Saturday, June 25, 2011

ALA: Opening Session

After an hour of thank yous, we finally got to our opening speaking, who was Dan Savage. He spoke about the It Gets Better Project, which he said relates to libraries because it's about information and access, things that are near and dear to our librarian hearts.

Dan explained why it was difficult for his parents when he came out. It didn't just mean he was gay. It meant he would never marry, never have children,never be a marine. Although he noted that he could be a marine now, but has no interest in it. He does a lot of speaking at universities, but realized that where he really needed to be speaking was at middle schools and high schools. Places, of course, he would never be permitted to speak. Dan then realized that in the age of YouTube,he didn't NEED to wait for permission. He could just do it. So he and his husband decided to start a YouTube channel that would tell young people not about the bullying, but about the joy. That there was something to look forward too.

Dan spoke some about how joy isn't always easy to talk about. First of all, he's Catholic, and if God hears you tailing about joy he'll take it from you. Dan and his husband found how difficult it was to focus on the joy when they did their first take of the video. They found they were talking about their bullying experiences, not the joy. So they tried again. They asked other people to make their own it gets better videos, and hoped they would get 100. By the end of the week, they had 650, which was the limit for a new YouTube channel user. Then a Google engineer dumped it up so they could have 5,000, and more and more came in of people sharing their stories.

Dan has an It Gets Better book coming out. He said, "I'm a print guy. I think books are magic." He knows how to get librarians to applaud. He wants to challenge schools with the book, to have it on the shelves, to talk about it, since schools are the sites of most of the bullying that goes on.

Librarians are doing something very similar to what Dan did. We help kids find the books they need, whether their parents want them to read those books or not.

Dan was really excellent. He was funny and engaging and sincere. A good start to the conference!

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