ALA Conference Report – Final Thoughts

Photo courtesy of Ana Elba Pavon

Following up our previous posts, here are the final reports from our members on their recent ALA Conference experiences.

Lisa Hubbell attended “Teen Advisory Boards – Keeping Teens Interested,” and found it very helpful. The program described several practical things to do, including displays, a short story contest, and summer activities. Here is the link to the ALA site with the handouts and information:

Helen Bloch attended two programs she thought were interesting and reports:

There’s an App for That! This was a very informative and fun program presented by two Children’s Librarians and two School Librarians. The number of apps out there is overwhelming and it was great to discover how the librarians incorporate apps into their programming, which apps they love, and how they find good apps.

Programming –In public libraries apps are being used in storytimes, both English and bilingual, as well as in monthly Book Clubs, LEGO programs, Art Clubs, Computer Programs and Travel Clubs. Additionally, at one public library, a parent group has been created where parents can get together and share their favorite apps.

Some of the technical issues of using apps in the public library setting, such as creating accounts, synching devices, etc. were also discussed.

Things to look for when evaluating apps were discussed. Among other things, look for simple apps, apps w/o ads, apps with outstanding graphics and apps with lots of interactivity.

The presentation by the school librarians divided apps into three categories: Storybook apps, Content Creation Apps and Apps that Extend Learning. Lots of different apps in each category were previewed.  The program link lists all of the apps mentioned along with their creators and prices. .

The New Nonfiction – This thought-provoking program examined the question of whether today’s nonfiction differs from the nonfiction of old and, if it does, in what ways it differs. The speakers (Joe Saunders, Marc Aronson, Nina Lindsay, Susan Campbell Bartoletti and Marina Budhos) brought differing opinions to the discussion. Some of the intriguing points discussed included: the use of authorial viewpoint, what is a“fact” and can “facts” change, and the use of the power of “story” in writing nonfiction for children. Audience discussion included lots of questions about the Common Core Standards.

Marya Kurwa found the workshop “Readers Advisory Transformation” very helpful. Here are the links to content from that presentation:

Another one from Williamsburg Library was:

Colombus Metroplitan library suggested: 

Miriam Medow had this to share about the program Fabulous Havens: Libraries as Safe Spaces for the needs of LGBTQ youth. Presented by the education director of GLSEN (gay, lesbian, straight education network):

Discussed the experiences of young LGBTQ people being bullied and/or silenced, and offered suggestions for creating a safe space for these kids in the library. Included a few short videos of young people talking about their sexual identities, the challenges they have faced due to their sexual expression, and what has helped them develop resilience.

Main takeaways:

  • Sexual identity is just one of many identities that kids are developing, it’s not THE defining feature of their lives.
  • LGBTQ kids are NOT more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems. Rather, kids who are victimized tend to be more troubled. LGBTQ kids who aren’t victimized are, by and large, healthy and well-adjusted.
  • Gender neutral bathrooms can go a long way towards creating a comfortable space for LGBTQ youth (and adults, for that matter!).
  • It’s important to have materials in our collections of interest to LGBTQ kids, but it won’t do any good if they don’t know the books are there! Create displays, bibliographies, and use spine labels to promote LGBTQ-friendly items.
  • Designating an area as a “safe space” for LGBTQ kids (and, really, all kinds of kids) is great! But ONLY if you can make CERTAIN that the space is indeed safe. If, for instance, a kid is victimized next to a “hate-free zone” poster in a hallway, that kid will never feel safe in the space regardless of what the posters proclaim. Good ideas: wear a rainbow sticker on our nametags or wear a button that identifies us as allies.
  • Establish a zero-tolerance approach towards disrespect in the library. We’re the adults, and it’s up to us to act as role models. With our consistent intervention, the library will become a place where basic disrespect – and, by extension, bullying of LGBTQ kids – just doesn’t happen.   For more information, check out:

Alan Bern attended several conference events and had this to say:

Outcomes + Outreach = Outstanding Summer Reading Programs – ALA Preconference. Put on by CLA, this Preconference was a very valuable look at modifying Summer Reading Programs to both (a) plan for collecting information in order to determine basic outcomes from needs assessment data — the outcome results can later be used to inform funders, politicians, and other staff (PR, fundraising, and political support) – and (b) develop programs and services for a targeted and doable outreach to a chosen underserved population. A fine balance of information presented and participation by attendees.

Michelle Poris’s presentation during the recent ALSC/YALSA presidents program, The Digital Lives of Tweens and Young Teens. Find more information and a link here:

USSBY: Writing About War for Young People: Three Writers, Three Wars – This terrific and incredibly moving program featured three books: My brother’s shadow by Monika Schroder (WWI), Between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys (WWII), and Words in the dust by Trent Reedy (war in Afghanistan). One goal of the program was to “relate the ‘stories behind the stories’ of their books along with difficulties encountered in writing about this topic for young people.” Leave it to USSBY to bring together such a powerful group of authors and a large, receptive group of attendees: weeping and strong responses were legion among both presenters and attendees. These are powerful, very personal, books about war that young teens and teens are reading both in Berkeley and around the U.S. Co-sponsored by ALSC (the Association of Library Services to Children) and USSBY (the United States Board on Books for Young People).

The 2012 Pura Belpré Celebración – The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate) hosted the annual Celebracion to honor the 2012 medal and honor winners of the Pura Belpré Award. The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 and honors Latino writers and illustrators whose works of art best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in a book for children. It is named for the first Latina librarian who distinguished herself for her storytelling and outreach work with children and their families while working for the New York Public Library during the first decade of the twentieth century. This year’s Celebracion was as heart-filling and powerful as any that I have attended: I have been an active supporter of these awards since I first became a librarian in 1993, and Linda Perkins – who received the 2012 Association for Library Service to Children’s (ALSC) Distinguished Service Award from the ALSC Committee upon which I served this year ( – was a truly vital part of making this important award a reality. At the Celebracion, acceptance speeches and introductions were heart-felt and moving, the community entertainment (ballet folklorico from Orange County) boisterous and invigorating, and the attendees totally involved. This year’s winners are all available here at Berkeley Public Library, or will be on our shelves soon!

Thanks to everyone for their reports from the ALA Conference!

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