Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reflections from ALA Midwinter

Maybe it's because I'm serving on an awards committee this year, but I feel like I've finally figured out the ALA Conference this time around. I learned so much, connected with my colleagues, and had no session regrets.

Of course, I'm lucky to have been selected for the Bill Morris Seminar on Book Evaluation Training, which was a completely amazing day. We split up the day between guest speakers and small group discussions on preselected books. Topics included how to evaluate books, how to discuss books in a group, and what the experience of serving on an ALA awards committee is like. In our small group discussions, we were able to practice what we learned as we discussed the books we had read. I came away feeling much more confident about evaluating and discussing books.

On Saturday, I met my 2015 Newbery Committee for the first time (a few of us had met previously, but this was the first time the entire group got together). At our open meeting, we got to know each other a little, went over the criteria and process for the Newbery committee work, and had an opportunity to discuss any concerns or questions we might have. I know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but it's going to be such worthwhile work and I'm really excited.

On Sunday, I attended my very first Guerrilla Storytime, which was an amazing grassroots training and sharing opportunity. Watch out, ILF Conference! Soon there will be Guerrilla Storytime at you! I also attended the Preschool Services Group Discussion, where we talked about the importance of play and how to incorporate play into our programs and our libraries.

Monday was the Youth Media Awards announcements, which were very emotional for me at this juncture (my friends kept leaning over and saying "Next year, that will be you!"). I loved finding out which books the committees chose to honor this year, and I especially found it interesting the wide range of ages this year's Newbery and Printz Awards covered.

Monday afternoon, I sat in on one of the Notable Children's Books discussions, which was illuminating and interesting. This is definitely a session I would recommend sitting in on (their meetings are open) if you're interested in book evaluation and/or serving on an awards committee. Again, I was able to see some of the elements of book discussion put into practice while watching the committee go through their process to select the year's notable books.

And Monday night, I attended the joint ALSC/YALSA reception, which is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and get to know new people. I have been to enough conferences and involved in enough ALA activities now that I know people at these events and it's always fun to see everyone. I've learned, too, that everyone gets really excited when you tell them you're on the Newbery Committee and it's a great conversation starter.

My only regret is that I did not have a chance to sit in on the Notable Children's Recordings session, but there's always next time!

All in all, it was a GREAT conference and I'd like to thank the ALA staff and volunteers for a great learning opportunity. I'd also like the thank all the ALA awards committees for their hard work this year in selecting the year's most distinguished books for children and teens. It is NOT easy work and so much thought goes into every choice.

Although I am super exhausted (I'm writing this at the Philadelphia Airport), I'm also refreshed, in a way. I'm excited to bring some of the things I learned back to my staff. I'm excited to put the things I learned into practice. And I'm excited to start my Newbery year.

It's going to be an amazing year, folks!!