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Pt 3: ALA, exhibit halls and awards trends

  • Posted on July 1, 2012 at 8:42 PM

Are you aware of the trend of ARC’s? How many arc’s did you see at ALA appealing to YA? How many were free picture books? Why or why not? Did you notice the young bloggers who favor YA lit having more time in the exhibit hall while some librarian bloggers were busy in committees? How many local school librarians attended only the final day of the exhibit hall simply to purchase books for discounts? There are trends out there for the viewing.

How about the nonfiction titles? Were bloggers devouring titles there or did you find librarians making notes of series and taking more time in those booths? Were there bookmarks there to remind you of new series? Did vendors scan your badges to send you their catalogs or elinks?

How about the bling at conference? I admit its much harder to find cutesy stuff and I greatly miss it. I miss those conference teddy bears and fun stuff. This is the first conference where I couldn’t gather enough bookmarks, clips, pens and pencils that I wouldn’t have to purchase them for the beginning of school. Rats! I miss that.

I’ve seen the increase of jewelry and scarf booths. I was counting how many librarians were there instead of in the nearby book areas. Perhaps these booths need more strategic placement. I snapped a photo for my husband and said I was thinking of buying jewelry. Did he immediately call me and re-direct my focus to books – no, actually he said go ahead and buy jewelry so that’s fewer books you’ll be carrying home in your suitcase. LOL. I sought books instead.

How about water stations throughout the exhibit halls? I was so parched Friday night and overheated that I feared I would pass out. ABC-CLIO, Greenwood, & Linworth came to my rescue – not just with a glass of champagne in my weakened state, but a staffer found me a bottle of water. This saved me and I will be forever grateful to them. I never found food in the opening or closing ceremonies because I was too busy with the exhibitors.

I skipped lunches daily to snatch some time in the exhibit hall. Those vendors who had tiny candy treats at lunch are greatly appreciated. I tried to stop and talk to many of them even if they don’t cater to schools because I appreciated their being there. If a vendor had a food treat during lunch time – even if it was just a cracker, it enabled me to stop and spend time there while preventing starvation! (Okay, a slight exaggeration) I didn’t want to sit for a leisurely lunch or stand in line for hours at overpriced food booths. I was a woman on a mission to learn more and seek books. They kept me going. The vendor that put something on the food and water bottles for me to take off and keep so I could remember and thank them made an impression.

How about the vendors that have chairs in their booths? The ones that invite you to come in, sit your bags down and relax for a brief presentation are appreciated. I learned things, enjoyed the minute off my feet to look through your catalog, and especially appreciated easing the burden on my shoulders. The vendor who let me stash my bag at their booth while I was racing around one year is another that I’d walk through fire for. I didn’t need a hard sell approach. I was moving quickly and they saw this.

Other vendor behavior I appreciate – those that happily take trash from me so I can pick up their titles and catalogs. Vendors who help me roll posters or even stuff the books in my bag so I don’t have to set everything down. Vendors who take my card and make notes then follow-up. I appreciate you all. Also, the vendor that has a personal chair and invites me to sit in the chair so they can talk to me for a few minutes – you are wonderful. The vendor that saves a book title for me if an author will be signing when I’m in committee. You can bet that I’ll review your book on my blog.

What more could we ask? Well, I’ve been thinking foot and shoulder massages would be nice. Is there a way to do a type of speed dating with books? Pedicure or feet soaking stations with vendors showing us their new digital products on screens?

How about a book blogger meetup in the exhibit hall? We’ve got the stages. Why don’t we ask and organize this so we bloggers are visible and show our presence in the exhibit hall en masse – not just at late-night social events? Also, do you invite vendors to attend these events with you?

I’m known for confronting people and forcing them to go with me to events. Even ALA staff members are not exempt. I’ve drug them to meet-ups, drink nights, blog events, etc. anywhere that I think would provide them with valuable experiences. I scared some staffers when I said I might publish their names for never having attended the Newbery – Caldecott banquet or been present during the Youth Media Awards. As I told them, how can you pretend to take the youth librarians seriously if you don’t find out and experience what’s important to them?

I tweeted the ALA Awards that were given before the President’s program. This helps keep me rounded out to see a bigger picture of the organization than just my favored division. I attended the announcement of the Carnegie awards. The 350 plus standing room only crowd at the Carnegie awards was amazing. I felt like the “adults” were acting as excited as the “youth” librarians with each announcement. When they heard they’d be getting a bag of books after the awards, the crowd cheered just as loudly as we do during the Youth Media Awards. This excitement for books and reading is contagious and rewarding. Finally there is an ALA book award for adult fiction and adult nonfiction. It is an excellent addition to the conference. While I regret that it is scheduled at the same time as the Newbery-Caldecott banquet, I appreciated seeing this first year of the awards. I know this will grow larger and be even more successful next year. Personally, I was proud to have served on the ALA Awards committee so I can say that I helped vote for the establishment of this award. I anticipate this excitement for book awards will grow – not decrease.

I keep trying to track down when he said it, but Stephen Frye’s quote is widely shared ““Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” The ALA annual conference, the awards, and the exhibit halls are exciting places to be. They serve a purpose and draw a diverse crowd of attendees – not just librarians.


Pt 2: ALA, ARC’s, Bloggers, and paying

  • Posted on July 1, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Some of the librarians and bloggers who wrote about ARC’s at the ALA Annual conference convey a sense of entitlement. They seem to think because they are a blogger, they deserve this title first. Or, because they are a working librarian dealing directly with children they are more entitled to receive ARC’s. Some think they paid higher rates to attend conferences so they are entitled to more. Others think they are the only ones paying their way to conference so they are entitled to receive more free books.

I think all of these ideas are flawed. Nearly every person I meet at ALA Conference is paying for the conference from their own money. Some people do a better job than others at sharing rooms, rides, etc. to reduce expenses. The day I left for conference I lost my roommate and needed someone to help split the room costs. I was unable to find anyone last minute, but my colleague graciously helped out instead of leaving me with a heavier bill. I was willing to share but unable to locate a roommate last minute.

We librarians and bloggers need to make conference attendance cheaper and easier on our own. Our employers aren’t paying as much to support our professional development as before. It’s a fact of life and we have to move on. We also should acknowledge those chips on our shoulders where we think others are getting a free ride while we are working harder without help.

We cannot rely on an organization like ALA to further reduce costs because conferences are supposed to earn them money so they can accomplish the goals of the organization.  Already they are bargaining for services. All who registered through ALA for housing had free wi-fi – big bonus for me! Next annual all programs will be in the convention centers so we don’t have to ride in cabs to minimize travel time.

We need to find more ways to save in a grassroots way. A faster quick app for finding a cab share, a quick way to locate someone else to dine with so you are not alone, a room-share program that is safe and fast acting. Ways to identify programs that are free. Ways to identify meetings that allow guests to join in when snacking. Of course, if you attend these please use common courtesy and decency. I took photos of the Carnegie dessert dash afterwards where the hotel staff looked alarm like the librarians were going to trample them to get to the desserts and stack plates with 12 desserts high. They were frantically moving the tables to create two lines and trying to set down trays of desserts without forks stabbing their arms. Seriously, folks, were you that desperate? Plus, I saw how much money some of you were willing to shell out at Starbucks every morning and sometimes every time you walked past.

Another way to save money is to find a better way to share ARC’s. Some people frantically grab ARC’s in the exhibit hall only to get back to their rooms and realize they have no desire or intention of reading the title. I have asked housekeepers in hotels what it’s like after an ALA conference and they will talk about the huge amount of paper and books thrown in the trash the final day while packing. Is there a better way to re-use these ARC’s? What if we had a central gathering point for collecting unwanted books at the hotels, airports, and convention centers?

About exhibitor passes. I love them. There is great value in bringing in local people to take advantage of vendors they might never see otherwise. $25 for the whole conference is super-cheap. I could understand a raise in that price, but confess my husband attended on a $75 pass so he could follow me around the exhibit hall carrying my books and slip into some of the big presentations to watch me introduce speakers last year. It was a great deal for us to have him there to help. If he’d had to pay $25 each day, he might not have accompanied me, but he would have found plenty in the city to occupy his time.

Let’s look at attendance numbers, too. Exhibitor passes are counted as part of the final attendance. The  number of fully paid registrants and vendors at the recent conference was lower than desired but expected with the economy. With the addition of reduced price exhibitor passes and complementary passes provided by exhibitors, those numbers added up to slightly more than last year’s total. Vendors and exhibitors want to see a large volume of attendees. If you are a reader, you are a customer. Not just a librarian, an author, or a huge purchaser.

Conference venues move around the country. Some places are able to draw in huge numbers of local people who attend for only one-day. Places like Washington, DC and Philly have huge populations able to cheaply avail themselves of the conference. Other places in the west may have more difficulty attracting local people due to travel distances & costs, or simply because the population is lower. ALA doesn’t restrict itself to only the elite markets. It moves around the country to provide more balance. In fact, there is systematic planning to enable more participation across the nation. I’m not speaking for ALA here, just sharing knowledge I’ve gained watching over the last ten years. I know that if the conference is in Chicago, the numbers will be higher. New Orleans will be lower. I appreciate the opportunity to travel to a wider variety of cities and see libraries in different locales. I also appreciate some locales where the hotel rates are $100 or less a day compared to others with $250 a day rates.

But back to the original point I was going to make. Whether you are attending the ALA conference as a librarian, a teacher, a blogger, a reader, or just some bored local who loves going to conferences, you should be welcomed. We do not have a caste system in librarianship. I refuse to think some academic librarian or director of a large public library is any better than a local school librarian. I value all our positions and won’t deem any more worthy. That extends to books. Yes, it would be great if I could just collect everything I want, but life isn’t fair. We learn that in school (hopefully) and we move on.

In education we always know there will be a small number of people who do the wrong thing initially, but their behavior will change. They’ll start to “conform” to expectations, peer pressure will apply, some will master the system and change it. Yet always those numbers are small. When it comes to making changes, the first thing we should consider if whether it is necessary or not. Are publishers offended by the bloggers who pick up titles, read them, and rave about them on their blogs? I don’t think so.

Should librarians find ways to obtain ARC’s when they are busy in committee meetings? Absolutely, if they think it is a significant problem and needs a solution, then that’s a problem that can be addressed. Sometimes it’s through communication. Did you talk to a vendor and ask what they’d been giving out? Some will be happy to ship to you if you ask. Have you asked if the ARC’s are available on netgalley or if they could send you an electronic file?

Do you want that ARC because you are dying to read the story or to score a book? I’m not judging, just asking you to consider your own motivations. I confess to being a book slut and desiring all the books. I could easily be a book hoarder, but I also share widely and try to curb my excesses. I thought about turning on the video camera to discuss my recent “haul” of ARC’s but when I started describing them to my hubby and his eyes glazed over, I thought “Naw! Not that many people would understand.”

Don’t look for me to post videos of hours of bragging which books I obtained. I just don’t see all of you getting as excited about the same variety as I do. That is one area where I expect peer pressure will weigh on the bloggers who did post videos that set off the librarians. You can decide for yourself who is right and who is wrong.


Pt 1: ALA, ARC’s, Bloggers, and paying

  • Posted on June 30, 2012 at 10:18 AM

There have been some wonderful, wacky, angry, disgusted, and thoughtful posts on blogs, youtube and twitter about the recent ALA Conference related to bloggers and ARC’s.

Kelly J at Stacked has a post with many comments about arcs and the bloggers receiving them. I found the post to be about far more than the arc’s.

Lizzy Burns picked up on this and blogged at SLJ. See my comment way below in red.

Many people may have seen me at ALA conferences with bags of books slung over my shoulders. After reading the posts mentioned below, I went back to examine my stacks and my own behavior. Guess what? I don’t feel bad after all.

I picked up 38 books at ALA this year. Of those, 19 (half) have notes in them I wrote after talking to the publishers so I would remember why I needed this title and how I intended to blog about it. Ten more were publisher suggestions based on their having read my reviews in the past and hoping that I would give the title a chance. Six titles were Young Adult titles I intend to blog about and give particular readers (I already have them in mind) and the last three were adult titles that interested me and that I may or may not blog about.

So if that’s all I picked up, why so many bags? Publisher catalogs, posters, event publicity packets, business cards, posters for my library and sometimes duplicate posters received with permission to put in teachers’ classrooms for a title I intend to use school-wide. Plus all my committee work is in those bags with folders and hundreds of pages.

I carry lists of subjects I’m looking for and speak with certain publishers asking them if they have any titles out now or in the works to meet these needs. This conference I spoke with several nonfiction publishers asking them to create titles about engineers to meet our STEM needs including acoustical engineers, packaging engineers, etc. I have asked for mathematical titles for years. They are producing them. I’ve asked for wider varieties of biographies and they are being published.

Many times I approach a publisher and ask them “Which titles are you most excited about this year?” I want the publishers there to answer this question. At the same time, I watch attendees (not judging or knowing what kind they are) take ARC’s and anything not tied down with a note saying the price or DO NOT TAKE. I am happy publishers bring enough people to help in the booth. I’ve also learned most of the “big-wigs” (from the mouths of the other staff) attend Friday night and Saturday. If I want to see and chat with them, I must come early in the conference to ask my questions.

Since I usually am in committee meetings, council, etc., I don’t have more than 3 planned hours total during the conference to visit the exhibit hall. I plan vendors. I write down questions. I rush early and I do frantically pick up titles during that time. Later in the conference on Monday if my committee finished early, I rush back to the exhibit hall. Usually the rush is down and I can pick up the publisher’s catalogs and start highlighting things I want to look for or to go back and consider viewing in the future. At that time I dart around booths and look for publishing trends so when I do presentations I can share these. I also purchase many books the last day for specific needs or treats for teachers.

Before I went to ALA, I was in a workshop bemoaning that I didn’t have time to cut or color out the grey. Two sweet teachers on staff surprised me and we cut & colored during our lunch break in the sink of the art room at school. Talk about a gift of service. Taking eight inches off my hair made it much cooler and helped me feel better. I bought Loreen Leedy’s beautiful new book Symmetry which I had heard about at the ALSC Nonfiction Blast for the art teacher, and I bought jellyfish books for the kindergarten ELL teacher who helped.

Here is a comment I posted on Liz Burn’s blog (with some typos fixed):

I notice some publishers actually flinching at the word blogger. While I was looking at the broader range of titles displayed behind the front tables, I saw some people rush up to grab ARC’s and announce “I’m a blogger so I need this.” It made me not too quick to do the same at booths. For some booths, I would point to titles on their back displays that I had recently blogged about and I asked them if they had read the post. If not, I left the web address, took their business card, and mentioned that I’d be happy to notify them in the future of reviews. Perhaps this is where I’m weakest as a blogger in going back to the emails. So, I decided to hire my son’s girlfriend to help me type in my blogging database (as soon as she moves here from North Carolina). I work hard to keep track of ARC’s and books received because I want to be accountable. I also donate my ARC’s to students and to other teachers to read who are looking for new titles to purchase for classroom sets in libraries. I send titles up to the high schools for disbursement and give many as prizes. I also give presentations and may give away an ARC there with the reminder that it is not to be put in the library collection, but if they like it they could order the finished product. At ALA the local people who attend exhibits are important for the exhibitors and it also tells the organization which areas are popular. One trend I saw is exhibitors and vendors providing free exhibit passes in the week before conference. Hopefully when they come for the first time, they’ll see great programs and want to attend the full conference. Perhaps we could do a vendor/exhibitor program on the stage just for those bloggers in the future and let them know how important membership and full attendance is.

Some changes I will be making immediately to my own behavior:

  • Add those ARC’s the first week I come back from conference to my blogging database.
  • Include the publicists or publishers email address so I can send them the link immediately when I blog.
  • Remember to immediately send them that notice.
  • Re-activate my google blogging calendar where I schedule which books I intend to systematically read, blog specifically about topics and books, and blog about before release.
  • Put a release date in my blogging database so I can periodically sort and have them pop up. I read so many books but then set them aside because some publishers don’t want the reviews out more than a month before release. Need to note those.
  • Never run out of business cards again. My new cards have my two (3,4) identities on them. One side lists my school with the STEM Magnet focus. The other side lists my blog with my writing, reading, and presenting focus.
  • Leave space on the card for notes. Example, wants books on boys pressured by girls, requests ARC of sequel to Ashfall, needs catalog, wants posters.
  • Prepare beforehand the links to reviews so when I am there in person I don’t blank out which book I reviewed. I did this with Flux books when I suddenly couldn’t remember the name Ripper. Loved that book. Sophisticated good YA title I intend read on the plane out there, but stood in the booth like an idiot unable to recall the name. I stayed and looked at every title in their catalog until I found it so I could redeem myself. Note to self: publish review today.
  • Stop trying to do it alone. During the school year a wonderful parent, Shela Crisler, helped me type titles into the database so we could keep track of how many books I donated to the school after reading them, presenting them, and blogging about them. Some blog posts haven’t been released yet due to my change over to my own domain name. Last year I personally gave my school 700plus books. The district budget paid for 70 books. If I didn’t have help, I couldn’t read and accomplish this. Plus having Shela help drew my attention to titles I might have missed like Embrace. (Shela, I have the ARC for the sequel Entice to share with you)

I need the ARC’s and the review copies to try to help others obtain good books. Do I need them more than others? Nope and if a publisher doesn’t offer to hand me the book, I’m not going to be offended. They have priorities and limited budgets. My responsibility is to hurry up and get reviews out there so that I can become a higher priority and valuable contributor to the librarian/blogger/publisher triad. I also am not ashamed to just ask for a book to be sent if they find an extra copy. If they say no, it’s not personal and I can get over it.

Will you make any changes in your behavior in the exhibit hall at conference?