ALA Mid-Winter 2008 Recap: Convention Center
I’m back! Back from sunny, sandy, tropical island breezy Philadelphia. I jest! Twas cold, though nice, and sunny for much of the conference. Had the center been built like the sadly lacking Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York (Brilliant Notion: Let’s turn a greenhouse into a convention center!) the sun might have been a problem, but Philadelphia lent itself nicely to being overrun by librarians. There was a burst of rain on Sunday night, but on the whole spirits were high and the streets were dry.
So! I’ma gonna done recap you up. Not entirely. I won’t walk you through every minuscule detail of the convention (example: The Philadelphia Conference center’s handsoap in the ladies’ restrooms smells like white ginger – this is true) but I’ll touch on the highlights. Skip to the part you want to read via handy dandy headlines.
REGISTERING: Roller coaster rides and cliff faces
When you walk into the a convention center where ALA has managed a takeover, you are always surrounded by large helpful signs that direct up and down and across and under and through. I missed the opening night reception, but was able to find the Registration area fairly easily. There were odd tiers set up above your head where librarians would perch in comfy chairs and survey their tiny antlike peers below. It looked like something out of King Kong. You half expected a large malevolent ape with an MLIS degree to start hooting from above.
There was also a Guitar Hero set-up. I played Medium level on a Strokes song on Guitar Hero III. It was not pretty.
Here’s the view of the ceiling of the center. According to legend (legend, in this particular case, meaning the sign I got a glimpse near one of the escalators as I was riding up it) this roller coaster-like mesh of wires is the largest indoor sculpture in America. Hm.
Not so sure what I think of that.
CONVENTION FLOOR: Where have all the authors gone?
The funny thing about the ALA Mid-Winter Conference as opposed to the Annual Conference is that there is a marked decrease in the number of authors present. You’ll see a couple but nothing to compare to those sheer hoards present and signing during the Annual. This means that the marketing folks running the booths are significantly less stressed. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still stressed. Getting up early, setting up, staying on their feet, drinking lots of water, and generally manning the fort while the librarians get to glide through . . . . ugh. I have a feeling that each publishing company has its own distinctive coping methods for getting through the long days.
But at ALA Mid-Winter they’re cheerier. Little book circle/book pyramids are like catnip to librarians. We can’t resist them. Here’s one being built.
And here’s what a finished product looks like.
It’s odd, but when I see one of these I suddenly, inexplicably, want the book. I’m not sure why architecture should make something look more desirable. It’s not a feeling that’s limited to conventions either. When I attended the J.K. Rowling talk here in NYC at Carnegie Hall, the author in question was seated in front of a wall of her last Harry Potter book. I read and enjoyed the book and had my own copy, but somehow the wall made me want another and another. Someone should write a paper on this. Someone with a lot of free time and very few ideas of their own.
MOVIE TIE-INS: Of Mice and Nim
Two movies that I’d not seen promoted much before were present and accounted for at the conference. The first was Nim’s Island, an Abigail Breslin/Jodie Foster/Gerard Butler adaptation of Wendy Orr’s book. It’s a Walden Media film, which means that it could either go the way of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (magnificent), Charlotte’s Web (serviceable), or How to Eat Fried Worms (tawdry). It looks nice, though. My hopes will stay relatively high.
Film #2 is The Tale of Despereaux or, quote, "The Holiday Movie Event of 2008". So there you go. Looks as if the creators of the film took DiCamillo’s mention that Despereaux’s ears were a bit larger than normal to heart. He is a bit Dumbo-ish in his audible protrusions. Great casting, though. I’d put them all in this post, but you’ll make quicker work of it if you go here. And you may coo over Matthew Broderick or Tracey Ullman, but the name that made me the happiest was Tony Hale.
Apparently I could have gotten a handy dandy "Blogger" sticker to place below my name tag had I felt so inclined. However, when doing the conference floor I like to stay incognito. That is, as incognito as I can be. It must be a publicity requirement to remember names and faces because cover kept getting blown. Stupid nametag. On the upside, when that happen it means that you get to request the books you want. On the down side, it makes it harder to browse what they have on display. FSG was the easiest to infiltrate. Ditto my favorite teensy tiny publisher Simply Read Books.
I’m getting better at working the convention floor. In the past I was inclined to take 50 posters and 200 books with me, struggling all the way. Now I’m pickier. I’ve noticed that the posters either rot in my home or, when I take them to work, join the hundreds of other posters we already have. Plus with the upcoming Donnell Library move, it doesn’t make sense to be bringing stuff in to the library.
So instead I take my ALA Guide, find out where all my favorite publishers are, and then make a beeline for them. This year I did so but noticed that Kane/Miller was oddly absent from the listings. Were they AWOL this year or can somebody attest to their whereabouts? I also missed Phaidon’s booth, which made me sad. Ah well.
Of course a person still gets waylaid. So it was that I accidentally discovered the charming little imprint Lemniscaat Press. A Dutch publisher that has ties to Boyds Mills press, Lemniscaat concentrates primarily on bringing great works of children’s fiction to the United States from the Netherlands. Their catalog was also the prettiest I’d ever seen. Full two-page color spreads show images straight out of their books. Every single title gets at least one full page image to promote the pictures inside, and the whole package just puts the big publishers to shame. I wish I could show it to you, but you’ll have to be content with the cool Dutch website instead.
If you’ve never been to an ALA Conference before, half the fun comes in warding off over-zealous publicity folks as they attempt to stuff goodies into your already o’er filled bags. Usually you’ll see a lot of cheap plastic molded in a variety of pseudo-interesting fashions. Now there were three items that caught my eye in particular. The first, and best, is this crazy little thing that got handed out by Random House.
Oh, you think dejectedly. A fake cell phone? Why is that cool? It is cool because…
You take out the antennae and you can apply the blush. And if THAT weren’t cool enough . . .
Yup. Hidden lip gloss.
I don’t usually go all girly on you, but it’s too spylike not to find at least a little neat. Runners-up included a lace headband from, again, Random House to promote The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray. And third was a pen from Hyperion talking up the Kadir Nelson book We Are the Ship. Pens are of infinite use. If every book had its own pen I’d be that much more inclined to read them.
I attended a couple talks while at the conference, but the most interesting by far was the Notables. ALSC (the Association for Library Science to Children) selects the best books, recordings, software, and videos for kids each year and makes a list. The book committee is one of the few that anyone can sit in on. As the committee discusses each title and debates the relative merits of one book or another, you find yourself watching them, discussion list in hand, as editors, agents, librarians, joe schmoes, etc. sit around you. At the back of the room are all the books being discussed, which you can look through for reference.
Of course, due to conflicts of one sort or another I always end up sitting in on the non-fiction and poetry discussions. This is fine except that more often than not I haven’t read most of the books they are discussing. This year was no exception. They’d already discussed Tasting the Sky at Annual, so I wasn’t able to hear them talk about it. At the very least I heard them regard Strong Man by Meghan McCarthy and The Wall by Peter Sis. I heard them tear into the book Walker Evans by Thomas Nau because the photographs had been cropped and discuss whether or not the lack of index in Edward Hopper by Susan Goldman Rubin was a problem or something they should ignore.
Not everything makes it onto the discussion list. Books that were missing for reasons I cannot hope to begin to imagine included: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson, What Will Fat Cat Sit On? by Jan Thomas, Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor (though they may have classified it as YA), The Owl and the Pussycat illustrated by Stephane Jorisch, and Grumpy Bird by Jeremy Tankard. So, as you can see, they miss things along the way. The full list is not up yet, but I’ll keep an eye out for when it is.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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