Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando Florida. If you are not apart of the library world, ALA is the American Library Association and every year this is an annual conference. This conference allows all libraries from across the country to come together to mingle, learn, explore and experience so much more. This was only my second conference and I haven’t been to ALA since I went five years ago to New Orleans. I was still in grad school and went with some amazing friends of mine that I was in school with. What was amazing about this conference was being able to go again with these lovely ladies. It’s amazing to see how we have grown in our fields and also with our lives.
What I love most about these conferences is that it becomes a wonderful refresher. You are among others who are passionate about a lot of the same things and it almost revitalizes you. Lately, I have been needing that revitalization.
Many of us are dealing with particular struggles in the library field. This can be interacting with interesting patrons ( I am sure many of us have some stories that are sad, crazy or possibly both), depleting budgets, trying times in our world and so much more. At the beginning of every conference there is an opening session where an author is usually invited to discuss their feelings on libraries and the discussion usually leads to the necessity for having them. This year the ALA Task Force on Equity wanted author Michael Eric Dyson to speak at the opening session and it was absolutely moving! I was cheering, I was excited and he just spoke of so many things that resonated with everything that is going on in our world today. It was at times an awkward discussion, but more on the basis that these are tough subjects that we are discussing, especially with everything that has happened recently in Orlando, and unfortunately around our world. If you have a moment, please read the amazing article that was written in the American Libraries Magazine. At the end of the article it gives you two videos that showcase his speech. I mean, the man was rapping at some points of his speech and it was just absolutely amazing! It was definitely a positive beginning to the conference, and a discussion that was needed to be talked about.
Normally, I would attend sessions at the conference. The conference allows us to continue with educating ourselves, share things that we may have learned and also share amazing programs that we may be doing at our libraries. ALA is for all libraries, so there are sessions for academics, public, health sciences, you name it! It can become such an eye opening, but also an overwhelming experience. This year however, I stuck around the exhibits. This was not my original intention as there were many sessions that I wanted to attend to. However, the most amazing thing happened this weekend, that I am still in shock and in complete amazement that it happened. I met MO WILLEMS! Lord almighty, when I saw that he was going to be at the conference I legit started to cry. This has been a dream of mine to meet this man for so long. I know this is probably the dream of many children’s librarians so it must seem a bit repetitive when people discuss him but I can’t express how much I love this man. Anthony already knows that he is my legit man crush but I have such immense respect for him on so many levels. His books allow me to be crazy silly. I get to continue with some of my acting and be theatrical but also express stories on a whole other level when I read them aloud. They bring about a whole new love of reading for children and I am sure with adults as well because his books become an experience.
So Saturday morning, I got to the exhibit doors at 8:30am (it didn’t open till 9am). I ran to the Disney booth to get in line once the doors opened and waited until 9:30am! I was not about to miss this opportunity. When 9:30 came around, out of no where Mo Willems comes running down the line, high fiving everyone that was in line. I legit stood there in complete shock and insanely excited. I honestly texted Anthony and my mom going crazy that I just got a high five from this man! It was a great author signing because not only was I able to get Mo Willems autograph but I was also able to get Dan Santat’s and Laurie Keller’s. Guys, it was worth every moment!
Anthony asked me afterwards what I said to him and what happened but it honestly all happened in a blur of excitement. All I remember is Mo turning to me and asking if we should smile or make a monster face. I COULDN’T DECIDE! I asked if we could do both and he laughed saying “No, life is all about choices!” So I decided on a monster face because that is what I love about his books. I can be as silly as I want to be and here I am having the ability to be silly with him. Then the publishing company said smile for a second one and I was able to get two amazing pictures. I now have my own Piggie drawn out on both of my books! Plus, what is awesome, is being able to receive copies of books that have not even been published yet!
Words again cannot express the amount of respect that I have for him and of course many of the authors that attended the conference. I was able to meet many of them at this exhibit. I got to meet Raina Telgemeier:
I couldn’t wait to tell her how much I loved reading Drama. It was a book that resonated a lot for me because I was a theater person growing up. She explained to me that it surprises her still today how many people tell her that because that was not her intentions when she wrote the book. That is why it is so important for these authors to write these pieces. They may not think they are having that particular impact, but they really are giving kids something to relate to and know that they are not alone.
This was another one of my favorite opportunities. I love all of her books, however I loved Echo, which I have discussed many a times here on the blog. Music is very much apart of my life still and it is very much a beautiful part of this story. She’s a wonderful storyteller but to be able to talk about our love of music was truly a memorable experience.
There were honestly many more authors that I was able to meet just unfortunately no pictures Being able to do these meet and greets has reminded me so much about how passionate I am about books, especially books for kids. As adults, we tend to know what we like to read and we are not forced to do it on a daily basis. Books written by these authors are well loved and that is certainly difficult in our world today when technology takes the reigns in many of our children’s lives. Their dedication to getting children to read astounds me and I hope that they understand how much it means to have them create such wonderful stories for our young readers.
The exhibit is such a fun part of the conference. It allows librarians to get a sneak peak at books that are to be published in the near future, look at new technologies being developed, furniture specially designed for libraries, meet artists, have discussions, meet new people, but the big deal is the FREE STUFF. A lot of the free materials are pre-release copies of books which are really helpful for librarians that focus on collection development. I do a lot of the ordering for my children’s department, so this allowed me to gather new books, fall catalogs, free bags to giveaway to my kiddos and a lot of awesome bookmarks.
This wasn’t even all the bags that I collected! I had three more to add to this bunch! A lot of these books are going to be given to the kids at my library, and that is such a rewarding feeling. A lot of the bags will be given as prizes for my summer reading program and a lot of them have their favorite characters on the front which will be sure to bring a lot of excitement.
All I can say is, I had a blast! It can be an exhausting experience but there is so much to see and explore at ALA. I got to meet new people, meet friends that I know simply from Instagram and a few other friendly characters along the way.
I feel a little rejuvenated after this conference. I am still up in the air on where my career will go after I leave my current position, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to stay on top of everything that is going on within the field. My hopes is that I will attend the next conference in Chicago next year. I want to be able to attend the whole conference and actually sit in on some sessions so that I can continue to educate myself. If anyone within the library field hasn’t attended a conference it really is highly recommended. It is a great learning experience, networking experience and so much more. It can be expensive of course, but some of the experiences you partake in become priceless. I for one definitely have found this conference to be a memorable one in the books!