Over this past weekend, we had the honor of attending the Annual American Library Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. ALAAC17 was a get together of librarians from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to come together and celebrate libraries, literacy, books, and information sciences. This week we are going to share with you the things that we saw, the things we did, and the books that we got that we are the most excited for.
Kate’s Top 3 Events from ALAAC 2017
Ah, ALAAC (American Library Association Annual Conference). The conference where librarians come together to mingle, educate, and get a sneak preview of books that are coming out in the near future, as well as meet the authors who write them. This isn’t my first ALA experience, as in 2014 I went with Serena and our friends from library school. That time it was in Las Vegas, a city that seems like a strange choice for librarians. The good news is that we got into some odd shenanigans at the Pepper Mill and have many stories to tell. This time, however, it was in Chicago, and the deep dish pizza was far more appetizing than the desert scorch. It was mostly the same group that went again this year, though since it was the second time for most of us we knew the ins and outs of the convention and what to expect. In this post I will talk about the three things I saw that I liked the most.
Gene Luen Yang Speaking
Gene Luen Yang is a pretty formidable guy. Not only does he write acclaimed comics such as “American Born Chinese”, “Boxers and Saints”, and “The Shadow Hero”, he is also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His big project with this is the ‘Reading Without Walls Challenge’, in which he encourages young people to go outside their usual comfort levels when it comes to reading and to try reading 1) a book about someone who doesn’t look or live like you, 2) a book about a topic you don’t know much about, or 3) a book in format you don’t normally read for fun. He is an inspired speaker and absolutely charming, and hearing him talk about how he started writing comics was heartfelt and inspirational. Plus, he totally passed me during a panel and said a polite ‘hello’ to me, which seriously made my day. He had a lot to say about the need for diversity and windows and mirrors in children’s literature, and he also had some really fun and insightful things to say about Superman vs Batman. Basically, I love this guy and loved that I got to see him.
The Young Adult Author Coffee Klatch
The last time we went to ALAAC we participated in the YA Coffee Klatch, in which YA authors visit your table for five minutes and talk about their most recent book. I basically had a heart attach when Marcus Sedgwick sat at our table last time. This time, not only did I have one heart attack, I had multiple, because we got some SERIOUSLY AWESOME authors to sit with us. When the first one to sit down was Neal Shusterman to talk about his book “Scythe”, it was already worth it. But then we also got to hear from Kwame Alexander and Nnedi Okorafor, two other really big authors. Seeing as I LOVED the book “Akata Witch” and am excited for Alexander’s upcoming “Solo”, it felt like we had hit the jackpot with this coffee klatch this year. Though we only scratched the surface of the people that we got to see, we still got some good titles to look forward to, or to pick up already (I still need to get my hands on “Scythe,” and this just reminded me of that). And plus, I’m never going to say no to free coffee, especially when we have to get up early.
The Booklist 50 Years of YA Panel
Okay, so yeah, it’s all pretty YA oriented for me, but that is my passion as a librarian, and once again there was a great panel about the topic. Daniel José Older, Kristin Cashore, Brandy Colbert, Nicola Yoon, Neal Shusterman, Deborah Heiligman, and Megan Whalen Turner all gave their insights into the genre that they write, past, present, and future. Given that I LOVE Shusterman and Yoon, this was bound to be a winner from the get go. But everyone had some really good things to say about teens, the genre as a whole, and where it should go (as in to keep striving for diversity). It was a very good opportunity to see some of the best in the business.
Next up from me is hearing about the five top books I got at ALA that I’m most excited for. Because yes, this is also the kind of event where not only do you get free books, you get books that haven’t even come out yet. But before that, Serena is going to tell you the cool things that she did while at ALAAC 2017!!