ALA Annual 2012

Maintaining that magical #ala12 glow

The lovely thing about ALA being in Anaheim this year is that so many of our LA Public Library children’s and YA librarians got to attend, many for the very first time.  They attended sessions from morning until dinnertime, walked the exhibits until their feet ached, and came back with what one YA librarian called That ALA Glow.

LAPL children’s librarians full of ALA Glow at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet

So now these librarians are filled with enthusiasm and fabulous ideas.  But as I know well, this doesn’t always translate into big change at the library.  Sure, you might incorporate some ideas you gleaned at ALA into the storytimes and displays at your own branch – but how do you spread these great tidbits to your fellow librarians?

And more challenging – how do you convince the Powers That Be to implement (or even consider implementing) a terrific program or service that you think would work superbly at your library system?

This has always been the flip side of ALA Glow to me.  You come back buzzing with inspiration but then realize “They’ll never let me do that” or “That’s way too radical for our hide-bound library system.”  You write a fervent conference report that you suspect gets filed in a drawer unread.  And you fear that Nothing Will Ever Change.

This year I’m determined not to let that happen.  I’ve asked all the youth librarians who attended ALA to tell me what most excited them in these two categories:

  1. Ideas and inspiration that other librarians could quickly and easily implement in their branches (example – incorporating science concepts into storytime or offering a fun and participatory type of passive programming for teens).
  2. Larger programs and services that would take a certain amount of coordination/support/funding – and most of all, approval from the powers that be – to put into place.

I’m inviting ALA attendees to share their favorite ALA ideas from category 1 at future staff meetings, so that all their peers can benefit from the treasure trove of niftiness that is ALA.

For the 2nd category, I’m collecting those Big Ideas.  There will probably be several that float to the top (already, I’m hearing a great deal of interest in the idea of circulating toys).  I think it would be fascinating to assign to several ALA attendees the task of putting together a presentation on these topics for their fellow children’s and YA librarians, and then get into small groups to discuss each topic.  What are the possible benefits to our system and our community?  What are potential pitfalls?  What departments and staff would need to be involved in the planning and implementation?  How could this be pitched to Administration?  Does it make sense to do this as a pilot program, and if so, how many and which branches should be involved?

Not only would lots of important ideas be generated, but librarians would be practicing thinking about Doing Things Differently.  And if it looks like any of these ideas has enough in its favor to go forward with it, there will be some librarians – ALA attendees but also those who stayed behind – who are excited about the prospect of implementing it.  What I’ve learned and am still learning as manager is that the best and most relevant ideas are generated by the folks who will actually be making them happen.  “Staff buy-in” is a lovely thing, but even better is “active staff input and collaboration.”

So yeah – I’m hoping we can keep shimmering with ALA magic for months and years to come!

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