So I had the opportunity to attend the ALA conference in Chicago this past weekend. It was a fun, rollicking ride, not least because one has to perch rather precariously in those tour buses. It was also my first time in Chicago proper, and while it was nice, it made me very grateful that I don’t live in a large city.
I had to get up at six in the morning, which is about two hours before I normally get up. Dale made me a quick breakfast, I made quick coffee, and stumbled out the door, half asleep and hoping I would stay awake long enough to drive down the road to the local library, where we were all meeting the tour bus. I arrived, still awake, and was given a goody bag of cookies and chips. Despite my need for a sugar rush, I simply wasn’t hungry. (Never am at that time of the morning.) We piled in, and my hopes for a seat to myself were destroyed. Luckily, this is a bus full of librarians, so everyone either had books or Kindles and more or less left each other alone. (Lol introverts.)
Our first stop was at the DeKalb oasis on the Illinois tollway, where by that time the coffee had kicked in full force and I was praying I didn’t have to use the bus bathroom. Several people promptly bought McDonald’s. I was, strangely, still not hungry.
Then, we headed on to Chicago proper. First we passed a lot of sketchy looking old houses that were probably apartment buildings. Then we moved farther in, and there it was.
THE GLORIOUS, THE AMAZING SOLDIER FIELD.
Joy filled my heart. Then I remembered how badly the Bears tend to suck, and shrank back down in my seat.
Dang it Cutler, if you start crying we'll all start crying.
After that we arrived at McCormick Place, and I got to go through a revolving door. I resisted the urge to keep going around and around, as I thought it might annoy my coworkers.
We had to drive through the sketchy tunnel down there
After that, we rode the escalators up to the registration center, where signs were such that we wandered back and forth for some time until we found out what we were actually supposed to do.
After getting our badges, which labeled us as Legit, we headed into the expo, upon which the three No0bs were left to navigate the madness ourselves.
The booklets listing each stand weren’t really helpful in the least, mainly because the numbers for the stands were on the floor, where everyone was standing. LOGIC!
However, we finally found something that caught our eye. The Mango stand was bright orange.
Mango, however, is also a cool new way to learn a different language. It takes foreign films, and breaks down the vocabulary and culture scene by scene. One can watch a scene, go back and read the translation, watch the scene again, and take a quiz on the vocabulary words and grammar. The film bit we were shown was from Kung-Fu Dunk. Yes, it is a Chinese film about basketball, and it looked amazing. (By the way, we were given a coupon to watch it on the Mango software for free. I’ve yet to use it but I plan on it, because combining kung-fu with basketball has to be awesome.)
Next, we wandered aimlessly in an attempt to find Little Brown and Co., because someone mentioned Lemony Snicket t-shirts. But alas, they were out, so we moved on.
Many of the stands showcased new technology for libraries. One showed us a library app, Libserra, for smartphones that will automatically bring up FAQs at any participating library when someone walks in and connects to their Wi-Fi. (This cuts down on the amount of people asking questions like, “Is that place that says ‘Children’s Area’ the Children’s Area?”)
I also found the Accessible Archives stand. There is a new database out there consisting of primary sources from the 18th and 19th century. The gentleman running the stand told me that the oldest document they have so far is a Boston newspaper from pre-revolutionary days. My coworkers had to pull me away before I drooled all over the pamphlets.
We were also lucky enough to catch a reading by Hannah Moskowitz. She is a YA author whose cats are apparently better than mine, and given that Oreo was trying to lick a spinning fan, I can’t really argue with that. Moskowitz read from her latest novel, Teeth, about a boy who lives on an isolated island where people are cured of their diseases by magic fish. He meets a young man his age who is half-fish and half-human. Hannah gave away free signed copies, and I’m looking forward to reading the whole thing myself; I could picture the scenes she read very clearly in my mind. I was able to speak to her briefly, and she told me that the next novel, due out in a couple years, will be about sparkly fairy prostitutes. (I suspect there’s more to it than that, but she seemed to enjoy talking about her sparkly fairy prostitute book. Probably because it’s not every day one gets to say that one is writing a book about sparkly fairy prostitutes.)
Several other authors were in attendance as well. I was able to catch Jason Mott’s reading of his book The Returned, about a future in which the dead come back to life (not as zombies-just…back to life.) Sarah Dessen, a very popular author of girls’ YA books, was there; but there was too much of a crush around her to really get near. Tom Angleberger, the Roanoke Times columnist who wrote Origami Yoda, was there promoting his book series. Jeffrey Brown was signing copies of Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess, and Tamora Pierce was signing books but the line for her was so long it wrapped right around the backs of other stands.
The Cedar Rapids library had a stand showcasing their version of Redbox for both movies and books. They have them set up in their lobby; people can come in at any time to get the most popular books and movies. We also saw an updated version of our book sorter. The bins now stack the books on top of one another, and can be pulled out and turned horizontal for easy shelving. We talked a bit with the guy who installed our own sorter, and he told us that it’s useful for the newest books and rapid reads, as they need to be shelved the quickest. It also keeps books from landing open and getting squashed into that shape.
I was excited over a new check out machine. The card scanner is in a small space where one can’t possibly fit a book barcode, which will take care of the problem of patrons being unable to read the large sign on the card scanner saying “library card only”.
By this time, I was getting a bit of crowd anxiety, particularly when trying to push through the people standing in line for author signings. I went over to the Introvert Area, where a few people were just hanging out and admiring a fountain. After taking a breather, I grabbed a Starbucks coffee and then headed over to the other side of the exhibit.
We stopped briefly at the University of Wisconsin booth. They have an excellent library program, and one of my coworkers had attended there and talked to an old classmate. Then we stopped by the Harvard booth. They had a contest for a Dictionary of American Regional English. A bonus for stopping by was that the girl running the booth, Breanna, was from Roanoke. I told her I was from Craig County, “you know, the boonies”, and she said, “You said it, not me.” We chatted about both Virginia and the dictionary they were giving away, and discovered that we are indeed proper Southerners, as we both say “catty cornered”. (My coworkers said “kitty cornered” and “cattywumpus”, the latter which made us all throw our heads back and laugh.)
After that, it was time to leave. I stopped briefly to watch the fountain in McCormick Place, spurting up in different patterns, and discovered that one of my coworkers had gotten champagne, from who knows where.
We left and found traffic insane, chiefly because large amounts of Parrotheads were converging for a concert.
You see all those cars behind the trees? THOSE ARE THE PARROTHEADS. THEY WERE EVERYWHERE.
A quinceanera was going on which involved four or five stretch limos. We passed the Chicago Public Library, which clearly proclaimed itself “better than us”.
Small entrance. Big library.
SOOO much better than you.
We wound up the trip by getting honked at by a taxi driver. CHICAGO EXPERIENCE COMPLETE.
We stopped by DeKalb again to grab dinner, and were back again by 7:30.
Then Dale and I sat outside and watched some idiots playing with roman candles in the parking lot. Luckily nothing caught on fire.
Overall, I enjoyed the ALA conference, but I didn’t like the crowd, and I feel like most of it was really geared toward managers. However, it was nice to see some of the innovations within libraries, and how technology is being integrated into traditional library science without overwhelming their actual purpose.
COME ON CUTLER I TOLD YOU TO KEEP IT TOGETHER