Wednesday, July 5, 2017

ALA Conference Highlights

I got back from the annual American Library Association Conference #ALAAC17 on Twitter) a week ago, and I'm just beginning to catch up with myself. It was a wonderful event --- inspiring sessions, great networking, fun catching up with friends, and Chicago is an incredible city for sightseeing.

Here are a few of the highlights for me:

Great Sessions

AASL Social Media Superstars

I had the great pleasure, as chair of the AASL Social Media Superstars Task Force, to present the awards to our seven inaugural Superstars during AASL's Awards and President's Program. Unfortunately, only three of the seven - Naomi Bates, Sara Kelly Johns, and Andy Plemmons - were able to be there, but don't they look super sporting their star headbands?

Cathy Jo Nelson gives recognitions to Sara Kelly Johns, Naomi Bates, and Andy Plemmons
Naomi Bates, Sara Kelly Johns, and Andy Plemmons

And that's Cathy Jo Nelson, one of the task force members, handing out the certificates and headbands. We missed having Joyce Valenza, Susan Polos, Krista Welz, and Michelle Luhtala there, but do read about all of them in KnowledgeQuest and be sure to follow each of them for their amazing ideas. 

Best Websites & Apps

Each year, AASL's Best Websites and Best Apps Committees select 25 stellar websites and apps for teaching and learning. These lists serve as great resources for librarians and teachers looking for tools to enhance learning, creativity, and productivity. It is always exciting getting to hear the selections, and then to add exploring each of them to my "to do" list. While I already know and love some, such as IFTTT, most are new or newish to me. I'll be spending time exploring these websites and these apps.  While I wasn't on the Best Websites Committee this year, I have served on it in the past, and I am very excited and honored to be rejoining it for 2017-2018 as Committee Chair.

AASL Conference Committee Meeting

One of my key responsibilities at the conference was attending a committee meeting for AASL (American Association of School Librarians Division of ALA) Conference Planning Committee. I am serving as Social Media Chair for this conference coming up in Phoenix November 9-11. The committee has lots of great plans for a not-to-be missed conference. Please join me there to hear keynoters Jaime Casap from Google and Author Jason Reynolds, and for the announcement of AASL's brand new standards.  Visit the conference website to check out the concurrent sessions, IdeaLab sessions, author events, and more.

We'll also be having fun with social media during the conference. There will be a daily contest recognizing the most informative social media post, most entertaining and/or funniest post, best picture, best selfie, best notes, and most creative photo representing a group. So, come prepared to add to the learning and fun by posting on social media. We will also be highlighting some of the sessions and events with live video clips. If you would like to help with social media, please let me know. I will soon be sending out a call for a conference social media squad.

Author Awards 

One of my favorite parts of ALA annual conferences is all the author awards. This year, I got to attend three of them, the Printz Awards, Newberry/Caldecott/Wilder Awards Banquet, and the Odyssey Audiobook Awards.

Printz Awards

The YALSA (Young Adults Library Services Association Division of ALA) Printz Awards recognizes the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit, each year. The committee also selects up to four honor books. Here is a link to the list. The Awards Event is an opportunity to hear each of those authors speak, and then mingle with the crowd at the reception that follows. I loved all of this year's books and was delighted to hear from each of the authors. This year, I had actually read three of the recognized books before the announcement in January, and I made sure to read the other two before attending the awards event. All are outstanding and thought-provoking books. Here is John Lewis, one of my heroes, giving his speech for the winner, March, Book 3:
John Lewis, with illustrator Nate Powell, who also spoke
And, groupie that I am, I did my best to visit with each of the authors during the reception. I didn't catch John Lewis before he left, but I did find all the honor book winners:

with Louise O'Neill

with Julie Berry

with Neal Shusterman

with Nicola Yoon
Every one of them was as gracious as can be. We librarians think of authors as rock stars, but they treat us like we are!

Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet

The Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet attracts a huge crowd, and is a "dress up" occasion. While our seats were too far away for good photos of winners Kelly Barnhill, Javaka Steptoe, and Nikki Grimes, the speeches were inspiring and the evening was a delight.

Here's one tweet I did while Kelly Barnhill spoke about The Girl Who Drank the Moon:

And here is my RT from Tom Bober while Javaka Steptoe spoke:

And, here I am enjoying the evening with conference buddy and roommate, Katie Williams:

And, I had to get a photo with Andy Plemmons (known for his red shirts) in his red jacket, perfect for the festive occasion:

ALSC (the Association of Library Services for Children, an ALA Division) always publishes the winners speeches shortly after the banquet. Look for them coming soon at this link.

Odyssey Awards

The Odyssey Awards, sponsored by both ALSC and YALSA,  recognize outstanding audiobooks for children and teens. Each year, I discover wonderful new books brought to life in a special way by the narrators of these winning books. The authors, producers, and narrators all share briefly about their books, and then the narrator reads a short passage. Here are my experiments recording with Periscope within Twitter. The first is Gavriel Savit, the author of Anna and the Swallow Man, and Orli Moscowitz, the producer, speaking about the work. The second is narrator Allan Corduner, reading an excerpt:

Closing Keynote: Hillary Clinton!

Long after I had made my plans for the conference, ALA made a late announcement that Hillary Clinton would be the closing speaker. Fortunately, I was flying on Southwest, and was able to reschedule my flight to stay for it. Many of us arrived two hours in advance to make sure we got seats! Here I am with friends waiting for the program to begin:

Sylvia Norton, me, Ellie Goldstein-Erickson, & Dorcas Hand
with Joy Millam

Hillary Clinton spoke about three reasons why libraries and librarians are needed more than ever. If we are serious about raising good citizens, we need to start by raising readers. Libraries are places that bring communities together and serve them. And, we need libraries because we need critical thinkers; librarians teach that. She also promised to support us in these efforts. Here is a recording of her full speech:


Chicago River Cruise 

So many beautiful buildings
This was the building our docent told us we must go see after the tour

Chicago is a busy, vibrant city, especially interesting for its architecture. Thanks to Cathy Jo's South Carolina group, Katie and I joined them on a twilight river cruise of the Chicago River led by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The docent narrated for the full 90 minutes, giving a rich sense of the history of Chicago's building and the river.

Here's a Google Photos album I created of all the photos I took that night.

More Sightseeing

I also did a good bit of walking around and enjoying seeing all the people out and about and lovely buildings and other sights. I am a big fan of Detour, a gps-activated audio tour app. I discovered it when it started in beta in San Francisco in 2015, and it now has narrated walking tours in cities around the country and even abroad. I enjoyed two Detour tours when I had some time on my own. One was produced by the Architecture Foundation, and led me through some of the highlights of the Loop, and the other was of Grant Park.
Chase Tower Plaza

Marc Chagall "Four Seasons" mosaic in Chase Tower Plaza
And, here some photos of one of my outings with Katie and Cathy Jo, to the Chicago Cultural Center:
In the Chicago Cultural Center, a former library building, with Katie Williams & Cathy Jo Nelson 

Here I am in the Chicago Cultural Center

 Chicago is famous for its food. Here's a shot of my favorite meal, "duck benedict," poached eggs on top of duck sausage and leige waffles, topped with hollandaise sauce, at Chicago Waffles.

Meeting up with friends

Conferences are always a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. Here's a meet up with some of our California school librarians in the exhibit hall opening night:
Ellie Goldstein-Erickson, Jane Gov, Lesley Farmer, Connie Williams, me, Katie Williams, Renée Ousley-Swank, & David Loerstcher
Here are Katie Williams and Cathy Jo Nelson, my two conference buddies, hanging out at bar of the historic Palmer House hotel:

Here I am with Heather Moorfield-Lange, current chair of the Best Websites Committee, who I will be following as chair, while she moves to become Director of her AASL Region:

And here is Jennifer Guerin, who I met in person for the first time at the conference, after she took my AASL Twitter class this spring:
Follow Jennifer at @guerin_jenn 
I always feel an immediate bond with online PLN friends when I get to see them live for the first time.


And, ever the activist, here I am supporting the Illinois School Library Media Association's demonstration in support of restoring school librarian positions in Chicago:
Photo by Allison Cline

I know I left out at least as much as I included here, but I hope I gave you a good taste of the conference, and enough to inspire you to attend next year in New Orleans. Many thanks to ALA, AASL, YALSA, and ALSC for an enriching conference.