Greetings from Idaho! I’m Kimbre Chapman and I run the Children’s Department at a library in the Boise area, Caldwell, Idaho. Have any of my fellow youth services librarians ever wondered why the ALA conference is scheduled in the middle of Summer Reading!? ALA has been over for a week now and I’m finally getting a chance to add a few comments, along with providing a few useful links. It was certainly huge with over 13,000 people in attendance, and felt something like my visit to New York City. I went prepared to be overwhelmed but interestingly was not. Maybe this was because I was expecting to be and was pleasantly surprised when that turned out to not be the case. It was big though, even though attendance was down due to the economy.
My first order of business was to attend the ALSC New Members Roundtable, which provided information about the division as well as opportunities to meet others in the field. Held on the first and second day of the conference, the roundtable also provided information on how to become involved with a committee (ALSC Committees). We were told that there are committees that members can participate in online, which makes participation possible for those of us who do not have the ability to fund two conferences a year out of our own pockets. My attendance this year was only made possible because my library paid my salary while I was gone, and I have relatives in the Chicago area so could take the Metro into Chicago every day. This limited my participation in evening activities, including the Awards banquet, but it also made the conference affordable. On the second day, I went to a session on the history of ALSC, hearing stories from ALSC presidents from the early 1980s on, including nuggets on past Newbery/Caldecott award dinners. That was interesting — to get a sense of where an organization is going, it is good to know its past.
My favorite session was the multiple perspectives on the process of bringing international books to the U.S. from author Karlijn Stoffels, translator Laura Watkinson, Arthur Levine, Vice President of Scholastic and three-time winner of the Batchelder Award for publishing, and a senior editor at Arthur A. Levine books/Scholastic. Karlijn Stoffels (prounounced Kar-line Staw-fulls) discussed her new YA book, Heartsinger, about a young man who comforts people by becoming a “singer of sorrows.” Stoffels was available for a book signing the next day, but the line was so long that I gave up. I admire Arthur Levine as an imprint for its offering of great international translated children’s and young adult books. I just wish there were more of these books available to an English speaking audience. I live in a small town where many of the kids have never traveled more than 100 miles beyond their hometown, and yet they can relate to books published by Levine, books like The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer, translated by John Nieuwenhuizen, and The Book of Time by Guilaume Prévost translated by William Rodarmor. Promoting international books is important to gaining a variety of viewpoints, for kids to see the commonalities they share with other kids throughout the world.
Another session that was particularly valuable was Leap Into Science, about partnerships between museums and libraries to bring science programming to kids. Here’s the link to the program materials: Leap into Science. For ready-made science programs, I’ll be trying a couple suggestions by conference participants: Curious George and the Magic Schoolbus.
I made it a point to connect with recent graduates regarding finding jobs in a down economy, advising new grads to consider the looked over areas, i.e. more rural states like North Dakota and Wyoming, which don’t tend to be as competitive. The people I spoke with, however, were fairly set in what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.
What was most valuable was seeing all the new books and other products in “The Stacks.” So many publishers are there to present great new selections and freebies. I purchased a great book for five dollars, a hardback Dinosaur Parade by Kelly Milner Halls for kids 5-8, a visual treat showing many facts and proportions of dinosaurs. I also obtained information (and made a connection with another small town children’s librarian who has started this program in his library) about a new game from Wizards Play Network that we’re going to try out on our kids. Our end-of-year collection lists were built from multiple trips to “The Stacks.” Further, I flew home with so many free or low cost books in my carry-on that security at the airport wanted to know why I had so many books! Actually, they were more interested in confiscating my illegal container of yogurt, but they couldn’t help asking about all those books that came tumbling out of my bag. The day ALA attendees are most likely to obtain plenty of free materials is the last day of the conference, and if you want to pick up many materials, there is a mail station at the conference.
Very few librarians in my state go to the annual ALA conference, choosing instead cheaper conferences closer to home. It is expensive, but for the connections made, information obtained, being able to see old friends and professors, and to meet and share with librarians from everywhere, it was well worth the time and money. Attending the conference helped me to see what we do as youth services librarians from a broader perspective, like reading a book versus reading a page from that book. The experience left me with memories, connections and ideas that I will take with me throughout this next year and I hope beyond.