ALA Annual 2017

ALA Chicago – The Great and The Cool

Person sitting within a Tranquility DomeAs a first timer in an ALA Conference, I felt the energy, curiosity, and overwhelming desire to attend as many programs and listen to as many amazing authors and speakers as possible. This trip was possible, in part, thank to the 2017 ALSC Penguin Young Readers Group Award, which allowed me to attend the 2017 ALA Annual Conference and the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet.

The Great:

Teen Space

Upon my arrival, I set foot in the Harold Washington Library Center. Here, I attended three STEM tours for children, teens, and adults. Each one of these STEM spaces was designed based on age group and space.

The Children’s STEM space used a large STEM table where children could build drawing materials from a Maker Space organizer unit on a daily basis. No need for a STEM staff. This initiative is based on children’s interest, curiosity to navigate the Maker Space unit, and desire to build, and create.

Of the three STEM tours, it was the Teen’s Room that left me astounded. This room only accepted high school students, who were admitted in the room upon presenting their school ID. Any other non-high school patron who needed a book from this room was welcome to retrieve books, but was expected to exit promptly.

Thus, only teens could enjoy the many STEM amenities. As a result, the room was filled with high schoolers playing video games, programing robots, and using circuits. Literally, teen space heaven for any Teen Librarian.

Teens playing video games

This Teen Room left a profound impression on me. The unimaginable was standing there in front of me. Instead of using a different STEM room for STEM programming, the teen room contained it all: the teen collection surrounded the machines, the robots, the photo lab, the video games, and everything that was of teen interest.  According to staff, the teen print collection went up 400% since the adoption of this room organization including the print collection.

Three Ladies from Canada

Another great program I attended – “Stay and Play: Open Space for STEM” – was run by three librarians from Canada. These ladies invited us to dispose of old shelving units in favor of shelves on wheels, which could be moved to accommodate programing. The idea was simple: create space for programing if you do not have one. The second idea they offered us concerned the print collection. They had deselected 30% of the print collection, creating a pool of funds that could be used for programming. This drastic decision was based upon the idea to eliminate items with poor circulation that were both using shelf space and book budget.

The Cool:

I enjoyed a number of events, An Artist Alley to meet artists and illustrators, an international pavilion for multi-language publications, fun technology displays, and a wide array of publishing house booths.

For instance, listening to Hillary Clinton and Sarah Jessica Parker was truly interesting. Both women were as different on stage as the worlds they represent, but deliver captivating speeches that the whole audience appreciated. I was also moved to tears the night I attended the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet and listened to Javaka Steptoe on his award winning book Radiant Child: the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. His speech was infused with sublime honesty and heartbreaking eloquence.

I saw Steptoe at the Exhibition Hall the next day, as I approached to have him sign my copy of Radiant Child, he was as honest and humble as he was at the banquet. Listening and meeting him was one the highlights of this conference. And this takes me to the last part of my piece.

It was the last day, in the final two hours of the Exhibition Hall. As I visited the Exhibition Hall with my kids while my husband waited for me outside, it was a staff member from Capstone Press, who gave light to my day by providing the greatest customer experience I have ever had.

My five-year-old had noticed a wonder woman book that she took in her arms as if she were the undisputed owner. The staff explained, with a downcast face, that the book would be not on sale for another thirty minutes. To hear this news, my daughter lowered her head, in profound defeat, and placed the book back. As I tried to explain her that we could not wait, the staff’s face brightened, picked up the book and gave it to her for free. I felt more thankful than words can say.

Finally, the 2017 ALA Conference provided me with many firsts: my first time in this breathtaking city that is Chicago, first ALA conference, first Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet, and first astounding customer service. I thrived with the vibrant energy of all the attendees, programs I attended, speakers I listened, librarians I met, and the numerous new books and resources in display. I left Chicago wanting to go back, but more importantly looking forward to attending the next ALA conference in New Orleans.

(All pictures courtesy of guest blogger)


Penguin Random House winner, Kathia Ibacache
Kathia Ibacache

Today’s guest post was written by Kathia Ibacache. Kathia is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library. She has worked as a music teacher and Early Music Performer and earned a MLIS from San José State University and a DMA from the University of Southern California. She loves to read realistic fiction and horror stories and has a special place in her heart for film music.

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