Monday, June 30, 2008

ALA Annual: Much work, but some play, too!

It has been great while here in Anaheim to fit in some time at Disneyland. Besides the Scholarship Bash on Saturday night, MSLA president-elect Gerri Fegan and I had the privilege of attending two special events Sunday night courtesy of Disney. The first was a cocktail reception at the Grand Californian hotel, were we were entertained by Bob Dorough, the composer/pianist of the Schoolhouse Rock songs that were aired on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1985 between cartoon shows. Do you remember Conjunction Junction or Three is a Magic Number? Judging by the number of people singing along, it seemed like most of the guests there last night did.

Disney Educational Productions is about to release an updated series of Schoolhouse Rock songs on science and ecology, and we were given a preview, along with a selection of hors d'oeuvres, specially decorated Disney cookies, and cocktails.

After about an hour or so of entertainment, some Disney cast members escorted a small group of us into New Orleans Square in Disneyland where we waited outside a nondescript door with just the number 33 next it to hint that this was the legendary Club 33. This is a private club that Walt Disney conceived where he planned to entertain VIPs and the park's original sponsors. Although he died before it opened, it was completed and is a membership much sought-after by true Disney aficionados. We learned from our waiter that it is limited to 475 members and that people can stay on the waiting list for 10 years or more. Members get access to the club along with 365-days admittance to Disneyland and other benefits.

The public is not admitted to Club 33, so the only way you can get in is if you are the guest of a member or Disney management, so this was an uncommon opportunity. We were treated to a delicious, multi-course meal, starting with field greens, then a sweet red pepper bisque. Next came a large grilled prawn on a bed of baby spinach. We had a choice of either salmon or chicken for our entree. Everyone at our table chose the salmon and it was excellent. It came with broccoli rabe. Our desert was creme brulee. The wine I selected was a Pinot Noir from the vineyard of Fred MacMurray (remember Father Knows Best?).

After our meal was completed around 11pm, the park was still open for one more hour, so Gerri and I - all decked out in our dressy clothes - decided to go on some rides. We went on the Indiana Jones Adventure and Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, leaving an almost-deserted Disneyland well after midnight. This was a really fun and unique evening and an experience we'll bother long remember.

Click here to see all the photos from our special evening.

Jamie Lee Curtis, the "Take Action" Author/Actor/Mom

Listening to Jamie Lee Curtis address the audience at the PLA President's Program was an invigorating and stimulating experience. Her energy, enthusiasm, and spirited form engaged and enthralled the audience for over an hour. Jamie Lee based her address today on family values. This may seem "old fashioned" or moralistically didactic, but it was not so. She wowed the librarians in attendance with her real-life stories, demonstrations of her work ethic, and snapshots of her impressions of our society in moral decline.

Pornography, espoused Jamie, is much too easy for our children to find. It permeates our society, making our children vulnerable to its exposure. "Where are parents today?" Jamie Lee asks. Why do they find it so difficult to set limits? Is it the parents, or is it our societal mores that are at fault? Her books, she will tell you, are designed to bring children and their caregivers together for special moments as well as special messages, including her latest book, Big Words for Little People.

Jamie Lee was certainly entertaining, calling herself a devout "organizer of closets", not to be confused with "closet organizer". She is, as she will profess, a Mom first, and then, in no particular order, an actor, author, and "take action girl". Her numerous proclamations of being honored to be asked to address an audience of librarians were heartfelt. Her admission of SAT scores of 820 (combined) was both humorous and straight from the heart.

One other thing that comes straight from her heart are her books. Jamie Lee Curtis will tell you that her books do not come from time spent in an office with a computer, but from her real-life experiences with her own children. Like the time she wanted to write a book using the word "consequences" and her editor at the time said no. My children, Jamie claimed, know the word "consequences". But, still no go from her editor. She dutifully used another word - but went on to be sure she one day wrote a book about big words.

Jamie Lee Curtis was funny, inspirational, informative, and ebullient. But most of all, she was honest and genuine. She concluded her address by reading her new book Big Words for Little People to the audience. She read the book straight from her heart - just as she spoke - straight from her heart!!

Affiliate Assembly II

So, just what is the "Affiliate Assembly" and what does this have to do with an American Library Association conference? The Affiliate Assembly meets twice during ALA conferences, both the annual in June (where we are now) and the midwinter conference in January. There are nine regions, (New England being one of them) with each state in a region sending two Affiliate Assembly delegates to the conference meetings. I am currently serving as the Affiliate Assembly delegate for Massachusetts. The assembly was established in 1977 to provide feedback to the governing board of AASL and to further broaden the base of communication between the AASL membership and the governing board.

Region One members in Attendance:

On Sunday morning, June 29th, the Affiliate Assembly met from 8am - 12noon to review the concerns set forth by a number of regions, to vote on open positions, and to hear from our current president, Sara Kelly Johns, as well as to welcome our incoming president, Ann Martin.

The session began with committee reports. Among some of the reports were:

  1. Intellectual Freedom Committee: now have a new brochure entitled "What is Intellectual Freedom" which should be coming to their website soon.
  2. The Standards and Guidelines Task Force: Susan Ballard of NH talked about the committee's plans to implement the new standards.
  3. Legislative Committee: Bob Roth spoke of plans for Virtual Legislative Day as well as strategies to support the Skills Act.
  4. Standards and Indicators Task Force - Kathy Lowe (MSLA) discussed the timeline for completion of standards and indicators designed to make the new AASL Standards for the Twenty-first Century Learner more concrete and measurable. They are currently in draft format, and a new revision is planned for this fall.
  5. Knowledge Quest - editor Debbie Abilock placed an all-call for suggestions for future issues for 2009 - 2010.
The assembled delegates then heard from both Sara Kelly Johns, our outgoing president, and Ann Martin, our incoming president. Sara thanked the membership for their support, and announced that though there was still much to do, that AASL was in good hands with the upcoming presidency of Ann Martin. Sara reiterated the fact that there are many task forces that need members, and for all AASL Members to check the website for information on committees being formed and those that need members.

Ann Martin outlined her plan of action as new president of AASL as follows:
  1. Increase membership in each region by 10%
  2. Encourage all members to vote in all elections
  3. Discover Leadership in AASL through:
    1. Professional Integrity
    2. Collaboration
    3. Innovation: challenge the status quo, make your mark
Julie Walker, AASL Executive Director, spoke to the assembly about her survey for all states asking what quantitative standards they had in place. These surveys were distributed and completed by the affiliate assembly representatives from each state.

Additionally, information about professional development opportunities, including the Fall Forum, sponsored by AASL was distributed. The opportunities available through AASL's e-academy were discussed. There are many wonderful opportunities for valuable professional development through AASL, accessible through the e-Academy website. Registration for spring and summer 2008 is currently closed, but updates and new opporunities will be coming soon.

That's all for now. Very busy and exciting times here in Anaheim. Sometimes, I am amazed at the fact that I am present during decision-making which affects all of us every day!!

Affiliate Assembly Delegate

Sunday June 29

Wow! What a day! I sat with Amy at the Coffee Klatch, sponsored by YALSA, and it was fabulous! I took photos of each of the authors at our table to add to my "bookcase." Future library = author photos + their book(s) = booktalk "real" authors to students. Afterwards, there was a large photo session where all the authors posed for the paparazzi = us! I wasn't shy about going to authors that weren't at my table & asking them to pose for photos. They were happy to comply. Thus, in addition to the ones Amy mentioned, I also got photos of Margarita Engle, Mary Pearson, Barry Lyon, Jay Asher, John Green, and Sherman Alexis.

Afterwards, I spent time at a very interesting meeting on how to help reluctant boy readers, given by CA Teacher of the Year Alan Lawrence Sitomer. Alan teaches at a predominately African American and Hispanic high school in a section outside of Los Angeles, and has a heart to reach his students with the fact that they need to get literate in order to succeed. Unfortunately, I had to leave early, and hope that someone who was there will blog about it.

I was there for 30 min. and he spent that time talking about alot of impressively sad statistics showing that African American & Hispanic students score lower than White & Asian students on their reading tests on a nationwide level. Thus, this leads to situations where these students drop out (at a rate of 1 student in the U.S. per every 9 seconds = 3000 students/day.) Without a high school diploma, poverty sets in. Poverty leads to crime & drugs which leads to jail. The cycle repeats generationally. He also gave the interesting fact that the 4th grade state reading exams are used by the Department of Correction. They use the percentages of students who score below level to forecast how many beds they'll need in the prison in 9 years. How very sad! Another sad statistic was the fact that CA spends $40,000 per year on one inmate and only $8000 per year on one student.

He begins his school year with these stats and tells his students they need to see themselves as a car, and school as a place to gas up, because it has everything they need to drive; however, they have to get out & pump. He said if they're waiting for teachers to check their gas, tire pressure & wipers, they won't get anywhere. By telling them these statistics, he wants to get a rise out of them enough for them to take ownership of their lives.

I talked with him later at the expo while he autographed his latest release "The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez" for me. It's a YA story about a Mexican American girl, oldest of 7 children, only one who speaks English, born in America, trying to break the cycle & go to college. It's about the challenges she faces to try and be the first in her family to live her dream. He also has a trilogy of urban fiction. I like his style.

While at the Exhibits, I also got other authors to pose for me and/or autograph their books which were either $2 or free. These included Marc Aronsen, Charles R. Smith Jr., Kathleen Krull, Anya Ulinich, Andrew Clements and Neal Shusterman. I'd call this an Author Day!

I rushed to the Pura Belpre awards, where various Honor awards for authors & illustrators were distributed, as well as the top prize to Margarita Engle, author of "The Poet Slave of Cuba" and Yuyi Morales, illustrator of "Los gatos black on Halloween." Each of the acceptance speeches were heartfelt. The presentation was sprinkled with Spanish songs sung by 3 soloists (including Yuyi) and guitar playing. The highlight of the day was a mini concert by a children's Mariachi band. There were about 20 talented, costumed kids ranging in age from about 4 to 14 wowing the audience with their vocal skills and playing of instruments from guitar to violin to trumpet. They entertained us while the audience mingled for refreshments.

I then ran to the Book Cart Drill Team Championships. It was my first time attending this, and I can't wait to see it next year. The creative way the 9 teams used bookcarts was unbelievable. There was one school librarian team, but the rest were public libraries. Dressed in fabulous costumes, acts ranged from a 007 spoof to the Beach Boys to the California raisins. The crowd favorite was a team from CA who came out as mad scientists, complete with wild wigs, lab coats and a complete chemistry set on each bookcart. They danced their way through a musical number where they poured a drink in their beakers (which began to bubble merrily) and drank it. They writhed and shrank beneath their carts, stripped their outfits and became zombies - complete with ripped clothing and ashen/bloody faces.

Suddenly Michael Jackson's "Thriller" began to play and they stepped their way, zombielike, through the song w/ their bookcarts - just like the famous video but with the carts for added flair. They brought the house down, and wound up taking home the first place Gold Cart. Mo Willems, of the "Pigeon" books fame, was MC, and was hysterical.

I had an hour and a half to get ready then I was off to the annual REFORMA fundraiser. I met Bob Roth there for a little bit. The party was stomping good, and Spanish music reigned supreme. I shimmied with Camila Alire (she loves dancing as much as I do) for almost 2 hrs before I took my first break. Meringue and Salsa were the dances of choice, and everyone had a blast, with monies going to fund REFORMA scholarships. WHAT A DAY! I danced for another 3 hrs. before I called it a night. Again, as I said before, sleep is overrated during Conference. Yawn!