Tuesday at the ALA Annual Conference


Wow! Librarians certainly like to read a lot. I had 112 hits yesterday and my reports from the ALA Conference are looking pretty popular. It’s about time something gave my review of The Painted Veil a run for its money. I’m grateful for the Internet Cafe at the Washington Convention Center and apologize to all those librarians who had to wait in line while I was writing in my blog. Then again I’m impressed with how much I was able to write in such a short time. Over the next few days I’ll go back and revise the conference posts to add hyperlinks and more details as well as correct the inevitable typos.

So I’m back in Boston where it’s hot and stick. It was hot and sticky in Washington today, and the sun felt relentless on Capitol Hill where white marble is more common than trees. I began the day waiting a long time for the shuttle bus which up until this morning had be extremely efficient. There were more waits at the convention center for the bag check and to get into the Closing Session. Yet somehow I did get squeezed into a seat near the front and hear all of Garrison Keillor’s speech. It was nice to hear the warm voice so familiar from “The Writer’s Almanac” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” While Keillor’s ideas of libraries are a bit idealized and out of date, he did have a good sense of their being a quiet place where the imagination can grow, and that they are important for democracy. He particularly liked that they are places where children don’t have to perform for adults and believes the immigrant children he sees reading in today’s Minneapolis Public Library are America’s future leaders. The Library Journal has already written up a good summary of Keillor’s address.

Next I went down to the Exhibition hall to register for Library Day on the Hill.  This consisted of getting a red t-shirt and some hand outs and was all rather anticlimactic.  There was supposed to a big closing day party in The Stacks but it was just more vendors I didn’t want to talk to telling me about products I’m not interested and asking me to sign up for raffles in which I did not want to participate.  It was also somewhat depressing since a lot of vendors had packed up and left giving it a dying Main Street look.  I escaped up to the Internet Cafe to blog and otherwise find ways to kill time.

Just about noon I took a shuttle bus over to the Capitol.  I sat next to a lovely librarian from Prince George’s County, Maryland who told me all about Street Lit which is all the rage among her semi-urban patrons.  On Capitol Hill, much like Jimmy Carter, I had a crisis of confidence.  What on earth am I going to say to my Representative and Senators, especially if they had questions?  I stalled a bit in the exhibit space in the Rayburn Building and read up on my library legislative literature.  Then I wandered through the labyrinthine corridors of Capitol Hill and finally got up the gusto to enter Michael Capuano’s office.  And I talked with his legislative assistant, ever so briefly, leaving behind by contact info and sheet of library concerns.  The same pattern repeated itself later in the Russell Senate Building at John Kerry’s and Edward Kennedy’s offices.  I have to say that just boat loads of people were in the government buildings today. Most of them were in snazzy suits, but there were also other petitioners from the ACLU doing the same type of thing we were doing (they wore white & green t-shirts).  I was also touched by the wall of portraits in Kennedy’s office of big brother John.  Granted, every Irish pub in Boston has a similar display, but it there it was more meaningful.

In between visiting the House and Senate offices, I played hooky from my lobbying duties by taking a tour of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  I took a tour lead by an exuberant volunteer.  She liked to point out how the art and architecture of the building were paeans to the European culture that Americans aspired to in the late 19th-Century when the library was built.  It’s very beautiful.  I also looked at the exhibit of American treasures because I never tire of looking at cool, old stuff.

And then I flew home.  I have a lot to read and write and think about.  Luckily I work in a library.

Monday at the ALA Annual Conference


I had a slow start to the day and had to call Susan from my hotel bed to have her tell me to get out of bed and get to the conference center.  It turned out to be a lucky day though.  How often does one get a 1905 Indian Head cent in one’s change from the coffee shop?  For me never.  I can’t believe that it was still in circulation, but it isn’t anymore.  I was so excited about the cent I brought it by the US Mint booth in the exhibition hall.  They were not so excited and probably wished I was a teacher or a school librarian so that they could give me some literature.

Anyhow, enough numismatics, on to to librarianship.  I spent most of the morning in the exhibition halls.  I’m not really into gathering loot like so many of my colleagues seem to be but I did get a number of handouts from vendors.  I visited the Proquest CSA  “funhouse” (it really looks like a kid’s treehouse) and learned of their new historical annual reports services.  Of course they told me that they created the database with the assistance of my library, not that anyone there told Access Services.  Anyhow, that will be a useful resources once it debuts and I’m ready to let the secret out.  I also got a good demo at Ex Libris of Primo a kind of super catalog that searches through a library or a consortiums various catalogs and databases.   OCLC has a similar product in WorldCat Local.

The real eyeopeners were the Resource Sharing products.  The OCLC vendor demonstrated ILLiad for me which was so beautifully easy I could have wept.  I also saw scanners that scan quickly, clearly, in color if you need it, and don’t require profanity to operate.  I would happily use these devices if only my library would purchase them.

Also at the exhibition, Nick Hornby read from his new book for young adults Slam.  It’s a story of a sixteen-year old boy who is trying to avoid the news that his girlfriend is pregnant.  In the part Hornby read the boy wakes up and it is a year later and he’s learning that he’s actually become a good father.  It sounds like an excellent book.

Monday was not all fun and games.  I attended a session at the Grand Hyatt called “Access Services: It’s Not Just Circulation Anymore!”  Three managers talked about Access Services in their libraries and it is interesting to see how there is not even one agreed upon definition of what Access Services does.  Personally, Access Services are any staff who work on the front lines dealing with the public in person, on phone, and online.  The most itneresting examples I heard were about libraries where faculty and IT staff actually work in the library on the library staff.  That seems like such a simple but effective way of getting input and collaborating in an academic library.

The PLA President’s Program finished out the day.  I don’t work in a public library but author Armistead Maupin was the keynote speaker so I went to hear him.  Originally, Elizabeth Edwards was to speak, but as Maupin informed us, she was out on the campaign trail.  He said he liked the irony that he saw her on TV in San Francisco addressing a gay pride event while he himself was here in Washington addressing librarians.  He thanked librarians for putting the Tales of the City books on library shelves at a time when they were very controversial and was grateful that they are not so controversial anymore.

To conclude my day I returned to Arlington and visited with my friend Betsy and Randy and met their newborn baby girl Zoe.  And for supper, once again, we ate Thai food.