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Thoughts from #ALA12 – the fun

Posted by lpearle on 29 June 2012

In addition to all the meetings and the learning, there was fun to be had at ALA.

Of course (obviously?) the fun was book-centered. At the opening of the Exhibits, my ARC Ninja posse and I hit the various book publishers for ARCs. Thanks to BEA a few weeks earlier, I’d already gotten a number of them (and was able to point out good ones to the others) so this was a smaller haul than usual. Still, there were a few that I’d been hoping for that I did get – thank you, publishers. I’ll be reading, reviewing and making purchasing decisions for the rest of the summer! Sadly, that was the last time I’d be on the exhibit floor until Monday.

After that came the ISS Social. The sad thing is that all too often the faces change with each gathering. Don’t get me wrong, meeting new people is fun, but if I get to meet person A in Anaheim, there’s a good chance I’ll never see them again (or at least until 2015, when ALA is in San Francisco). That it was scheduled opposite the opening of the exhibits was also problematic, but I did make it and got to see many of my ISS buddies.

Then came the LBYR Dance Party in honor of Libba Bray’s The Diviners. I’ve raved about how passionate Libba is about the research process – now it’s time to rave about her mad dance skillz. She’s nearly my age and… I didn’t move like that when I was younger, much less now. I’d been told it was an 80s dance party and even submitted several (oh, all right, more than 100) song titles that had kept me and my ELS frat friends dancing back in the day. Being the kind of prepared person I am, I even wore an 80s dress – bought and worn by me in the late 80s. Proof?

Amy, Wendy and Laura at LBYR party (by Francey)

The next day brought the HarperCollins Book Buzz. I can’t tell you how much I love listening to this crew! Of all the book buzzes, this is the one where you really get a sense that you’re listening to colleagues who actually like each other and enjoy joking with each other. It may be “just a job” but that’s not what they convey to the audience. Many other publishers recite the blurb/promo lines about each book in a near monotone – something you’ll never hear at HC. And fruit at breakfast? Heaven!

Bookending that day was the YALSA Happy Hour. I only stopped by for a little while, be it was enough time to see a few friends I didn’t see again during the conference.

Sunday started with my favorite “for me” events: the RUSA Literary Tastes gathering. In previous years this was a ticketed breakfast, but for some reason this year it was a non-ticketed session. Whatever the reasoning, the event was still good. Erin Morgenstern, Russell Banks, Candace Millard and Mark Adams spoke about their books and work – Erin shared that her mother is an elementary school librarian in a library with reading nooks, as well as telling us the backstory of how Night Circus came to be; Russell talked about the writing process; Candace talked about the horrors of Garfield’s death, Alexander Graham Bell’s inventions, and her adventures in the National Archives; and Mark talked about his PhD in literary theory and how that led to his writing career. It’s unfortunate that this is cross-scheduled against the YALSA Kaffeeklatsch, but I’ll take Literary Tastes any day.

That evening brought a wonderful reception sponsored by Oxford Reference at the Bowers Museum. Not only was there decent wine and nibbles, the setting was great: we had the run of the museum. Lucky us, the Faberge exhibit had just opened so Amy Fiske and I got our ritz on. I’d been to Luten Hoo when I was younger (sadly, no longer open to the public!!), and this trove of Faberge trinkets was just as fascinating. We also checked out the Spirits and Headhunters: Art of the Pacific Islands exhibit, fascinating in an entirely different way. Many of the items in the latter exhibit were from the 20th century, which made me wonder about the ephemeral nature of that region’s art.

Finally, I was there when history was made! The first ever Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the first ever Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction were awarded. It was stunning to realize that this award was approved in April and here it was June and the selection committee had read so much in so short a time. We heard from a few of the finalists (one had died and one had a family emergency), all honored to be considered as part of the inaugural “class”.

So much fun…

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