastic. Likewise, the crowd was not huge for the 5th Annual Poetry Blast (right next door to the Young Native American authors awards, you could hear beads shake through the wall, and I grabbed Sherman Alexie’s hand in passing and thanked him for the Sonics thing), where a wonderful diversity of children’s poets read their works. How special and moving this was, in how many ways, I’m a bit powerless to convey: profound, delightful, sensuous, inspiring, wonderful, awesome – all words meant their truest sense. And I had to leave early, to get waaay over to another hotel for the Alternative Media Reception – formerly SRRT’s Free Speech Buffet – a paid event w/ a handful of radical presses and bookstores and libraries, and, of course, really cool librarians. It was down the hall from a big posh crowded Gale’s Best Library event w/ a free bar (ours was pay), so a number of us dropped in on that in our tshirts and shorts to brazenly get a free glass of wine and take it back to our own event. There was good cheese and desert and I got in a very intense discussion with a couple of folks active since the sixties/seventies and a nice librarian from Charlotte Mecklenburg PL (a super visionary system that is the home of Readers Club and many other great online features that were 2.0 before anyone was calling it 2.0) who is stepping in as SRRT chair (four idealists: a socialist, an activist, a pragmatist, a skeptic – we scared off the atheist) over God, human nature, tribalism, complexity, political effectiveness… (yeh, one of those conversations. All we needed was some Pink Floyd and something stronger than the Gin & Tonic). That went pretty late, and was so much more satisfying than the more typical ‘Look how wild and crazy we librarians can get on someone else’s tab’ kind of thing that seems the norm.

As far as traditional programs I caught, the only one really worth mentioning here was the ACRL President’s Program – Bo Kinney was there too – featuring Dan Ariely, titled after his book: “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions.” You can get a full sense of this by reading or looking into his book or reviews of it: basically it is a pretty head-spinning look at just how deeply susceptible we are to some pretty astonishing errors. He was a very good speaker, and had some fun exercises w/ visual illusions to help illustrate how we miss things. Not sure what I’ll do with it – though it came in handy during my conversation with the activist, the atheist, et al, later that day.

By the way, all that I said earlier about those special programs that are the most inspirational? The good news is, it is pretty much the same inspiration we get when we just stop a moment and see each other at work and give due value to what we see, all around our branch, our department, our whole library system. So watch a children’s storytime, read a really complex and expertly-handled Questionpoint, look beside you at the kindness and skill of your own colleagues, and the indefatigable support we get from our hard working, service-oriented crew, and you’ll be inspired too!

One More Thing...Josie

I also attended a workshop on Collection Management and mostly the discussion was about floating collections. Many libraries through out the country (and probably world) are doing this very effectively. A floating collection is where a library does not have ownership of items, but receive their collection based on patron requests. The collection floats around based on what is being requested at a particular branch. I see many benefits to this, the main benefit is to the environment. It greatly decreases the amount of delivery, which really saves on transportation costs, which impacts pollution and our use of fossil fuels. Since it decreases deliveries, LA's spend significantly less time processing bins. The draw backs that I see are, collections must be constantly be shifted and patrons that know how to work the system will WORK IT. My main worry is that people who know how to use our hold system will create an awesome library for themselves and their neighborhood, where as people who don't know how to use our hold system or are less proactive will end up with the old and ugly books. A solution to this would be to only float popular items, such as dvds, cds and popular fiction. In essence, the things that take up the most space in our bins. This is a pretty hot issue right now, does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

2 More Great Workshops-Josie

Teens in Your Branch, From Trauma to Triumph?
I attended two great workshops that I wanted to share with everyone. The first was on "Teens in Your Branch Library: From Trauma to Triumph?"There were librarians on the panel from Queens, Oregon and Cleveland. They all started various programs like a teen advisory board and they used their computer labs and meeting rooms as a teen space in the afternoons, but the thing all three librarians stressed was the training the staff received. The library in Queens opted to use their security funding on training instead of a security guard and their incident reports have been dramatically reduced. All three library systems said that all their staff members from the custodians to the City Librarian attended a workshop called Everyone Serves Youth, this training has really helped all staff members deal with youth and other librarian patrons effectively. They also suggested that libraries buy yearbooks from the local high schools. This really helped the librarians get to know the teens and effectively identify teens who were misbehaving. All in all, the thing that they stressed was training, training, training! The Cleveland library uses their incident reports to identify what kind of training that needs to be developed and which branches need refersher trainings.

Beyond White Privilege 101: Continuing the Discussion
This workshop was a discussion about how our libraries are effected by white privilege. The speaker was George Lipstitz who wrote, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How white people profit from identity politics. The main ideas in his speech were:
  1. "Whiteness" or "People of Color" issues are not really about color, but a structure that has been put in place. We need to change the structure.
  2. The issues that exist today cannot be repaired with a 1960's skills set. Our job is to create a new skill set to deal w/2008 racism issues.

Afterwards we had a discussion about how white privilege impacts our institutions. During this discussion and many of the other presentations I attended at ALA, I was really impressed with the Seattle Public Library System. There were a handful of libraries that were doing things better, but for the most part we are ahead of the curve in most areas. The issues that my table came up with that were effected by white privilege were:

  1. Librarians in low income areas may need additional or different resources to provide equal services to their patrons. We may need to look at how we allocate resources in a different way. An example of this was security. One librarians at my table was from a low income area and she felt that she not able to be a librarian because so much of her time was spent on security issues and so her patrons were loosing out valuable reference services. She felt the library needed additional staff because they had additional security issues.
  2. Acknowledge subtle racism. Everyone at our table had experience with this we felt this is a 2008 racism issue and we need training on how to deal with subtle racism with our patrons and other library staff in an effective way.
  3. When ever there is a problem that concerns race, it is viewed as a problem that people of color must deal with. A librarian from an academic library brought this issue up and he said anytime issues of racism come up it seems like a coalition of people of color are gathered to deal with the problem. Where as, white people should be expected to take part in the discussion.
  4. What supports can we build into our human resources department that will help us grow new leaders from our support staff? What kind of additional training can we provide to support Library Associates and Pages in becoming librarians and eventually managers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

ALA Experience-Josie
I didn't blog at ALA because the line was always really loooong to access the computers, and so forgive my late posts.

On Saturday I dragged myself out of bed at to attend the 8:00 session, YA Literature, Graphic Novels, and Books on Popular Culture: How Do They Attract Reluctant Readers? The authors that attended were Barry Lyga (The Astonishing Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl), Kozu Kibuishi (Amulet) and Holly Black (the Spiderwick chronicles). They all gave their definition of what a reluctant reader was and then went on to talk about their work. It didn't seem like authors were prepared to discuss reluctant readers, with the exception of Holly Black. Part of the discussion focused on pop culture, which is always fun and trends in YA Lit. They all predict books like Steam Punk are going to be the next big thing.

One of the best workshops I attended was on The Bilingual Mind: How Children Acquire and Use Language. This workshop summarized the research that has been done on the subject and recommendations that librarians can give patrons. This is a very controversial issue around the country and a lot of the advise given to parents by professionals on this subject is false. The attendees received a free book, The Bilingual Edge, Why, When and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language Kendall King, Ph.D., which presents the newest research simply while using practical examples.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Post - ALA Brown Bag discussion

Hi all -- awesome job with the posts! Thanks for making this first SPL conference blog a big success. It looks like you all had an awesome time. We are going to have a post-conference brown bag discussion on Thursday, JULY 17th from 12-1 @ CEN. Please try to attend, it is a great way to expand on the sharing done here. I'll let you know when I book the room.

Also, if you talk to anyone from the group who attended ALA and they did not get the invitation to be an author on the blog, please let me know and I will resend them the invitation. Thanks! Mary

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Just a Little More

I thought I was totally done with ALA yesterday, but since I was coming in to the conference center to have lunch with Josie, I thought I would stop at the exhibits hall one more time. Everyone says that they have a "fire sale" on the last day, but all the exhibitors looked like they were protecting their wares pretty well, and most of the books were for sale, rather than "free." I put the free in quotes because nothing is truly free and I will let you interpret that as you will.

However, I did get some cool tranformation pens from the Jan Way booth. Most of their teen oriented products were good, although a few looked like little kid stuff. They don't have the transformation pens on the website yet it looks like, but they are in the glossy pamphlet they gave me. But, they are expensive--1.99 if you order 250, so I doubt we will go there.

I also stopped by the Vernon booth and won a $25 coupon for their products. I somehow doubt that I will be using that. Especially since they gave me a lovely pen shaped like a syringe...seems like the worst idea ever. When I was a student teacher I was saddened to see a little boy pretending a pen was a syringe and that he was injecting himself with drugs.

I also stopped by some of the furniture exhibits. I wish I could get some teen-centric furniture after the Teen Third Space presentation I went to. The teen space at University is so limited in what you can do. Right now we have some *cough* lovely, stiff, high-backed chairs and a couple of low stools, which are at least useful.

Then I had a really nice visit with Josie and Truc before Josie had to leave for her flight.

All of ALA - Cheresse

I finally caught up on my sleep after four incredibly long busy days. I'll be posting more indepth information later on some of the programs I attended, but in short it was a great first time ALA Annual experience. I fit in about as much as I possibly could, and heard some great speakers on a variety of topics. This is what I'll be writing about:

  • Got Tweens? Serving Younger Teens & Tweens (Yalsa preconference)


  • PLA 101 Annual conference tips for first time attendees
  • Exhibits
  • Public Programs in a Shoebox: What if you don't have a meeting room?
  • Teen Parents Raising Readers: Teen Staff Making it Happen
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy: Looking at Information Technology and the Information Rights of the Individual (it was a PACKED house, I had to STAND for the entire program)


  • Beyond Gaming Tournaments (I just commented on Jessi's post)
  • Winning Over Boy Readers w/ California's Teacher of the Year (just commented on Jessi's post again)
  • Exhibits
  • Hey! I want to do that Too!: Gaming and the Elementary Age Child


  • Reference Services to Teens
  • Research Fuels the Author’s Fire
  • The American Drea @ Your Library (I just commented on Truc's posting)
  • Exhibits again
  • Proquest's Lunch & Learn (free lunch!!)
  • YALSA President program and Teen Third Space (I commented on Jessi's post)

Interview with authors- Khaled Hosseini and Jamie Lee Curtis

Khaled Hosseine was so great during his interview. I'm glad I read his first book "The Kite Runner" and saw the movie before I went to this section because both gave a great appreciation of his interview. The interviewer asked really good questions about the characters, the relationship of the author with his characters , author's political point of view about Afghanistan and the Taliban. I found it's so intriguing how much the author's own experiences were reflected in the story such as his relationship with his father and his country. I also appreciated his honest opinion about the war with the Taliban. He said, "I don't see an easy solution if there is one. When you promise the people that you'd give them basic neccessities such as clean water and shelter so that you can bomb their country and you fail to give them those, how will you offer them a solution?" This was definitely worth getting up early to!

Jamie Lee Curtis was very funny and charming. She won the heart of the audience easily. It was a real treat to be at her section at the end of the day. It was very light-hearted and fun. She read her latest book "Big Words for Small People". This is something that I would definitely recommend to kids. She was not joking when she said big words. She used words like cooperate and consequences etc... along with really funny and simply examples and beautiful and colorful illustrations. I can see kids having fun and giggling throughout the book as they learn new words.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Outreach- The American Dream Starts at Your Library

This is one of the most interesting sections that I've attended. Four of the panelists were the were the recipients of the grant. This was awarded by the Dollar General. Each library was awarded a one time grant of five thousand dollars to use for programming and collection development.

Boyton Beach City Library used the money to fund a program calls "Women's Circle Literacy Project". The goal of the project was to help women enhancing employment skills, becoming more self sufficient and active leaders in the cultural communities.Their participants were 1/3 Haitians, 1/3 African Americans and 1/3 Hispanics. These women also get to choose materials to learn and use at home. Bilingual cookbooks, home repair books and Oxford picture dictionary were among the most requested items. I find it's really interesting and helpful that they have teen volunteers to play and read to the children so that the mothers can concentrate on learning.

Miguel Vincente from Pinewoods Library mentioned that they have a health seminar that provide information about dental care, heart disease and other heath issues for the Hispanic community. He mentioned that a lot of patrons come from very poor communities and the health seminars help them learn to identify symptoms and look for help at the early stage.

While everyone's programs differ a little, they all emphasized the importance of building trust when working the cultural communities.

The Teen Third Space

My final session was The Teen Third Space. There were 3 speakers during this panel, two talked about teen spaces in libraries and the third spoke about having a teen webpage separate from the library website and catalog. Here is a link to the handouts--it is a word doc, so don't be surprised when it asks you if you want to open it.

Kimberly Bolan is a facilities planning and design consultant and has published a book displaying her design triumphs. She is also a librarian with 20 years of experience. She went into the history of the idea of a "third place" and summarized it as being a social surrounding separate from home and work or school, as well as an environment that facilitates community building. She argued that creating a comfortable teen space increases use of all our services, which is always desirable. In order to get teen input, she recommends showing teens the options, rather than saying "you want [this], don't you?" (Hmm, reference interview anyone?) A couple of the things she says makes teens happy in a space are food and drink and a variety of furniture.

Anthony Bernier is an assistant professor at San Jose State University. His presentation was called, "Why Bean Bags 'Bite:' YA Seating." Obviously not a big fan of the bean bag chair, not only because they are messy and get smelly, but because teens don't like them and they are uncomfortable. He have 4 "rules" for choosing teen area furniture:
  1. Maximize Options
  2. Mix and Don't Match
  3. Offer Movement
  4. Explore the Floor
What this comes to, is offer a variety and don't make teens sit the way our grandparents thought teens should sit. Offer chairs and stools that are comfortable and offer a number of ways to position themselves. Let them put their feet up, mix up the colors and don't expect things to stay where you put them.

The final presenter was Angela Sigg, web developer of the Denver Public Library. She worked with teens and staff at her system to create a teen web page for the library. Her summary of what teens like in a website:
  • short blocks of text
  • one that reflects what they like and who they are
  • mentions regular teen patrons
  • features their reviews of books and movies
What they don't like:
  • Boring!
  • too much text
  • using teen "lingo"--trying to be cool
That was the last of it. Sorry to say I did not win the raffle, and neither did Cheresse--they were giving away some cool notebooks and teen read week shirts.

Oh, speaking of teen read week, the YALSA president's meeting was just before the panel, and the president urged us all to register if we are participating in teen read week. It is free and helps them report the number of participants, which in turn helps them get funding. All around goodness.

Ergonomics and Workplace Wellness

I attended two events today addressing issues of health and wellness in the workplace—one was pretty broad and the other focused more specifically on ergonomics. These topics have come up at some of our recent staff meetings, and I know they have come up at branches and Central recently as well, so I hoped that I might learn some useful things I could bring back with me.

The ergonomics session was led by Judy Village, a professional ergonomist from the University of British Columbia. It was targeted more toward architects and planners, and I'm not planning on being involved in any major building redesigns anytime soon, so some of it went a little over my head. But there were some very useful tips that could apply to more minor redesigns of workspace and workflow, which any of us could probably use.

For example:
  • Take a "systems approach" when thinking about ergonomics. While you may think you need a new chair because your back hurts, the problem might be how you're sitting in the chair, or the amount of time you spend in it, or the kinds of things you're doing, so getting a new chair may not solve your problem.
  • Think about everyone who's using the workspace, including staff, patrons, IT services, cleaning staff, supervisors/administration, occasional visitors, couriers/postage delivery, etc.
  • Look at ways to revise your workspace so that similar tasks are near each other and you don't have to make a lot of awkward motions to do your day-to-day job.
  • Break down processes into all their component tasks so you can analyze them and question if everything you're doing is actually necessary. Village gave an example of a library shelving operation that she broke down into 24 component tasks, 15 of which were unrelated to shelving! Eliminating unnecessary steps can make the workflow process more efficient in addition to making it safer.
  • Try out different ways of organizing tasks and workspaces and evaluate them alongside one another. If you're reorganizing a space that is used by multiple workers, see how different configurations work for different-sized staff.
  • Don't try to find the "perfect" posture for your chair and then sit that way all day. You should be able to achieve a neutral posture (with a straight back, right angles of knees and elbows), but posture change and movement is essential.
The second session was co-presented by Lois Dye and Siobhan Champ-Blackwel. They took a broader look at workplace wellness, arguing that it has seven components that need to be in balance: physical, environmental, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and occupational. Their presentation was based around information that can be found at the ALA-APA Circle of Wellness website, so I refer you there for some intriguing tips and tools.