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.

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