“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Friday, July 11, 2014

Highlights from the 2014 ALA Annual Conference

Now that I'm recovered from a crazy busy school year and the whirlwind of Las Vegas/ALA Annual, I decided it was high time to pay some overdue attention to my blog.  To start off my summer blogging ventures, I thought an overview of some of the highlights from this year's ALA Annual Conference would be the perfect kick-off.  

This year's award winners were an obvious highlight and I got to meet, and re-meet, most of them. Brian Floca, Kevin Henkes, Holly Black, Kate DiCamillo, Marcus Sedgwick, Markus Zuzak... It's as exciting as the Academy Awards!  I was particularly excited to see Marcus Sedgwick again and have my wonderful copies of Midwinter Blood signed, meet Markus Zuzak and have him finally sign my coveted British copy of The Book Thief, and meet the legendary Judy Blume whose books led me through childhood and adolescence.

I also met the wonderful and inspirational Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of fallen civil rights icon Malcolm X.  Her presentation was remarkable, although I was disappointed in the low turnout to see her.  The audience was clear evidence to me that racial division is still rampant in our country, even in a profession that professes equality and freedom at it's very core.  Ilyasah has published a wonderful new picture book called Malcolm Little that tells the story of her famous father as a child.  It is beautiful and should become a part of school library core collections.

There was a wide selection of wonderful new books among popular book vendors like Candlewick, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.  Lee & Low's emphasis on diverse books like Parrots Over Puerto Rico has made them a particular favorite for me.  I also fell in love with a wide array of books about art.  Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly tells the story of Picasso's Blue Period for a young audience.  The Iridescence of Birds by Patricia MacLaughlan is a beautiful story about Henri Matisse as a young child.  Yuyi Morales has a beautiful book called Frida.  And a lovely book called Edward Hopper Paints His World has a stunning painting featuring a sign for "Phillies" created by illustrator Wendell Minor right on its cover...sure to appeal to our local Philadelphia crowd.  Hip hop lovers will be excited by Laban Garrick Hill's new book When the Beat Was Born.  For discussion about the Caldecott Medal there is a wonderful book about Randolph Caldecott that explains who he was and why the famous award for picture books bears his name called Randolph Caldecott, The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing by Leonard S. Marcus.  Melissa Sweet, who has had numerous award-winning books including this year's wonderful picture book about Horace Pippin, has a lovely new book forthcoming about Roget and his famous thesaurus that is perfect for integrating into elementary writing lessons. Famous authors and illustrators like Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, and Jon Scieska all have wonderful new books out as well that should not be missed.  Finally, one of my favorite books about math is a book called Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals Lives by Lola M. Schaefer.

Among YA authors, there are several exciting books coming out or newly released.  Ally Condie has a book called Atlantia that is very different from her Matched series.  Scott Westerfeld, author of the Uglies and Leviathan series, has a new novel entitled Afterworld.  Meg Wolitzer has a new novel entitled Belzhar (pronounced Bell Jar) that involves two teens, a classroom, journal writing, and the works of Sylvia Plath.  PJ Hoover has a new middle grade novel called Tut that will also have associated media components including a Minecraft world.  Jandy Nelson, Marie Lu, and Cat Winters also have promising new books soon to be released.

Technology is always a highlight of library conferences and the standout new tool for me was in the area of assessment.  One of the challenges with assessing new publications in science is the lag in citation appearances.  The University of Pittsburgh (yay Pitt!) has developed technology that tracks initial mentions via social media from publication date eliminating the lag of waiting for future publications with citations of a given publication.   It's also interesting to note that while the statistics show a huge increase in ebook purchase as well as an increase in ebook lending by libraries, the demand for hardcover books has reached an all-time high and continues to increase with the digital age. For all of the soothsayers who thought paper would disappear, it doesn't look like it will be happening any time soon.  It only takes one massive ice storm that knocks out power for a week to see the virtues of the non-digital world, even for the most tech-oriented among us.

I could rattle on for pages about the amazing experiences from ALA, but I would only be entertaining myself.  Suffice it to say that the world of libraries, information, and stories in all of their various formats is thriving and growing in wonderful ways.

Brian Floca

Jen Bryant & Melissa Sweet

Ilyasah Shabazz

Holly Black

Judy Blume
Claire Rudolph Murphy & Brian Collier

Meg Wolitzer - Belzhar
PJ Hoover - Tut

Marie Lu - The Young Elites
Cat Winters - The Cure for Dreaming

Ally Condie - Atlantia
Jandy Nelson- I'll Give You the Sun

Mo Willems
Jon Scieszka

KG Campbell and Kate DiCamillo

Marcus Sedgwick

Markus Zuzak
My awesome UK edition of The Book Thief!

Susann Cokol

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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