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 While Keillor’s ideas of libraries are a bit idealized and out of date, he did have a good sense of their being a quiet place where the imagination can grow, and that they are important for democracy.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.