Saturday, July 6, 2013

ALA Chicago

Holy frijoles. It's been a while. And while I've been away, I'm feeling extremely blessed, well rested and a tad spoiled.

I have a wonderful job. THE best. This year I was one of the four librarians my library sent to the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago. And I networked, learned a few new things, pushed programming a little farther, enjoyed great food, picked up a bunch of free swag, and talked with some amazing children's authors and illustrators.

My co-worker, Amanda, and I took the Amtrak into Chicago, which traveled at night. Two Fridays ago we boarded the train at 1:49 in the morning. It was my first time on a train, and within 20 minutes we were delayed. That delay lasted about two hours because, as we were told so by the conductor, the freight train in front of us "ran somebody over." And that was all we knew. It was never clarified if the train hit somebody in a car, or if a person was actually on the tracks...or what. Hmmm. Yet, I did enjoy myself. I liked that I had plenty of leg room, and the bags didn't have to be kept overhead. I liked that there were more bathrooms and a dining car (there was a sleeper car but we didn't purchase that option). I really liked the fact that we didn't have to go through security, our bags weren't checked, and I could have as many as I wanted without an extra fee. This is also kind of scary when you think about it....

You know what else is scary? Cab drivers. Chicago also brought me that first experience. An eyes-closed-with-a-death-grip-on-the-seat kind of experience. But the hotel, the Hilton in Chicago, was extremely nice. I had two beds, two bathrooms, and a "Welcome Brindi" sign flashing across the computer screen when I walked in all to myself. Not too shabby, my friends.

Friday night was the grand opening program, or as Mr. B called it, The Opening Ceremonies, suggesting a bunch of librarians should be running around with lighted books. Ummm, babe, have you not read Fahrenheit 451? That night was also the opening of the exhibit hall, where hundreds of vendors were out at full force, basically handing out free stuff. The photo below is a shot of the exhibit hall from the second level of the McCormick Convention Center. It was insane, and I'm not sure why Amanda and I decided to head over the first night. Yeah, we're first-timers.

While at the conference, I attended a plethora of sessions targeted at Youth Librarians, including a few on programming for children and tweens, understanding the leveling system (which I think you need a degree in math for, by the way), early childhood literacy, childhood commercialism, and a few on the many uses of a Caldecott. (The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published the previous year, and the Newbery Medal is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children...just wanted to clear that up because I'll be using those words throughout the rest of this post. They're kind of a big deal.) I was able to hear a few children's and young adult authors/illustrators speak as well.
A little librarian program humor to keep us entertained. :)
We had many opportunities to grace the exhibit hall to pick up a bunch of swag, including a dozen ARCs (Advanced Readers Copies, read: free books not yet published!), pens, bags, food/candy, posters, program tips, buttons, etc. and etc. The first night I picked up this cute Scaredy Squirrel bag and some delicious wine. (LOVE Scaredy Squirrel!) And they had Scaredy's stuffed animal to purchase, and if I had children of my own, I'd have spent way more money than Mr. B would have liked.

If you aren't familiar with Scaredy Squirrel, you need to be!
There were many ARCs for everyone to grab, but I tried to keep it minimal (I had to carry these things around the train station...).
But the absolute best part of the entire conference was the Caldecott-Newbery Award Banquet on Sunday night. It was $94 a plate and, although the library didn't pay for this, it was the 75th Caldecott anniversary so there was no way I was going to miss out on this experience. It was lovely. Phenomenal. Entertaining. Sociable. And delicious.

My co-worker and I at the Caldecott-Newbery Award Banquet.
My adviser/professor during library school is the current Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) president, so I was excited to see her there heading up the banquet. It was so cool seeing all of the medal and honor winners receiving their awards: Newbery winner Katherine Applegate for The One and Only Ivan, Wilder winner Katherine Paterson for her overall lasting contribution to children's literature, and, of course, Caldecott winner Jon Klassen for This Is Not My Hat. Every speech was just wonderful, full of emotion and quite hilarious, especially Klassen's. He's such a sweetheart.
And the food was spectacular. But, you know, the dessert was the best part of the meal. I particularly enjoyed the special Caldecott cookie favor. Oh, and I did try The Gold cocktail, made just for the night's banquet. If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know I don't drink except for the occasional glass of wine. But this cocktail had rum, and ginger, and citrus stuff, and it was an award banquet. Yes, it was quite strong, and yes, it took me the entire night to finish. And, yes, the elderly lady beside me informed me that I am a slow drinker.

Oh, but she was a gem. She's a retired children's educator who tagged along with her husband, who is the director (I think) of Penn State's library. Her whole group was extremely nice and charming and, honestly, I wanted her to be my grandmother. We had an instant connection. AND she invited Amanda and I out to Penn State to attend a poetry/children's program. We exchanged emails and I know I made a life-long [email] friend and, the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, I may take her up on that offer. She was just precious. AND her husband is good friends with Kevin Henkes (one of my all-time favorite children's authors), who just so happened to be in attendance (and a previous Caldecott-winner), and he introduced us. I'll admit, it was the first time I couldn't find my words. Fangirl completely. Sadly, I didn't get to tell him how much I enjoyed and connected with his children's book, Chrysanthemum.

My second favorite moment: meeting Caldecott-winner Jon Klassen.

This man = Sweetheart

And, to my excitement, while he was signing my book, we got on the subject of yoga (particularly for your hands) and I was able to explain how I use his and other picture books as part of my yoga story times. He was intrigued and told me to make sure I took stickers back to the kids. I'm not sure if he really meant stickers for all of my kiddos, so I just settled for one :)

ALA madness
I learned so much, met many wonderful people, and I will take every opportunity I have to get back. I felt very blessed to share in this experience with so many passionate, knowledgeable, and creative librarians.

With Love and God Bless,

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