Top 5 Highlights of #ALA2013

Last weekend I was in Chicago for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. Huzzah! Since I run a summer library club for kids on Monday and had to get home to watch the kiddo, I could only stay for a full Friday and Saturday. Even so, it was a busy and eventful trip. These are the highlights…

1. Incredible People Doing Incredible Things

The first thing I did when I arrived in Chicago on Thursday night was take a walk. I miss living in a city, and when I find myself in one I end up doing my favorite past-time activity… Walking the streets without a destination. While I was out stretching my legs I fell upon the Chicago Public Library, so I went inside to check out the children’s department and look around. Inscribed on entrance walls is this:

“We welcome and support all people in their enjoyment of reading and pursuit of lifelong learning. Working together we strive to provide equal access to information, ideas, and knowledge through books, programs, and other resources. We believe in the freedom to read, to learn, to discover.”

“Support all people”… “lifelong learning”… “working together”…  “equal access”

A mission statement that rings true to what many librarians of today are striving to provide the people they serve. Librarians are advocates. They are changing the way they engage their communities. The most enjoyable part of attending ALA Annual was the opportunity for a shared experience. The sharing of goals, the sharing of ideas, and sharing the future. Innovators like Justin Hoenke (Justin the Librarian) has a big heart and a big vision for his teens (and libraries in general) over at the Chattanooga Public Library, a library to take note of as they pave the way of change for the future of libraries. Totally awesome person. The funny and charming Matthew Winner (The Busy Librarian) co-authored a book coming out this fall, Teach Math with the Wii, holds an enthusiastic vision for how to incorporate math principles through an enjoyable and approachable, all-ages activity… Gaming. Brilliant! Matthew has a positive energy that is contagious. Many of you storytime people are familiar with Melissa Depper (Mel’s Desk) whether through her storytime blog, the popular flannel board collective, Flannel Fridays, or her work as co-founder of CLEL (Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy). I love this woman.

I had the pleasure of taking a stroll to the Walden Pond cocktail party with a few Nerdy Book Club folks, many of whom I hadn’t met yet. Cynthia Alaniz (Librarian in Cute Shoes) and I had met at ALA Midwinter last January, and she is transferring roles from a teacher to a school librarian this fall. I have a feeling she’s going to be a terrific librarian! It was a pleasure to finally meet Michiganders Colby Sharp (sharpread), the popular kid lit blogger, tweeter, and co-creator of the first nErDcamp Battle Creek, an edcamp with a children’s literature focus, Brian Wyzlic (WYZ Reads), also a teacher and Michigander and all around cool guy, and Katherine Skolowski (Read, Write, Reflect) who’s also a teacher and another Nerdy Book Club big wig.

At the party I briefly chatted with Lalitha about working in libraries and about our kids. It wasn’t until later that I found out she has a blog about multicultural books for children and teens, Masala Reader, which is definitely worth checking out.

I finally met Laura and Erinn, the Library as Incubator Project folks, face-to-face after their panel session “Humanities in the Digital Era: Mashing Up Public Programs with MOOCs, Media, and More” They’re in the process of launching a sister site under the LAIP umbrella, Book-to-Art Club, a monthly feature/kit where you read a book and use art to engage with the text. The art will then be featured on the site. I’m *really* looking forward to seeing this program come to life.

If you don’t already follow the people mentioned above, please do. I wanted to introduce you to them so you have the pleasure of making their acquaintance, and can be inspired by their library and literary superpowers.


2. Guerrilla Storytime

#GuerrillaStorytime is the perfect example of why youth librarians are the bomb-diggity-dog.

The idea of Guerrilla Storytime (I believe) first appeared on the ALSC Blog. At least that’s the first time I saw mention of it. It was a series of gatherings that took place in the Uncommons of ALA Annual for children’s librarians to talk about and troubleshoot common storytime issues. I went to the Friday session and it reminded me of what I love about youth services librarians. They’re willing to take the stage, sing and clap along, or bust out a ukelele. Guerrilla Storytime was a call to come together to help each other grow to help our communities through the time-honored library program, storytime.

For those of you who weren’t able to attend, Amy the Show Me Librarian wrote an extensive recap here, as well as Melissa from Mel’s Desk which can be found here. I hope it is a concept that will grow into either a twitter chat, a Google hangout, or at least continue at future conferences. It’s important to be there for each other. Yay storytime!

3. Lunch with Movers and Shakers

I have to say… I was a wee bit nervous attending Library Journal’s Mover’s and Shaker’s Luncheon on Friday afternoon. More so than I’d care to admit. With a deep breath and my Shirley Temple cocktail in hand, I took it all in and made a few new friends in the process. Author John Scalzi read a passionate essay of his, “A Personal History of Libraries”, which brought tears to my eyes. And no, it wasn’t just me being a hormonal pregnant person. He seemed to have the entire room entranced.

Bonus! LJ Editor-at-Large, John Berry, and I talked in depth about Bleeding Kansas, John Brown, and Lawrence, Kansas. He’s a Lawrence admirer and his best friend is the late Truman Nelson who wrote The Old Man: John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. The love of Lawrence is all around, my friends.

4. #ScieszkaKrosozkaTelgemeierandTenNapeltalkcomics

What happens when you put graphic novel authors, Jarret Krosozka, Raina Telgemeir, Ted TenNapel and kid lit great Jon Scieska in a room full of librarians? Lots and lots of laughter. Hands down the most fun I have had during a conference session EVER. The panel’s focus was the importance of visual literacy and how graphic novels are a tried and true hook for reluctant readers.  The hashtag for the session? #ScieszkaKrosozkaTelgemeierandTenNapeltalkcomics

5. September is back!

I wasn’t able to comb through the exhibits like I did at ALA Midwinter, but I did make sure to pick up a copy of the next edition of Catherynne Valente’s Fairlyand series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. It was the one book I made a priority to get while in Chicago. Looking forward to September’s latest adventure and the appearance of, wait for it… Moon yetis!


There were so many sessions I wanted to attend, people I wanted to meet, and books I wanted to check out, but alas I had to get back. I’m sure I forgot a few names and other highlights to note in this recap. You’ll have to forgive me. Since I’m a mother of a young child and pregnant, I no longer have the ability to form memories. While I’m looking forward to keeping up with new industry friends and continue my journey in the future of libraries, the end of my trip had the most impact.

On my flight home I had a conversation with a line chef from Kansas City. He asked me what I was doing in Chicago and I replied that I was at a library conference. He looked at me puzzled and responded, “I didn’t know librarians were youthful?” His follow up question was if librarians drink, and if they talked “potty talk”. It wasn’t that he was unfamiliar with using libraries. He recited the Dewey Decimal number for cookbooks (641.5) to me with ease. It was his perception of librarians, who we are, the services we offer, and how that relates to him. It was humbling after being at a conference abuzz with exciting possibilities, but it also reminded me that among the latest trends we have work to do; to work together to be advocates for learning, accessible to all.



4 Responses to “Top 5 Highlights of #ALA2013”

  1. Danzel says:

    So jealous! I’m so excited for the next Fairyland book!!!

  2. Rebecca, It was AWESOME meeting you at ALA! How serendipitous. And now I can’t wait to see what future amazing things we can do by connecting our libraries! Thanks for the blog shout out and for being so very kind. It truly was an honor to be recognized with you and others for Movers & Shakers! – Matthew

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