Friday, October 03, 2014

Top Five Takeaways: #ALSC14

I was so frickin' lucky to get to go to the ALSC Institute in Oakland, CA, everyone. And you're pretty lucky if you didn't get to go because I'm gonna lay out for you the top five things I learned at this conference (you I know both know that ten would be all TL;DR). Because if there's one thing I know, conferences are hella expensive (the thing about ALSC was that they actually fed you without you paying extra, so that was cool). Not just monetarily, but in your own time and the time of your library.

But that's all right. As my banner motto says, "it takes a village, but it's nice to have a blog." I've got you covered, as much as animated GIFs will allow.
So buckle up, throw out all your liquids over 3 ounces, put your phone on airplane mode, and keep your seat in an upright and locked position (you entitled jerk), because here we go to Oakland!

Anyway... what?


5: Authors talking about other stuff than being an author is the best.
Confession: I've never really liked author keynotes/lunch speakers. Maybe because I never saw a good one; but truly I kind of find them boring. It's interesting, because they weave stories for a living. But the fact that someone's always wanted to be a ____ doesn't really make a "how I became a ____" story compelling. so maybe talk about something else.

That's why I LOVED the ALSC Committee's choices: during dinner Thursday night, Steve Sheinken regaled us with this awesome story about a little-recognized part of history called the Port Chicago Mutiny and went through his whole process of writing his book about it. The way he talked felt like a History Channel show, back when History Channel was actually good. The Friday breakfast panel was Time Federle, Pam Munoz Ryan, Rita Williams Garcia, and Gene Luen Yang. All of them talked about what it was like to be a tween. Gene Luen Yang made a legitimate case for why he always thought Superman was an Asian American. Rita Williams-Garcia said of her middle school years "they were all bad". It was so hysterical, and by now we all knew we had free WiFi so it was all live-tweeted. At Children's Fairyland (which is unintentionally terrifying, btw), Mac Barnett, Jennifer Holm, and Daniel Handler answered questions randomly pulled out of a paper bag, giving the conversation a really great improv quality. They were all presentations that I could imagine someone who wasn't a librarian liking. They were all genuinely interesting and entertaining. 

Bonus from this is we all got an ARC of Pam Munoz Ryan's "Echo", which I mostly read while drinking IPAs in the LAX airport. BUT if I were to recommend a beer pairing for it, it'd probably be a nut brown or a Belgian pale (yeah I know, vastly different).

4: Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on. And some ear plugs.
Being as I am with limited mobility, when I'm traveling alone I always check my luggage. I keep one carry-on, which used to be a messenger bag, but lately it's been my purse. This trip reminds me why I need a larger item.

You see, I made my connection from LAX to OAK.
My luggage did not.
Fortunately for me, I wasn't presenting at this conference and could afford to look like debatable crap until my luggage arrived. My roommate, Jennifer, loaned me a plain black T-shirt for the morning and despite my absolute vanity I still managed to attend all sessions. 

Why the earplugs? Well, the night before I left for home, I got into our hotel room at a relatively late hour. Not stupid late, but late enough that there was a bumping party complete with DJ in the direct next room. I immediately went to the lobby and reported it, which I did feel bad about because I for one appreciate a good party and I'm not a narc by nature but I really had like 5 hours to sleep.
This entire time, roommate was sleeping soundly. 

3. We need to talk about grants. 
I'm one of those people who doesn't really know which of the things I know are known by everyone, and which aren't. Especially if they're not something I've been researching for over a decade (say brain and literacy development or instructional practices) and instead are things I simply know because I've picked them up along the way (like grant writing). I went to a session where Lisa McClure from Hartford, CT was laying down the law of grant basics. It went from stuff that I figured was common sense but then got RTed seven times (like "a grant for LEGOs is not enough. What will you do?") to things that I do when I'm writing grant applications but I don't realize I do ( like, "don't talk about the needs of your library, but the needs of your community"). It was really eye-opening and I'm super-glad I went because 1) I now know how to communicate what I know about grant writing to people who are just starting out, and 2) this is a huge need in Youth Services. If you need help writing grants, please get at me for some tips. I might write a series about it. I thought it would be boring.

2. ...And elevator speeches.
I've never heard anyone speak as straight-forward as Jenna Nemec-Loise about advocacy and writing an elevator speech. I live tweeted so many good one-liners from this session, like "Policy-makers need a soundbite to help them sound smart. Give it to them." The Everyday Advocacy website looks kind of intimidating at first blush, but it's worth looking at. Here's a link to creating a perfect elevator speech, an exercise we were guided through at this session. Bookmark it. Especially if you're just starting out in Youth Services, having a good elevator speech is paramount to your success as a librarian. No joke, writing an elevator speech was part of the second-step of the interview process for my job. And whether or not you're actually asked to, having short value-rich messages people can remember is a great interview strategy, too.

1. Research is the way to my heart (well and also cookies #fatkid4life).
The very first session I attended was a panel of Marge, Amy, Amy, and Mel on Thinking Outside the Storytime Box. I cannot talk enough about how well this presentation was put together. There were examples of programs, sure, and resources to see exactly how to do some of them (which is always appreciated, most definitely) BUT THEN they ALSO talked about WHY we do these things and WHY they work. Which is powerful stuff. Here's a link to where Mel gets all her research awesomeness. I signed up for the SEDL Insights newsletter already! It was super easy. And actually, knowing your research helps a lot with grant writing AND advocacy. So let's get on that more.

Also, Mel carried around this massive bag of delicious molasses cookies. So that was the best.

If you want ACTUAL recaps of #ALSC14 check out the following links:
Guerilla Storytime recap (you have to use "Popcorn on a Train" immediately, btw)


  1. They had a DJ?? Wow, kinda wishing I had left my earplugs out now...

    Also, I have never liked keynotes/author speeches either until this time and you exactly figured out why! ARE YOU READING MY SUBCONSCIOUS MIND?? This is the first conference I've ever been at that my table-mates didn't start giggling uncontrollably and tell me to shut up because I could not resist making comments (in one case my colleague physically restrained me from throwing bread balls)

  2. Conference envy! I have been working in libraries for a few years but only recently got my YS wings (2012) and even more recently moved to a new system. YES YES and I'm pretty sure YES to the grant series.

    Anyone local to me who really gets stuff done has done it via grant. I formerly worked in a big system with lots of staff and funding and people designated as the grant-writers. Not so in my new digs and I have zilch experience points in this area. (And a series on coping with culture shock in a new system could be good, if you have experience in this area).

    Thanks for the recap and the loverly blog.