Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cognotes highlights issue

As promised, here's the final issue of Cognotes for this year's Annual. Apparently, I wrote about half of it. ;-)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day Four: In which I visit the exhibitors, finally.

It turns out that the conference dies a long and slow death. Were it not for my Student to Staff obligations, I could have left perfectly happy tonight after a relatively slow day. Although there were still plenty of people in the convention center, the energy was completely different, and I overheard a lot of "now that the conference is done" comments. Nevertheless, I had two long sessions to attend and report on, and I also have to report on the closing session tomorrow morning. Now that I have more time for it, I am cleverly using Acrobat Pro to clip my articles for you and paste them below as images. Here you go:

Now that that's done: I finally had something of a genuine exhibit hall experience today. It was completely unintentional. I went in at 10:30 to meet up with Deni, and somehow in the first few minutes found myself with four free books in hand, one signed by an author. And they look like things I want to read! So, apparently, I might not need to ask for a guest blogger with strategies after all. Seriously, all you had to do was be breathing and able to pick things up to get free ARCs (Advance Reader Copies, now that I'm so in the know). This was enough to swiftly and completely win me over to the exhibit hall cause, and I bailed on an opportunity to go to a nonrequired session so that I could pick up a free tote bag and start grabbing. I observed but did not partake in the last-day phenomenon of lining up to grab the display copies exhibitors didn't want to take home with them, but I did get enough to fill one moderately-sized box at the Post Office. Oh, did I not mention there's a Post Office in the exhibit hall? Yeah, brilliant. Although it was clearly approaching hangover from the long party of the weekend, with mailing materials strewn around and sweaty, tired people sitting on the floor to load their boxes with swag. So it is that my recommendation for future generations of conference newbies is this: if you don't want to monitor Twitter for author visits and wait in line for particular things, that's fine. Just mosey around the hall when you have a chance. You will wind up covered in books, I promise.

(I did end up buying one from Library Juice Press, in part because I am using a chapter of it, and in part because Rory Litwin asked me to visit the booth. Which was merely good business sense, I know, but I am easily impressed that way.)

So, I'll still have a little to say tomorrow and will at least post my remaining Cognotes articles, but after relaxing in my hotel room for the first time in what seems like a million years, I'm starting to get a bit of distance from the hectic core of the conference experience. I can see how it serves a lot of different purposes for different people. For some, like students and the #partyhard people, it's primarily a chance to network. For others who have been out of school for a while, it's a chance to keep abreast of the library trends that we who are still students are fortunate to be exposed to all the time. For many, it's a chance to reconnect with friends they don't see anywhere else. And, for the crazy joiners (maybe me some day?), it's a time to buckle down and get some national committee work done (although I hear Midwinter is even more about that). For all of us, though, it's the unique and wonderful chance to feel, for a few days, like librarianship is the center of the universe. Even though we're still talking about the challenges we face the whole time, we're also cosseted and celebrated and gifted at every turn. The world is full of people who care about the same things we do, and we're all happy to meet each other. Soon we'll all go back to our daily grinds, and some will be fairly solitary at their posts, but while they were here, they knew they weren't alone. Sorry, I get overblown when I'm feeling wistful. I really do think it's an experience all librarians should try.

Day Three: Wait, I thought this was supposed to be fun...

First up: my articles are starting to appear in Cognotes!

Second, I might not exactly take back what I said before about recommending Cognotes for StS volunteer time. This is because I'm learning that I really am putting in more than 16 hours. I go to a session they assigned, and then I write my little article, and then maybe I have time to eat something in the company of another person, and then I rinse and repeat. This is going to be great on my resume, no doubt, but I've had few opportunities to attend sessions of my own choosing.

One of those opportunities was yesterday, when another student took over writing about a session I was assigned to, giving me the chance to attend "Traditional Cultural Expressions: The Intersections of Indigenous Communities, Information Professionals, and Intellectual Freedom." And it turned out to be moderated by the Native American liaison librarian from the University of Minnesota! The content very much reinforced what I have been learning about working with Native (and other diverse) populations, which is that it's important to have humility and be willing to admit it when you don't know something. Allow your contacts in that community to be your guide. This is an example of the sort of great thing I've been finding that happens here: while there may be more than 10,000 of our kind around at any time (for a likely total across all days of at least 20,000 librarians), you find your niche and meet your people. It's still a huge and overwhelming experience, but I've started to see some familiar faces as people with the same interests choose some of the same sessions.

(I don't know what this says about me and the other St. Kate's peeps, though, since I've hardly seen them at all. I think several of them have been in the exhibit hall a lot.)

That reminds me--I'm sadly not a good guide to the exhibit hall since I've had barely any time to go there. I had to ask Deni to go to a book signing for me today. But I'm thinking about seeking a guest post on strategies for attacking it, so we'll see! I think I may win the prize for librarian who leaves Annual with the fewest ARCs.

Anyway... The other sessions I attended yesterday were on e-books (review of which appears in Cognotes, and was fascinating) and speculative fiction. Spec fic: a.k.a. "The George R.R. Martin Session," was lovely! As a special surprise (because I don't remember her being advertised), Minnesota's own Lois McMaster Bujold was there. I won't bother explaining to you how awesome that was, but if you know her work, you understand. Then there was a third author who I didn't know and wasn't too excited about. All three authors talked about how reading speculative fiction changed their lives for the better. But, it turned out the third guy's story was the best of all, and as a speaker he was by far the wittiest and most engaging of the three authors. "Third guy" no longer: his name is Blake Charlton, and his Spellwright looks like it might be good YA fantasy. His personal story is that he was severely dyslexic but finally learned to read in his early teens so that he could find out what happened in science fiction novels his parents were reading to him. He's currently a physician and published author on the side (yeah, one of those people). He was so fantastic that he's the one I asked Deni to get a signed book from for me today, as mentioned above.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about the sessions I attended today because they will be in upcoming issues of Cognotes, so you can read about them there (not that I will ever say anything bad in those articles... if you want the real dirt, we can talk in person). But, today was when I began to think what I said in the subject line of this post. Wasn't this supposed to be fun? I worked all day today, furiously taking notes and stuffing my face with a horrible convention center wrap while I typed an article before running to the next thing, and then I presented this afternoon. I only had to present to eleven people, and it was much like being in class--I can definitely say St. Kate's prepares you to give a solid presentation. Still, this was after abandoning ship before the concert ended last night so I could make it back on a hotel shuttle and practice my talk. I'm a responsible little worker bee, so that's how I roll, but I do think there's something to be said for being social as a means of networking (and not just networking in professional sessions), and I feel I've missed out on that somewhat.

But the good news is that I've at least had some wonderful (in-person) social networking experiences. In addition to the Korean food bonding excursion I mentioned in a previous post, I had a chillaxed dinner with members of the Progressive Librarians Guild tonight, including surprise celebrity guest Rory Litwin, founder of Library Juice. I met a couple of people I'm kind of sad I might never see again, although we did exchange contact info. And, last night, we met some other awesome librarians in the crowd at the ProQuest Scholarship Bash. Let me tell you: when they said the Rock Bottom Remainders were playing, somehow I didn't realize it would be a real rock concert experience. But it was! And it was great! Let's see if I can get a photo in here...

I was reminded of how much authors and librarians love each other. I think we're the soulmates of the publishing industry. Or, they really are our rock stars, and we are their groupies. Either way, it works for me.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day Two: Super Saturday

I'm going to have to keep this short and take more time to reflect tomorrow on what happened today. It's been long and jam-packed with great learning as well as fun (Stephen King can sing!). Also, librarians are just awesome people to meet: in elevators, at bus stops, in the bar, or in sessions. The ALA name tag is all you need to get a conversation started. Anyway, it's almost midnight, and I just finished practicing my presentation for tomorrow, so I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day One in Anaheim!

It's possible I've given myself too much to do. "Not you, Sara!" you say. "You would never do such a thing!" Yep, I know it's a shocker. But it turns out that volunteering AND attending AND presenting AND trying to be social are all things my ideal version of me would be able to do, when the reality version of me can only manage about half of them while feeling guilty about not doing the other half. Which explains why I just spent the last hour writing my mini-article for Cognotes instead of ogling the Steampunk costumes at ALA Play.

Where to begin? Well, in general, I would recommend Cognotes as a volunteer site to future Student to Staff participants. What I'm doing is attending a couple of sessions each day that I have to write up for the newsletter. This means that I get to spend my volunteer hours mostly in sessions or thinking about sessions, while many of my StS colleagues find themselves sitting at a table somewhere. The downside is that I don't get to pick the sessions I write up--I had some general say in topics, but unfortunately am going to miss a couple of sessions I really wanted to attend because I will have to be elsewhere. Also, I think I'm going to end up doing more than 16 volunteer hours.

Back on the plus side: I super dorkily enjoyed my ability to get into the exhibit hall before everyone else today because that's where the Cognotes office is, and I have a special "press" ribbon on my name badge. The security on that place is tight, and no wonder--I made the mistake of walking across in front of the doors just as they were letting people into the hall, and it was a mad scene, the likes of which I have only witnessed before when U2 fans who had been waiting all day were unleashed into general admission at a concert. People want their swag! And they got it! They were lumbering out with multiple tote bags filled with books and more tote bags ("fill your tote bag with tote bags" should be the motto of the exhibit hall), carefully balancing rolled posters on top.

I, on the other hand, had to rush to the back of the hall to see one of the presentations I had to write up, so I missed out on some of the goodies. That's OK with me, though, because I don't need more tote bags. I do know that Deni got a free, signed copy of Grammar Girl's next book, which is groovy.

The most fun part of my day was going the Korean lunch extravaganza that Deni, Amy, Erin, and I enjoyed courtesy of Sarah Park. BBQ beef. Garlic. Unidentifiable savory jello things. Shaved ice with fruity pebbles on top. This is why you sometimes have to take a moment away from the conference, even if (like me) that means you temporarily neglect something else.

So, because I had to take the time to write them, here are previews of my session write-ups, as sent to Cognotes. I have no idea how much they will revise them or cut them, but at least this gives you all some idea of what the conference sessions are like. Enjoy!


2012 ALA Unconference: A Great Networking Kickoff

This year's unconference started with a little miscommunication about the location: it was moved, but the move didn't get into the online scheduler.

"It was 8:55am, and there were only five people in the room," said Unconference co-coordinator Brett Bonfield. "But suddenly about thirty people walked in. That's one of the great things about librarians--we always find the things that interest us."

And a lot of things interested Unconference participants. Topics, which were called out by the audience, included ebooks, social networking, services for teens and older adults (which were discussed together, to surprising success), moving to the next level in your library career, managing change, open access, and maker/hacker meetups. The session was led by Bonfield, who is from Collingswood Public Library in New Jersey, and Lauren Comito and Karen Keys from Queens Library in New York. But not much coordination was required as participants organized themselves into groups based on the interest areas and led their own discussions. That's what an Unconference is all about--learning from the collective wisdom of colleagues. Participants talked in groups for half the session, then took a break and moved to a second topic. By the end of the three hours, the tables were overflowing with networking librarians.

Bonfield was excited by the enthusiasm in the room. "Librarians are just cool people. Everyone's so motivated to be here, and that's what you come to Annual to see." 


Graphic Novel Stage and Artist Alley

The hidden gem of this year’s Annual is GraphiCon: the first ever graphic novel convention within our convention, bringing librarians, graphic artists, and comic book writers closer together than ever before. Tucked into a back corner of the exhibit hall, the Graphic Novel Stage kicked off with a panel of authors and will continue to showcase others throughout the convention.

For librarians who aren’t yet aware of the graphic novel Zeitgeist, consider this year’s GraphiCon your invitation to learn more about how these works can draw in reluctant readers of all ages, as well as encourage visual literacy among all readers. If you already know and celebrate graphic novels, come and participate. Regardless of your knowledge level, keep you eyes peeled for the turquoise GraphiCon ribbons worn by the exhibitors, who will be happy to answer any of your questions.

While many conference attendees were snagging their swag after exhibits opened on Friday night, a luck few made it to the Graphic Novel Stage to hear a laid-back discussion among several of the amazing artists and writers who will be exhibiting throughout the conference. They included:
  •       Cecil Castalucci, author of the P.L.A.I.N. Janes series (
  •       Jacob Chabot, artist, whose latest project is Mighty Skullboy Army (
  •       Jerzy Drozd, an independent cartoonist and teacher (
  •       Chris Houghton, who, with his brother Shane Houghton, produces the Reed Gunther series (
  •       Dave Roman, who has primarily authored works in the past but debuted as an artist in last year’s Astronaut Academy (

When asked what drew these successful professionals into the genre, most agreed that they were initially fascinated by newspaper cartoons, which drew them to superheroes and, eventually, to more serious work. They also reflected on how much they would have loved to date other comic book readers as teens and by extension how lucky today’s teens are that graphic novels are gaining literary cache. Their presence at our conference reflects both the importance of respecting and reaching out to their younger counterparts, but also the unique role and power that librarians have in making all types of readers fell welcome at the library.

In addition to artists and writers like those listed above, several exhibitors focus on how graphic novels can be utilized in education. Josh Elder, who represents Reading with Pictures (, took a moment to talk about his nonprofit organization’s efforts to create a graphic novel textbook with the help of famous authors such as Gene Yang (American Born Chinese). School library media specialists are especially encouraged to stop by and see how this exciting new curriculum format, which is aligned with common core standards, can fit into their schools. If you miss out on the chance to speak to any of these vendors in person, they will welcome your contact through their websites at any time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Roll Call of St. Kate's Awesomeness at ALA

Hi friends! I do hope I have time to do the blogging I would like to do in the next few days--we'll see. In the meantime, my busy schedule in Anaheim doesn't start until tomorrow morning, when I check in with my Cognotes supervisor to find out what my volunteer hours will be. So, I thought I'd briefly check in with you to list the folks I know of who are coming from St. Kates--and it includes some impressive accomplishments!
  • Mary Wagner, who is receiving the Beta Phi Mu award for her distinguished career on Sunday (somehow I didn't know that until a random person told me--let's congratulate her!)
  • Heidi Hammond (I think...?)
  • Sarah Park
  • Laura Morlock, who is in the ALA Emerging Leaders program and is giving a poster tomorrow night
  • Linda Nguyen, who is here as a Spectrum Scholar
  • Deni Buendorf
  • Erin Schultz
  • Amy Oelkers
  • Yours truly, student-to-staff program (and giving a presentation around this whole thing)
Not to mention that HCL's Dan Marcou will be part of a couple of sessions on prison libraries.

Minnesota represent!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Just a quick note that I will be tweeting my ALA Annual experience, and you are welcome to follow me (@sarazet).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sara's Guide to ALA Annual: Part the First

As one of my duties as your Student to Staff representative at ALA Annual this month, I agreed to blog about my experience here. I had initially thought that wouldn't happen until the conference, but I'm starting to realize just how much conference happens before the conference! Knowing that many of you will be new to attending Annual (and I hope you will plan for it, particularly next year, when it's in Chicago!), I thought I'd start sharing the experience now, as it's happening.

The main thing that I've been noticing in the past week is a sudden flurry of emails (or spam, depending on your perspective) from the big vendors, who must receive access to the full roster of registrant emails as part of the no-doubt-large amount of money they spend to promote themselves at the conference. Oxford Reference, ebrary, EBSCO, Ex Libris, and HarperCollins are the ones I can think off just off the top of my head. And, they're not just contacting to promote their materials but to promote their presence at the conference, which often involves food. I had to pass up hors d'oeuvres with Oxford Reference but am really excited to be signed up to get breakfast and free advance copies of fall release books from Harper Collins. The only downside is that I've been spending time removing myself from the email lists of companies that don't interest me.

Of course, at this point I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to make it to any one particular session. On my first go-round with the online scheduler, I felt like I was ruling out millions of sessions and still ended up adding about a dozen conflicting items in each time slot. This is great, of course, but also overwhelming. ALA does make some effort to ease the confusion of a first conference visit, though. For example, newbies can sign up to be connected with an ALA Ambassador (a more experienced volunteer mentor), and various divisions and round tables have introductory sessions scheduled at the beginning of the conference. I expect the one for the New Members Round Table will be especially useful. I will let you know what I learn about these options as we move forward!