Saturday, July 7, 2012

ALA Annual 2012 Recap

Well, hi!

Yes, it's been a while. But that's okay-- I was off having an amazing time at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim at the end of June. I'm still sort of buzzing with excitement over the intensity of it all. As the chair of YALSA's Conference Marketing and Local Arrangements Committee, I felt actively involved and engaged in the conference, and came away energized by the fantastic connections I made. I got to meet so many new people, and was especially pleased to meet librarians, authors, and publishers I had only interacted with on Twitter or listservs prior to the conference. It's refreshing to bring the virtual into the real!

I hardly know where to begin, or how to put the vibrancy of this conference into words. Here are just a few highlights of my ALA12 experience:

My committee work
After working with the other members of the Conference Marketing and Local Arrangements Committee all year to promote YALSA's activities at the conference, talk up the local area, and organize on-site assistance at conference sessions, it was so rewarding to finally see our planning come to fruition. I was practically overjoyed to see my committee members had printed out and were using the meticulously color-coded schedule spreadsheet detailing our commitments.

If a future ALA conference comes to your neck of the woods, I highly recommend serving on a Local Arrangements committee. It's a really enjoyable way to get involved.

The Newbery Caldecott Banquet 
I love the energy that fills the room when hundreds of people come together to celebrate children's literature. I was very honored to be a guest of School Library Journal at this year's banquet, and it was a magical evening. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to meet some of my fellow SLJ reviewers, and put faces to names of the wonderful editors I've been working with via email since I started reviewing for SLJ. It was a truly memorable evening.

Plus, the event program was adorable! You take the band off, unfold it, and out pops a red paper ball (a la the Caldecott winning title, A Ball for Daisy)! My 3 year old would love it. Sadly, he won't see it until he's at least 18 because it's a treasured souvenir from a very lovely evening, and there is no way I'm handing it over to him to be destroyed. Sorry, kiddo! This is mama's toy.

The Little, Brown dance party
Little, Brown is one of my very favorite publishers-- and now I can add "throws a mean party" to the list of reasons I love them. I was thrilled to be there to celebrate Libba Bray's upcoming Fall title, The Diviners.

The music was amazing-- old-school '70s, '80s, and '90s songs that had the crowd cheering for every song and dancing like crazy. If you have the opportunity to be invited to a Little, Brown event... don't miss it!

The Odyssey Award Program and Reception 
The Odyssey Award is given annually to the producer of the best audiobook for youth, available in English in the US. I am a huge fan of audiobooks, but I didn't realize how awesome it would be to actually see the audiobook narrators read aloud at this program. I was blown away, for example, by the physicality Kirby Heyborne put into his characters while reading from Rotters, by Daniel Kraus. As his voice shifted from character to character, so did his posture, his movements-- truly fascinating. And after seeing Wendy Carter read aloud, I'm now enjoying the audiobook of Young Fredle, by Cynthia Voigt, on my daily commute.

YA Authors Coffee Klatch 

Last time I attended this event at ALA 2008, I wasn't involved in any way, but this time I was there to assist as a member of YALSA's Local Arrangements Committee. I helped check in the authors as they arrived and waited in the green room for the event to begin, and the enthusiasm was high. Just as the librarians and other book lovers who attended the event were looking forward to chatting with their favorite authors, the authors were genuinely eager and excited about the chance to connect with readers face-to-face. It was fun seeing the other side of the event!

The Printz Reception
Just as the Newbery Caldecott Banquet is a wonderful celebration of children's literature, the Printz Reception celebrates the best in young adult literature. The speeches were amazing-- especially Daniel Handler's accordion serenade.

John Corey Whaley (who won this year's Printz award for Where Things Come Back) gave the most heartwarming, delightful speech. He seems like a really sweet, genuine person. I was glad to meet him!

Angie, me, John Corey Whaley (holding his Printz award!) and Lalitha
(Photo borrowed from Lalitha's ALA recap)
Best Fiction for Young Adults
In this session, the BFYA committee sits at tables in the front of the room with laptops, taking notes as teen readers step up to a microphone and give quick reviews of books from the BFYA nominations list. The teens are selected months ahead of time, and their preparation really showed. They were articulate, honest, and insightful. One of the teens who spoke was Ishita of The Reading Fish, who I know from Twitter-- she rocked it! I really enjoyed hearing what these young readers did and didn't like about the nominated titles. I use the BFYA list extensively in making purchasing decisions for my library's teen fiction collection, so I found it really interesting and enlightening to witness this portion of the BFYA process. Sitting in on this session definitely made me want to serve on the committee someday. 

The Graphic Novel stage
This stage dedicated to comics and graphic novels was one of the new features of ALA Annual this year-- an awesome addition, if you ask me! I attended Gene Yang's talk on Asian Americans and Air Benders. Since we interviewed Gene via Skype earlier this year for the Authors are ROCKSTARS! podcast, it was great to meet him in person. I really enjoyed hearing him speak about the history of Asians in comics, and his involvement in the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels. He announced that he's signed on to do three more volumes after "The Promise" storyline wraps up! (I may have squealed aloud.)

The Exhibit Hall
Although my schedule was pretty jam-packed, I did have some time to walk around the exhibit hall.

The publishers get creative with ARC displays - this is a tower of The Fire Chronicle ARCs,
the highly-anticipated sequel to The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens.
My to-read list is definitely full from here till early 2013, thanks to the ARCs I was able to pick up. 

Treasures I can't wait to read and share with my library teens!
Another highlight of the Exhibit Hall was all of the author signings. I met Allen Say! I reviewed his beautifully illustrated memorir, Drawing From Memory, for School Library Journal last year, and it was a pleasure to purchase a signed copy and have the chance to tell him in person how much I enjoyed it.

I'm still reflecting on all the wonderful experiences I had at this year's conference. One side effect is that I want to join and get actively involved with more ALA divisions and organizations than I actually have time for! I'm hoping to continue volunteering for YALSA committees, and possibly attend YALSA's YA Lit Symposium in St. Louis this Fall. We'll see! 


  1. I'm so glad I got to say hi, even if it was only for a second. :-)

    1. It WAS too brief, but it was great seeing you! Hope to catch up again at future bookish events after your world travels. :)

  2. Fabulous recap Allison! I have to tell you, you did a great job as part of the Local Arrangements Committee. It was a wonderful conference. I hope I can serve sometime on something similar though ALA never seems to come to MN.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! It was SUCH a pleasure meeting you at the conference. And yes, if you ever get a chance to serve on a Local Arrangements-type committee, I definitely recommend it.

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