NELA and the perils of attending library conferences

As I mentioned yesterday I went to the New England Library Association’s conference last Monday and overall, I had a great time. I got to see Sara Pennypacker, who in addition to spelling her name like my own dear sis, writes delightful kids’ books. She gave a great talk about how writing for children allows her to give her readers important stories and narratives until they can create their own, or make sense of their own. This is another important reason why kids (and teens and everyone) deserves quality literature – because we all have our own stories and sometimes we need other stories to help up figure them out.

I also got to catch up with some friends from library school and my old job, some of whom were presenting at the conference. Considering that I was a relatively anti-social commuter student at library school and I made a grand total of about four friends, it was nice to be able to see two of them! What can I say, I’m not good at “networking.”

The conference sessions were about using social media in libraries (my friends presented about the library’s use of Pinterest at Beverly Public Library), using technology in programming for kids at a library in Darien, CT, a program about collaborating with community organizations and schools, and then I ducked into a session about strategic programming with the ALA president Maureen Sullivan. Overall, these sessions are really helpful and a great way to get ideas. Sometimes it takes some creativity to figure out how to try out the ideas in your own library. For example, the library at Darien, CT (a very wealthy NY-commuter town in Fairfax County) has a lot of resources and has 6 iPads they circulate,  a computer surface table, and a computer lab for kids! My library doesn’t come close to having that sort of money. But could we try to get a grant to purchase an iPad which is then loaded with early literacy apps and have it mounted on the wall in the Children’s Room? Possibly. Or commandeer the public library computers once a week when few adults are there for a kid computer class? Also possibly. So you just have to be a bit creative, and see what would work best for you.

But here’s the perilous part of these conferences for me. I’ve almost been at my job 10 full months which I realize is not very long at all, and that I have many, many, many years ahead of me to be the best (librarians don’t make massive bank so I figure I’ll be working until I shuffle off this mortal coil, so to speak). But it’s hard not to compare myself and my library with others. Comparison has often been a problem for me in many aspects of my life, so it’s not necessarily surprising that I would do it here. It’s not good, I know, but it’s hard for me to come away from these conferences wondering whether I’m doing really doing to best I can for my patrons. Other people’s creativity can sometimes overwhelm.

But I’m still getting up and going to work, trying new things, and caring a whole bunch. So that’s what I can do now.

Now for book reviews. I finished The Diviners, which was great! It’s the story of Evie O’Neill, sent from her parents home in Zenith, OH to live with her uncle in Manhattan after Evie uses her special talent for divining people’s past from objects causes a scandal in her small town. (Evie also ends up drunk in a fountain!) Her uncle runs a museum of the occult and when a series of gruesome murders shock the city, Evie, her uncle, her uncle’s dreamboat Nietzsche-loving assistant Jericho, Theta the Ziegfeld girl, a thief, and Memphis the Harlem numbers runner all become involved in solving it.

So, I sort of hate it when people say books “have it all” but this one might: 1920s excess, bootlegging, Ziegfeld Follies, the labor movement, ghosts, creepy American cults born out of tent revivals in upstate New York, and this is only a slight spoiler, maybe robots. If any of the books in the proposed series have zombies, my brain might explode with the sheer awesomeness. But seriously, this is a great story and the characters are fascinating. I’m definitely looking forward to the next books. There are definitely some scary parts, so be warned.

Finally, some more succinct reviews: read The Raft if you want a fictional lost at sea adventure story with a teenage heroine and you are too squeamish to read about cannibalism on the Essex, as in In the Heart of the Sea, or the horrors of a Japanses prisoner of war camp in WWII like in Unbroken. Or read, Mothership, if you’re looking for a complete ridiculous and run series kickoff about a secret school for pregnant teens where aliens attack to try and steal the girls babies. Very bizarre, fun, and it has a great cover. Enjoy!

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