Thursday, July 31, 2014

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, illustrated by Brett Helquist

Unlike most people, Archie Dent knows that monsters are real.  That's because his parents are members of the Septemberist Society who protect the world from the monstrous Mangleborns.  They are currently trapped under ground, but every thousand years or so they rise again but have always been defeated by The League of Seven, who form in the time of need.  The Mangleborn are now waking, and when Archie's parents and the rest of the society is taken over by the Mangleborn, Archie sets out to save the day, and maybe form the new League of Seven himself.

This was a great start to the series, plus it was steampunk, which I very much enjoy.  It's 1875 America, and the reason everything is run on steam is because the Mangleborn feed off electricity.  It's the Septemberist's job to make sure electricity isn't discovered, and put an end to when it is.  There was some good world building going on, most mysterious is that all contact has been lost with Europe, which might mean it's been overtaken by the Mangleborn.  That was just mentioned in passing, but I'm sure it will show up again later.  Essentially the world kind of gets remade every time the Mangleborn show up and destroy everything.

The League of Seven is always made up of seven kinds of people - a tinker (like an inventor or mechanic), a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero.  Archie is convinced he is the hero of the new League of Seven, even though he can't quite figure out what his strengths are.  He meets two other kids around his age while trying to save his parents, Fergus, a young mechanic, and Hachi, a First Nations girl out for revenge.  It's after they start working together that Archie decides they're the new League of Seven, with Fergus as the tinker and Hachi as the warrior.

Various historic figures show up in the story.  We have Thomas Edison, the crazed scientist who's determined to harness electricity no matter what the cost.  There's Tesla, a paranoid recluse and member of the Septemberist Society.  There's also lots of delightful mechanical creations, I mean, it's steampunk.  So we have the ever polite Mr. Rivets, Archie's family's Tik Tok servant, who can fill a variety of roles from pilot to protector depending on which card is inserted in his back.

As the story progresses, Archie, Fergus, and Hachi begin having strange dreams, where they hear the Mangleborn speaking to them, and see Archie's parents working toward freeing one of the monsters (remember, they're brainwashed).  Archie, however, seems to have a strange connection with the monster, who keeps calling him Jandal a Haad and telling him he's made of stone.  As the group struggles to find answers, Archie learns more about the previous Leagues of Seven, and begins to worry that he's not the hero after all, he's something stranger and more dangerous.

It was a great mix of action, adventure, and even a bit of horror (what with monsters eating people).  I also like the entire League wasn't formed by the end of the book.  They may have defeated one monster, but there's plenty more where that came from.  Further members will be found in future books.

And don't you worry, steampunk fans, there are airships.  There are always airships.  There's even a battle while on an airship.  It doesn't get better than that.

The League of Seven comes out August 19, 2014.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Lanesha lives in New Orleans' Ninth Ward with Mama Ya-Ya who's cared for her since she was born.  Lanesha doesn't really have any contact with her uptown family, but she doesn't let it bother her.  Mama Ya-Ya is all she needs.  Mama Ya-Ya has visions and see ghosts.  When Mama Ya-Ya has a vision about upcoming hurricane Katrina that leaves her unable to take care of Lanesha, Lanesha knows it's time for her to help them both.

This was a beautiful, lyrical story.  It's not told in verse, but the language itself had a poetic, flowing quality to it.  Lanesha is a strange child, and she knows it.  She doesn't have any friends at school, all the kids think she's weird.  Lanesha loves math (she practices for fun) and sees ghosts, like the ghost of her mother who died giving birth to her.  Many people are scared of Mama Ya-Ya and think she's a witch.  Mama Ya-Ya was a midwife, but people stop wanting her to deliver their babies.

Lanesha is happy and secure inside her small world with Mama Ya-Ya, despite her lack of friends and the fact her blood family want nothing to do with her.  She has everything she needs, and Mama Ya-Ya takes care of her. 

As the hurricane approaches, Mama Ya-Ya starts to act strange.  She's had a vision she doesn't understand.  She keeps saying, "the hurricane is not the problem."  Lanesha is worried.  Mama Ya-Ya has never acted like this before.  She's never not taken care of things.  So it falls to Lanesha to prepare for the hurricane, and it's Lanesha that keeps them safe.

After the hurricane, Lanesha's one friend, TaShon, who lives across the street from her comes back, having lost his family while taking shelter in the Superdome.  They are together when the levees break and the water starts to rise.  By this point, Mama Ya-Ya is sick and Lanesha and TaShon must work together to survive.

The ending of the book was hopeful but sad.  We feel Lanesha's triumph at having survived and taken care of herself and TaShon, but we don't know what will happen to her.  And we, the reader, know all the pain that will be coming in New Orleans.  But we're left feeling that Lanesha will be all right.  She is an exceptional child.  She will make it through.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Winners of the 2014 International Latino Book Award.  From SLJ. 

School librarian cutbacks widen digital divide.  From District Administration. 

Maker culture and the library.  From PW.

Carnegie medal row over 'depressing' winner grows, and, why teenagers need bleak books.  From The Guardian.

Why your library needs music.  From SLJ. 

Judy Blume’s first novel for adults since Summer Sisters will be released in summer 2015.  From The New York Times.

The Story of Ferdinand
: talking with kids about the first children's book on gender nonconformity.  From The Huffington Post.

Annie on My Mind author Nancy Garden dies at age 76.  From SLJ.

Children's books given away at food banks.  From The Telegraph.

ALA report confirms negative impact of filtering on student learning.  From The Digital Shift.

American Association of School Libraries announces 2014 best websites for teaching & learning.  From SLJ.

Why J.K. Rowling will always be your favorite author.  From BuzzFeed.

10 best boarding school books.  From PW.

Reflecting on 25 years of The Giver.  From The Huffington Post.

Duncan Tonatiuh wants Latino children to see themselves in books.  From NBC News.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth

Jarrett's mom takes in foster kids.  Usually babies whom need a safe place for a short period of time.  But this time it's not just a baby.  It's a baby and her older brother.  Jarrett hates having to share his room Kevon, a total stranger, and doesn't appreciate people assuming they're cousins or friends.  And since Kevon's father can't be found, it looks like they'll be staying for a while...

I thought this was really well done.  It showed Jarrett's complex feelings about what his mother does.  It's admirable and selfless that his mother takes in babies.  Jarrett knows that.  But sometimes he feels like it's all about the babies.  They can't do anything, or go anywhere.  He feels like he doesn't get as much of his mother's attention as he should.  His mother's been talking about going back to school for years, but hasn't.  And it's hard, getting attached to the babies and then having them leave.

Jarrett is 11 and Kevon is 12.  The start off pretty much ignoring each other.  But it's summer, and Kevon ends up going with Jarrett to the Center, where Kevon instantly makes friends with all the guys and turns out to be awesome at basketball.  Jarrett is a little jealous and wants to take Kevon down a peg.  The two sabotage each other back and forth, until they each do something to each other that is possibly unforgivable.

Kevon situation was realistically sad.  He had his sister, Treasure, end up with Jarrett's family because Treasure is hurt, social services are call,  and their father can't be found.  Kevon insists he doesn't know where his father is, but Jarrett is pretty sure he's lying.  It turns out that Kevon's father is mentally unstable and off his medication.  Kevon has mostly been caring for Treasure on his own.

Other, less serious stuff is going on as well.  There's a girl Jarrett really likes but can't get up the courage to talk to.  Jarrett and his friend Ennis, who has a secret of his own, are making movie trailers.  Jarrett is in summer school and he's afraid he might have to repeat a grade.  All this stuff about Kevon and his father make Jarrett wonder about his own father, about who he knows nothing.

I thought it was a really well done guys-friendship book, and one that might ring true for a lot of kids.

Kinda Like Brothers comes out August 26, 2014.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs

Frank Einstein is a scientist and an inventor.  He's also a kid.  Frank is determined to win this year's Midville Science Prize.  With the winnings, he'll be able to save his grandfather's Fix It! repair shop.  With Frank's invention of two SmartBots, Klink and Klank, he tackles his biggest project of all: an antimatter motor.  But Frank, his friend Watson, and the two robots realizes they have bigger problems to worry about than the science fair: Frank's rival kid-scientist Edison has some evil ideas of his own.

I love the idea of these books.  A series that teaches scientific concepts!  So cool!  This first book looked at the concept of matter, the next book will look at energy, and so on it will go through six planned books.  Really great idea.  And I totally learned things.  For example, on the second page, I learned the correct way to calculate distance between seeing lightening and hearing thunder.  I always thought the number of seconds between them was the number of miles a way the storm was.  Wrong! You have to divide it by five, because there's five seconds between light and sound for every mile.  I've been doing it wrong my whole life.

As for the story itself, I wasn't blown away.  It was a fine lower-middle grade read.  It wasn't quite what I expect from Jon Scieszka, which is really sharp and funny.  I mean, it's quite the undertaking, explaining the entire concept of matter while also making a fun story!  Future books will probably be smoother.  I thought it was perhaps a little clunky, melding the adventure story with the science concepts.  

I liked that along with the story there are diagrams of the scientific concepts.  You can ignore them if you want, but they definitely helped a visual person like me better understand the concepts Frank was using in his inventions.  And aside from the diagrams there were very cute illustrations by Brain Biggs.

I look forward to seeing where the rest of the series goes.

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor comes out August 19, 2014.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


March Book Two coming in 2015.  From PW.

Remembering Mary Rodgers, author of Freaky Friday.  From The New York Times.

A Florida school pulls Paper Towns from its summer reading list.  From Los Angeles Times.

The Amazon vs. Hathett battle goes on.  From SLJ.

College graduates have trouble doing deep online searches.  From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

12 great graphic novel adaptations.  From PW.

Roger Sutton says the Children’s Choice Book Awards are nonsense.  From The Horn Book.

FCC approves e-rate plan to inject $2 billion into wifi for schools and libraries.  From SLJ.

The bench in Amsterdam where Hazel and August kiss in The Fault in Our Stars movie is missing.  From The Huffington Post.

Go Boston!  Boston leads in young adult and children's books.  From The Boston Globe.

Comic Con 2014.  From PW.

Book drive for unaccompanied immigrant children now underway.  From Los Angeles Times.

Gayle Forman's If I Stay coming to theaters this August.  From SLJ.

Should children's books have happy endings?  From The Guardian.

The Brontes made tiny books as children.  From BuzzFeed.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has released its first Banned Books Week Handbook.  And it's free!  From PW.

Soviet children’s literature: The struggle between ideology and creativity.  From Russia Beyond the Headlines.

On adapting The Graveyard Book to a graphic novel.  From PW.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached

Zeina Abirached, who wrote the beautiful and poignant A Game for Swallows writes another graphic novel of wartime memories.

In A Game of Swallows, Abirached tells the story of  her time growing up during the civil war in Lebanon.  It was more of a tradition telling of her life during that time.  In I Remember Beirut, Abirached simply tells things she remembers.

"I remember when there was no electricity or gas, we used kerosene for heating."  "I remember traffic jams."  "I remember how to fold a paper boat."  Each of these memories relates to a larger event or experience Abirached recalls from the time of the war.

It paints a detailed picture of everyday life for a child during this time.  It also allows us to see the things that Abirached remembers and considers important as an adult, and in some cases, how they impacted her.

What I've loved about Abirached's graphic novels is that the simple and straightforward way they are told allows them to be appropriate for a middle grade audience.  Her graphic novels are an excellent way to help a younger child understand war the effects it has on the children, or to explore how another child's life can be so different from their own.

The illustrations are impactful.  Done in black and white, and fitting with the story, simple in detail, the panels and full page illustrations further show the impact these events had on Abirached's life.

I Remember Beirut comes out October 1, 2014.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson

Hilary Westfield, now a pirate and Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates member is hard at work bringing magic back to the land.  However, there are those that question whether she is piratical enough and Hilary must take on an adventure to live up to her name of The Terror of the Southlands.  Before she can engage in a duel or kill a sea monster, the Enchantress goes missing and Hilary knows that her friends must come first.  She sets off on a quest, which might prove she's the Terror after all.

I absolutely loved Magic Marks the Spot, which was Caroline Carlson's first book.  There were many laugh-out-loud moments and I thought the whole things was fresh and witty and just generally delightful.  That of course meant I had very high expectations for the second book in the series.  No pressure or anything.  While I didn't find myself laughing out loud this time around, it was still delightful and a great second book the series.

Hilary has fulfilled her dream of becoming a member of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, but since her dramatic finding of the Enchantress' treasure and the arrest of her father, Hilary has mostly been helping Captain Jasper bring magic pieces to all the people of the land.  This gets her a letter from the League president telling her that she isn't acting piratical enough and needs to step it up.  Hilary is quiet distressed, because honestly, she isn't sure if she can defeat another pirate in a duel or kill a sea monster.  Before she can try, the Enchantress disappears.

With the disappearance of the Enchantress, who was keeping everyone in line with their newly found use of magic, things start to fall apart.  People are NOT acting very responsibly!  Hilary knows she must try to help the Enchantress, even if the VNHLP president seems suspiciously against it.  And then Captain Jasper is kidnapped!

With her usual crew of first mate Charlie, Claire, her finishing school friend, the gargoyle and her governess Miss Geryson they set off to find them both and soon discover a group called The Mutineers, who write very polite letters, is behind it.

There's great action and adventure.  There's dramatic betrayals and friendships proven.  There's lots of tongue-in-cheek humor.  As with the first, it's all about being true to your friends and to who you really are.  And the girl who will become the new Enchantress is discovered!  As ever, delightful all around.

The Terror of the Southlands comes out September 9, 2014.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier returns in this companion to Smile.  Raina always wanted a sister, but Amara isn't the fun friend to play with Raina had in mind!  Amara is grouchy and likes to keep to herself.  Their relationship only becomes more strained as they get older.  It all comes to a head when they're trapped on a family car trip from San Francisco to Colorado.

As with all of Raina Telgemeier's books, this was cute and sweet and thoughtful.  I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Smile or Drama, perhaps I had unrealistically high expectations.  I just didn't feel like there was a much to this one as there was to the others.  And the ending felt unfinished and sudden.  I still loved reading it, and fans of Raina's will be delighted with this.

Raina's siblings don't come into Smile very much.  Smile is mostly focused on Raina's relationships with her friends.  In Sisters, we get to see the family dynamics.  The book goes back and forth between the present day with Raina, Amara, their little brother and their mother setting off on the road trip, and when Raina and Amara were little.  We get to see Raina as a toddler wishing for a sister, and her disappointment that Amara didn't turn out to be the sister she was hoping for.  We see Amara's personality beginning to develop, which is a demanding, independent, and rather grouchy one.  Both sisters have a love for drawing, but it doesn't seem to be something they can share and do together.

The family is going to visit Raina's mother's sister, who they haven't seen in years, and Raina will get to spend time with her cousins.  She's very anxious about fitting in and making sure they like her.  Amara doesn't care.  Raina has learned to tune out problems at home, which include her parent's constant fighting, Amara's tantrums, and her little brother's general noise, by listening to music.  Music is clearly an important part of her life, but she comes to realize that she's missing out on a lot by plugging herself in.

As the family returns home, Raina's mother tells the siblings that she and their father need some time apart.  Raina is surprised, but Amara isn't.  The book ends with the hope that the sisters will begin to support each other more.

The ARC I had wasn't in full color yet, but the pages that were in color had a slightly darker color pallet.  More greens and browns and yellows than her others, I think.  As with her other graphic novels, the story is told through standard panels with Raina's adorable and friendly looking characters.

Sisters comes out August 26, 2014.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


Remembering Walter Dean Myers.  From American Libraries.

Walter Dean Myers passes at 76.  From SLJ.

#WeNeedMoreWalterDeanMyers.  From SLJ.

Obituary: Walter Dean Myers.  From PW.

Freaky Friday author Mary Rodgers Dies at 83.  From SLJ.

Distinguished children’s author Allan Ahlberg has declined the inaugural Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award, because it is sponsored by Amazon.  From The Bookseller.

The best illustrations from 150 years of Alice in Wonderland.  From Brain Pickings.

In The Little Engine That Could some see an early feminist hero.  From NPR.

Reading from birth can help close the learning gap.  From SLJ.

Children's literature takes us on a tour of New York.  From

James Patterson's Maximum Ride heads to YouTube as a miniseries.  From Page to Pramier.

Daniel Radcliffe won't return as Harry Potter.  From The Guardian.

Reading is Fundamental survey says summer reading is not a priority.  From SLJ.

YA from the UK on the rise.  From The Guardian.

Cape Henlopen School District's decision to take a book off a summer reading list for incoming high school freshmen has drawn protests from librarians, some parents and teachers.  From Delaware Online.

Amazon makes offer to Hachette authors.  From The Washington Post.

When librarians are told to censor kids' books.  From boingboing.

Eisner Foundation Builds Graphic Novel Collections and Programming.  From SLJ.

Get ready for The Giver movie.  From PW.

Reading Rainbow: the most popular Kickstarter ever.  From LA Times.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet

Sunday evening was the lovely Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet.  Before we get into the awards, I just want to commend whoever is doing the organizing of the banquet that I really appreciate the effort they have been putting in to accommodating people with dietary restrictions.  I have a lot of dietary restrictions, and it's really nice to be able to go the banquet and actually be able to eat a full meal.  It's gotten better every year, and this year they had it pretty much down.  

The banquet started with a cocktail hour.  Then around 6:30, people began gathering at the doors so everyone can have a mad dash inside and try to claim tables so you can all sit with all your friends.  Seriously, it can be a little dangerous.  You either need to step back and let the crazy people dash in, or be prepared to stick your elbows out.

 The Caldecott this year is going to Locomotive, by Brian Floca, so the program had this very cool pop out of a train.  Things started out by acknowledging the members of both the Newbery and the Caldecott committees.  We were asked to hold our applause until all names had been said.  Unlike a high school, where such an announcement would immediately have been followed by applause and hooting after every name, we were actually able to follow directions and applauded at the end.  Nice job adults, nice job.  We are an example to all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Art of the Author Visit: Connecting Teens with their Favorite Authors

Sunday was a good day for sessions.  I went to another great one called "The Art of the Author Visit: Connecting Teens with their Favorite Authors."  It was presented by Allison Tran, teen services librarian and Courtney Saldana from Ontario City Library, California.  They were also joined by Jessica Brody, author of the Unremembered series to get an author prospective of what makes things good or bad for the author.

First they talked about building partnerships.  Get to know the people who work at your local independent bookstore, if you're lucky enough to have one.  Network at conferences.  Talk to people, meet authors, get your face known.  Make use of bloggers in your community!  There are book bloggers who have a lot of clout in the field.  Connect with them.  Get to know your local book community - know what people are interested in.

In terms of contacting people, most authors would prefer to be emailed directly rather than going through a publicist.  Second best way is contacting the author's publicist, third is making a pitch personally, fourth is reaching out on social media.  If you do ask an author personally, make sure you follow up by email the next day.  And go ahead and ask!  The worst that can happen is they'll say no.

Make use of social media.  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are all great places to find authors.  Friend the authors, their publicist and their publishing houses.  Let authors know when you've read and enjoyed their books, or when your kids love their books.  It gets your name know and builds some good will.  Keep in mind Skype can be a great way to bring an author into your library when they can't make an in-person trip.

After laying the ground work, Allison and Courtney talked about holding individual events, individual authors, and hosting a festival.  Some tips: Crowd control!  If it's going to be big, have tickets so you know how many people are coming.  Make sure you have a room that can accommodate your numbers, even if that means moving out of the library.  Plan for preshow entertainment!  Author's schedules are often tight, and they could be late.  Don't let a huge crowd just sit there.  For any event, more sure to promote it!  Make displays with books, bios of the authors and other information.  Take lots of pictures at your events!  And always expect the unexpected.

Courtney talked about starting the Ontario Teen Book Fest which started quite small with just a couple authors, and is now a huge, yearly, day-long event with panels of authors.  Very cool.

After the talk, Jessica Brody did an abridge version of the author presentation she give to high school students, which was excellent.  Charming and engaging.

Meet Any Good Authors Lately?
Skype an Author Network

Children's Librarians in the Lead: Managing Change, Inspiring Innovation & Empowering the Next Generation

On Sunday I went to an excellent program called "Children's Librarians in the Lead: Managing Change, Inspiring Innovation & Empowering the Next Generation."  It was presented by Amber Creger, Kid's World Manger, Gretchen Caserotti, library director at Meridian Library, and Kiera Parrott, editor of School Library Journal.  The three gave some excellent advice.

They first started off asking who's already doing a management job without being in a management position.  Lots of hands went up.  This is a common occurrence.  Everyone has to work the reference desk, but no one wants to volunteer to work with kids or in the teen room.  Often a single librarian ends up wearing many hats and essentially managing staff, programing, ordering, everything that has to do with youth services.

Monday, July 7, 2014

YA Author Coffee Klatch

Something my fellow library friends and I have been doing regularly for the last several years is YALSA's YA Author Coffee Klatch.  It's usually held on Sunday morning, and it's like author speed dating.  You sit at a table and every two or three minutes a whistle is blown and a different author sits down with you to chat about their latest books and answer questions.

Last year the Klatch started almost 15 minutes late, and the authors had five minutes at the table.  This year things ran much more smoothly, and authors had less time at the tables but it allowed us to talk to many more authors.  I liked the shorter amount of time, actually.  I thought things ran very well this year.

The Rest of Saturday at ALA

Stan Lee was definitely the highlight of Saturday at the conference.  I checked out a couple more sessions, but they weren't really what I was looking for.  I went to "Common Core State Standards and General Education: Information Literacy Connects the Dots."  I was hoping to learn more about the Common Core Standards, more details of the ins and outs and other states implementation stories, but that's not really what it was.  It was just going over the basics, which was probably helpful for many but just not what I was looking for. 

I then checked out a session called "Teens, Turntables, and Tater-tots: Lunchroom Outreach with CLP-BAM! (Books and More)."  I thought that sounded cool, doing library lunchroom outreach.  What I did not realize was that CLP-BAM! was an organization that comes into your school to do this outreach for you.  So it wasn't exactly the focus I was looking for.  I did really like the idea though, even if I don't use the actual program itself.  I think it's great for the librarian to get out of the library (which I know is not always possible, especially when you're the only one) and do some outreach.  Lunch time is a great time to do this.  Some of the suggestions BAM! had was bringing popular books to lunch and doing remote check-outs, and getting kids signed up for library cards.

A came back with a lot of books on Saturday.  Like, 25 of them.  Since I'm moving from high school to middle school, I was asking all the vendors for suggestions of middle grade reads that would be coming out that I should be aware of.  I got some great stuff that I'm looking forward to reading.  In particular:

Sisters by Rain Telgemeier, a companion graphic memoir to Smile.  I'm sure it will be just as popular as Smile and Drama.  That is to say, very popular.

Smek for President! by Adam Rex.  I had no idea there was a follow up to The True Meaning of Smekday!  That book was excellent.  Really looking forward to reading this.

Kazu Kibuishi has been seriously ill, so it was great to see he's doing better and continuing on with the fabulous Amulet series.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.  I've been hearing wonderful things about this one, and it's Jacqueline Woodson, so how can you go wrong?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Stan Lee

I had the delight of hearing Stan Lee speak at the conference this year.  The room was completely filled, so I had to go to the overflow room, which was set up with sound and a projector so we could watch remotely.  That room was also completely full.  Everyone wanted some Stan Lee.

Stan Lee is clearly at the stage in his life where he's just going to say whatever the hell he wants to say and not give a damn.  And it was delightful.

Stan Lee started off by asking us "what the hell can I teach you about reading?"  Legit question, Stan Lee.  He then informed us "reading is good," which is going to get no argument from an audience full of librarians.  He told us about a time when comic books use to just be about fight scenes.  The plot and the characters didn't matter at all.  He didn't like doing this kind of comic, and he was going to quit, but his wife said, "Why don't you write whatever you want?  You'll get fired but you want to quit anyway."  Stan Lee thought this was good advice and created The Fantastic Four.

The Problem with the American Library Association

Ah, ALA.  Our mighty parent organization.  The American Library Association.  The organization which we're all suppose to belong to, with its millions of umbrella organizations (YALSA, AASL, etc.) and its practically unusable website.

The first day of the ALA 2014 annual conference in lovely (sarcasm) Las Vegas showed to us a serious flaw in the ALA system.  Fine, it showed us one particular flaw in the ALA system.  This problem is cost.  If you are a librarian working in the field, it cost $100 to join ALA.  It then costs an additional $50 per umbrella organization you may want to join.

If you are a member of ALA, it then cost you $235 for a full registration to the annual conference assuming you get in during the Early Bird Special.  It will then cost additional money if you want to go to the pre-conference or any special events being held.  For a non-member who isn't a student it will cost $325 for a full registration (with the early bird special).  Is it any wonder that some of us buy a $35 Exhibits Only pass?

ALA use to offer a $75 Exhibits Supreme pass that got you into the exhibit hall, the President's Program speakers, and the Auditorium Speaker Series.  That is no longer an option.  You can either get a full registration or an Exhibits Only, and this year, the Exhibits Only pass did not get you in Friday night, just Saturday-Monday.

Now, if you work for a large public library, or an academic institution, this all possibly doesn't matter to you because your library is going to pay your way.  They pay for your ALA membership, your conference registration, maybe even your flight, your hotel, food costs and everything!  That is pretty sweet if your library does that.  But if you work for a small public library without a lot of funding or a school library it is highly unlikely anyone is paying your way.  That means all those costs to be part of your overseeing organization are coming out of your pocket.

ALA is always saying how much they want young people to get more involved.  Maybe we would.  If we could afford it.  You know who had the Exhibit Only badges at the conference this year?  Young people.  People in their 20s and 30s.  The ones in their first or second jobs, with thousands of dollars of student loan debt, working their way up the library ladder.  Sorry ALA, but it's really hard to participate in your organization when you don't give us options.  You know what a lot of young people don't have?  Hundreds of dollars to spend on conferences.  You know what we'd like to do?  Get professional development like everyone else in our field.

I met some other youngish librarians who both worked in academic institutions who were lucky enough to be sent by their libraries.  They were horrified that my fellow school librarians and I were paying our own way.

This is what I want - options.  I want ALA to provide options for joining their organization.  I want there not just to be a student discount option, but also discounts depending on what kind of institution you are working for and what your budget is.  I want there to be options when registering for a conference.  I understand that people who pay more should get more at the conference, but if that's the case, give me an option between $35 and $235.  Help us out.  We want to go.  We really do.  And we don't just want to go to the exhibit hall and get free books (as awesome as that is).  We want to go to speakers and panels and discussions and learn things and share ideas.  Help us out!

And wake up.  This all makes you seem terribly out of touch.

And hire a professional to redo the website.  It's embarrassing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Back Home

And I return from ALA.  I'm sorry I wasn't able to do full posts while I was away.  It turned out the hotel I was staying out did not have free wifi (who doesn't have free wifi these days?!) and I just couldn't bring myself to pay $13.99 for 24 hours of use.  So I didn't.  I did a lot of tweeting from the convention center though, so hopefully you were following along.  I am very glad to be back.  I did not enjoy Las Vegas and its 111 degree days.  And I don't care that people say, "but it's a dry heat."  Once it's over 100, it really doesn't matter any more.  So I'm glad to be away from that and back in a place that has moisture in the air.  I went to some great sessions and returned with lots of books, so I'll start writing stuff up.  Stay tuned!
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