Saturday, June 28, 2008

How lost can you get in the vendor hall?

Very lost. Today I was immersed in talking with vendors, attending demonstrations, picking up freebies, having a picture book signed by Eve Bunting for my granddaughter, learning all about incorporating ebooks into collection development, when I realized that I was five minutes late for a meeting with Linda Friel, one of my fellow-attendees!! Did I know where I was? No. Was I able to orient myself to find the Wilson Web booth? No. Yikes!! I finally did find my way out of the maze of vendors, but it was no easy task.

The exhibits here in Anaheim provide as much of a learning experience as attending attending sessions. Do you want to find a new way to decorate your library? Are you looking for a new automated library system? How about collection development? Everything is here, from all of the major publishers, to many of the smaller publishing houses, as well as featured authors reading from their publications, to author signings, etc. Print, audiobooks, eBooks, reference titles, databases, federated search tools, automation systems, etc., etc. are all here for your browsing pleasure! Sit in on demonstrations of online databases and ebooks, play games for prizes (one vendor had a wonderful puzzle suitable for all ages - put it together and it is yours to keep - problem is that it is not so easy - only five winners a day), listen to audiobooks, browse through print, and see the latest from National Geographic and the Audubon Society, two of only many book vendors.

This year the vendor hall holds special exhibits called "Pavilions". What feasts for the mind! Included are: Assistive Technology Pavilion | ALA Professional Area | Booth Events and Author Events | Closing Reception | DVD/Video Pavilion | Games Pavilion | Graphic Novel Pavilion | Green Pavilion | International Pavilion | Library and School Instruction Pavilion | Library Product Spotlight | List of Exhibitors | Live @ Your Library Reading Stage | Meet the Authors/Illustrators | Poster Sessions | Silent Auction | Small Press/Product Area | Spanish Publishers Pavilion | Swap and Shop | Technology Pavilion | University Press Pavilion |

Strolling around the exhibit floor can be overwhelming, but it can also be a very inspiring and professionally uplifting experience. With each aisle you visit, something new is learned. Returning from the conference with free books, give-aways, bags, etc. can be fun and add just that little extra spice to your library back home.

An ALA conference is truly a great experience. Included in your registration are:

* Over 300 educational programs covering a variety of hot topics
* Over 2000 committee meetings and events
* Entrance to the Exhibits, including the Closing Reception
* The ALA President's Program
* The Opening General Session and Closing Session
* The Auditorium Speaker Series

More later!

Councilor-at-Large Orientation

I was elected as an ALA Councilor-at-Large in the May election, and today I had my orientation session. It was exciting, albeit a bit intimidating. When I attended ALA in Washington, D.C. last year, I picked-up a bright pink sheet of paper at Affiliate Assembly that was seeking AASL members to run for a position as Councilor-at-Large; the idea was to provide AASL with a larger voice in the Council. I had recently been appointed to several AASL committees and task forces and thought that running for this position made sense. I received encouragement from my colleagues on the MSLA executive board, filled-out the online application with detailed information, and then wrote a brief statement. I eventually received an e-mail from the nomination committee chair informing me that I was approved to run in the election. This is one of the ways I am giving back to my chosen profession, and my time is my own, as I am retired and my children are grown.

I am sure that some of you might be unsure what the Council does, and I will attempt to explain. I have to admit that the Council's role in ALA was a bit fuzzy before I attended this orientation session. The ALA Council is ALA's governing body. There are approximately 185 members of the Council; a hundred of those members are Councilors-at-Large who are elected by ALA members. The 11 divisions of ALA each have one Councilor who is elected by that division's membership. There are also 53 Chapter Councilors, 12 Executive Board members, and 10 Round Table Councilors.

The Council meets four times during Mid-Winter and four times during the Annual Conference. Its duties revolve around determining policies for ALA, although the Council does delegate some of its authority to the Executive Board, the divisions, and other ALA units. There are also numerous other Council duties that I will highlight in future posts. I will be officially seated during Mid-Winter, 2009, and I am looking forward to an interesting and challenging learning experience. Stay tuned, as there is more to follow.

Play Ball

Remember that great teacher or professor, you know the one, the class where entertainment tax would be charged except you learned so much while having that great time? That was this session!

Andy Strasberg obviously loves baseball, loves “Take Me Out To the Ballgame,” and loves telling the story of this song -- the third most played song in America, he told us. Only “Happy Birthday” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” in that order, play more often.

So how do you write a whole book about one song? And how do you fill an hour and a half presentation telling about it? For Andy Strasberg, easy, and fascinating.

After handing out king-size Baby Ruth candy bars to everyone, well, almost everyone -- attendance was larger than Andy anticipated (I sat in the second row and cherished my treat) -- he told about the history of the song, the culture of Tin Pan Alley, the lives of the composer and lyricist, events of 1908 -- the year the song was written, controversy about the correct lyrics, singers who sang the song and styles of music it has been played in, how it came to be sung during the 7th inning stretch, and more. Andy projected photographs, showed film clips and of course, played music, some for all to sing along.

For Red Sox fans, Andy’s love affair with baseball is lifelong. He attended Ted Williams’ baseball camp. One of the photos shows Andy as a gangling teen standing with none other than the Splendid Splinter himself.

Both content and style of presentation were superb. If you have a chance to see Andy on his book tour, my suggestion is do it.

Washington Office Briefing

Legislation has far reaching impact on the professional lives of all librarians. Issues addressed in legislation determine things that librarians are permitted and not permitted to do as well as the funding available or not available to many libraries for many programs. Two briefings that offer incomparable overviews of current legislation are the ALA Washington Office briefing at the Annual Conference and the briefing in Washington, DC on ALA’s National Library Legislation Day.

Two of the highlights of the 2008 Annual Conference briefing were presentations about the recent report on section 108 of the Copyright Act and about Talking Books for the Blind.

Section 108

Innovations in digital technology make it clear new law is needed in some areas of the Copyright Act. For this reason, the Library of Congress formed an independent study group to recommend revisions to section 108, that is, the section which provides libraries and archives some exceptions for purposes of replacement and preservation. The study group addressed the needs of museums as well.

Representatives of the various interests (libraries, museums, archives, creators and distributers of content, and others) agreed on some issues but not others. For example, Disney and others objected to making copies of graphic materials for interlibrary loan, the speaker said. So the report dealt only with copies of text for this purpose.

The representatives of various interests did not reach consensus on some fundamental principles, for example, on the matter of what is copyright. There were differences in the interpretation of the law on this point.

The speaker indicated that a hardball battle is brewing on section 108 issues. He wondered whether the library community was bold enough in representing its views in the study group. He also asked whether the library community is ready for the hardball offensive needed to protect library rights under the copyright law in order to serve library users and the public interest.

[A Library of Congress News Release about the section 108 report is online at and the full report is available at ]

Talking Books For the Blind

The speaker thanked ALA for its support of Talking Books over the past two years.

The major issues concerning Talking Books are funding, time and technology, the speaker indicated. Talking books are changing their technology for only the third time in their history. They originated as LP records in the 1930s, migrated to cassette tapes in the 1960s, and now are converting to digital technology.

One obstacle to the Talking Book project arose when the government budget office said, “Why don’t you use off the shelf technology?”

There are three major problems with this: first, many off the shelf technologies require vision (can you operate your iPod without seeing it?); second, off the shelf technologies tend to become obsolete relatively quickly, Talking Book technology must remain current for a long time; and third, for copyright reasons, Talking Books for the blind must be encrypted -- off the shelf technology does not handle encryption.

Another problem, the speaker said, arose between May and June of this year. The $76 million in the bill before Congress somehow changed from a 4 year conversion project to a 6 year one. This is another move that creates problems for blind people. For one thing, part of the conversion involves making the hardware that will play the digital Talking Books. Many blind people do not have these digital players, but in 2010 all new Talking Books will be digital. Thus some people might have to wait 4 years (from 2010 to 2014) before they have a player that can read new Talking Books.

The other problem with the longer conversion period is the decrease of Talking Book titles that can be made. Because new books are continually being published, the need to keep up with new material means that 27% fewer existing titles would be recorded in a 6 year conversion project than would be in a 4 year conversion.

The speaker ended his presentation by reading the Gettysburg Address from a Braille page and then saying, “ Lincoln was engaged in great struggle but looked to the future. Blind people now are engaged in a bit of a struggle and like Lincoln look to the promise of the future.” There was applause.

AASL President's Program

Sara Kelly Johns, current president of AASL, opened the program by presenting AASL's Crystal Apple Award to the "Spokane Moms", a group of mothers who took their outrage about the lack of funding for school libraries to the state legislature and were successful in achieving $4 million in first-ever state level support for Washington school libraries.

Incoming president Ann Martin thanked attendees for all that they do and spoke about the theme of her upcoming presidency - leadership - and urged members to follow the example of the Spokane Moms by carrying our mission and vision to everyone we meet.

Illustrating how AASL is working to meet its "BHAG" (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) "to achieve universal recognition of school library media specialists as indispensable educational leaders,” Sara returned to the podium to report on what has been happening in the organization during the past year. She thanked everyone who contacted legislators to ask them to support of school libraries. The year started with the AASL conference in Reno where the new Standards for the 21-st Century Learner were unveiled and the results of the first longitudinal study on school libraries were released. The Digital Institute and e-Academy were launched to provide professional development using 21st-century tools. April brought the revival of School Library Media Month, with online materials for planning local observances. AASL now offers licensed institutes - full-day educational workshops available for use anywhere in the country - on advocacy, collaborative leadership, and reading and the secondary school library media specialist. Planning has been completed for the AASL Fall Forum on Assessment, taking place in Oak Brook, IL next October. The Promotions and Marketing Committee are developing PR, marketing and advocacy tools.

The keynote speaker was Susan Patron, author of The Higher Power of Lucky, the children's book that raised controversy because it included the word "scrotum". Why did she use that word? Patron explained that it was done intentionally as a vehicle for Lucky to demonstrate the trust in an adult she needed to build in order to be able to ask the meaning of the word. She ended by thanking librarians for speaking up to defend the 1st Amendment rights of children.

Following Susan's talk, panelists Cassandra Barnett, AASL President-Elect and high school librarian from Fayetteville, Arkansas, David Levithan, author of controversial books and a member of the American Association of Publishers Freedom to Read Committee, and Katherine Byers, an elementary school library media specialist from LaCrosse, Wisconsin discussed their experiences with censorship. Katherine described a book challenge in her school (she did not name the title because she has been asked by the reconsideration committee not to) and how she hopes to engage her superintendent, who had the book removed from the shelves, in a conversation about intellectual freedom.

Cassandra had the support of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee to respond to a challenge by a group of parents who tried to have 57 titles removed from her library's collection. All but one of the books dealt with sex or sexual identity. She read a poignant letter from a former student who spoke about how access to one of Levithan's books helped that depressed, suicidal teen. Cassandra asserts that "We can't let people who are afraid dictate what students need. They need to have these choices."

David Levithan spoke from the author's and publishers' point of view. "Why should the person who is offended have more choice than the person who wants to read the book?" He challenged adults who provide literature for children and young adults to fight our own fear - not the voices attacking us from without - but the voices from within that make authors, publishers, librarians, and teachers pull back if they think someone might object to a book. "Be loud; be unafraid."

AASL Affiliate Assembly Meeting

Tonight was the first time that all the affiliates from across the country to discuss school librarian's needs. It is always a joy to be among the dedicated library teachers that serve us all. AASL Affiliate Assembly began discussing six areas of concern at the first meeting during the ALA 2008 conference. These concerns have an impact on all school librarians, and some have been detailed by New England librarians. I'm going to try to digest these so that MSLA members can comment on these issues.

I – Susan Ballard from NESLA asked the AASL board to establish a task force to develop a procedure to evaluate and act upon the needs of librarians in crisis due to the loss of jobs or school library programs. Because there are many levels of need and a myriad of responses from AASL, it is suggested that AASL create an evaluative process to best serve its members so that action can be taken in a decisive manner. This is a popular concern: Debra LaPlante from Arizona also proposed an organized method of response to those school librarians from the Mesa Unified School District when all the jobs were cut. These two concerns have been combined because the actions requested are similar. Voting results: Approved.

II – Ann Perham from MSLA has asked that a task force be created to promote National Board Certification for school librarians. The rationale is that these credentials would elevate a library teacher's status under NCLB as “highly qualified.” Voting results: Approved.

III – Rosina Alaimo from Region III expressed concern that AASL was not a partner with ASCD, the nation's largest educational administrator organization. She requests that we seek a liaison with ASCD by getting articled published in each other' journals, and that ASCD publish an issue on the impact of school library programs on student achievement. Voting results: Approved.

IV – Cara Cavin, also from Region III, asks that a task force be formed to examine the lack of diversity within AASL membership and to work with other ALA associations to develop recruitment practices. Cara also asks that AASL take on a more active role in larger diversity issues facing ALA. Voting Results: Approved.

V – Annette Smith from Region III is asking the AASL board to form a task force to examine the possibility of a collaborative document between ISTE and AASL. This process was begun in Philadelphia, but ended without a formalized joint statement. Voting results: Approved.

VI - Debra LaPlante's request from Region VII wants an attempt by AASL to work with Arizona administration to require school libarians at all schools. This is a response to the loss of programs in Arizona. The action items here were added to the first concern put forth by Susan Ballard. Voting results: Action items amended and moved to Concern I.

Commendations were also issued to Follett Library Resources for volunteering to collect, collate, analyze collection statistics to illustrate the average copyright date and average number of books per student; to Cocky's Reading Express at University of South Carolina, a collaborative program; to Washington Coalition for School Libraries and Information Technology, sponsored by the "Spokane Moms;" two to North Dakota Association of School Libraries and Youth Services, now requiring library media specialists take two library-approved credits as part of certification and for the creation of a Masters Degree with a concentration in Library and Information Technologies.

Please comment! Let us know what you think about these issues.

Friday Conference Fun

Attended 2 great events tonight. The first was the "Many Nations, Many Voices" program put on by the Office of Diversity. Over 10 Native Americans from both the U.S. and South America read their poems, discussed aspects of their lives and careers, read excerpts from their books and/or performed for us with drum, guitar and song. The highlight of the evening was a very funny talk given by Sherman Alexis, author of "The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian." It was a very inspiring event.

Later on that evening, I "crashed" the party for Camila Alire given in the vice presidential suite by Jim Rettig, ALA president elect. The place was absolutely packed with Camila well wishers. She greeted each of us with a hug and I mingled about the room. There was an open bar as well as lots of sweets and snacks. I renewed acquaintances with Mary Ghikas, Senior Associate Executive Director at ALA. She and I had a rousing time on the rural libraries tour at the recent AASL conference, and have been in e-mail contact ever since. We always make a point to look for each other at midwinter and annual.

There seemed to be hundreds of people there, but we all fit in the enormous suite and balcony with a lovely view of the city from the 19th floor. The AASL presidential trifecta (Cyndi, Ann & Sara) was present, as well as many of my fellow Spectrum Scholars, presidents and friends from REFORMA and ALSC, as well as some of my Simmons professors, including GSLIS Dean and Chair of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Em Claire Knowles and Luis Chaparro.

The Spokane Moms are in town to receive their well deserved award tomorrow at the AASL Presidential program, and were warmly greeted with many coming over to shake their hands with gratitude. They were very personable and humble over their great achievement in Spokane, as well as funny and friendly conversationalists. They kept telling me how they thought that we school librarians have the hardest job they know and that we deserve to be recognized as much as possible for the work that we do. Ran into Bob Roth (MSLA) and Sandy, fellow members of the AASL Legislative Committee.

What a night! It's 4:19 Am Eastern time, and 1:19 AM Cally time. Have to be up and about very early in the morning for the official beginning of conference and the opening of the exhibits. More tomorrow!

Spokane Moms

ALA conferences offer opportunities to meet supporters of libraries and, yes, of school libraries in particular. In this photo the Spokane Moms take a moment to pose with Sara Kelly Johns - AASL President 2007-2008, during the ALA President's Reception. From left to right are Denette Hill, Sara Kelly Johns, Lisa Layera and Susan McBurney.

Lisa Layera, Camila Alire - ALA President Elect, Susan McBurney, Denette Hill and Sara Kelly Johns.

Denette Hill, Sara Kelly Johns, Lisa Layera, Loriene Roy - ALA President 2007-2008 and Jim Rettig - ALA President 2008-2009.

Alma Ramos-McDermott (MSLA) and Denette Hill.

Susan McBurney, Loriene Roy and Sara Kelly Johns.

In this relatively informal setting, the Spokane Moms conveyed the brilliance, strength, courage, determination and sense of humor that enabled their success.