Spot the Empire Librarian's blog

Welcome to a librarian's online musings on libraries, literature and information media.

ALA Mid Winter – Chicago really IS the windy city

Leave a comment

MW15_pod_238x120I am most grateful to the American Library Association (ALA), in particularly the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) division to include me in their Day of Diversity Symposium on Friday January 30th, 2015 in Chicago, IL.    The award,  one of 20 given to librarians across the country, involves a $1 500 grant to promote bringing culturally diverse and appropriate STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities to awarded communities. and diversity services in our Lagrange Library,  as well as $500 to aid in travel expenses to  the symposium, part of the ALA’s Mid Winter conference from January 30- Feb 3, 2015.


A daytime view from my hotel window of the Chicago Harbor. The Trump Tower dominates the view.


The same pretty view from my hotel room at nigh

I am beyond excited to be in Chicago.  One of my favorite cities.  Admittedly it is a rather chilly time of year to visit though my Canuck sensibilities and the power of dressing in layers made the trip bearable.  Upon settling into my room,  with a supper of soup and  some fruit from a neighboring Whole Foods ( I am still battling the flu at this point),  I tackled some of the required reading in preparation for the next day’s symposium.

These readings are listed below.


While reading, I brought my shark socks, a recent Christmas gift from Mr. Potwin. Not only are they warm and cozy while reading, they are fun!

chicago-diversityThis session focused on practical strategies participants have successfully employed for increasing diversity awareness within the publishing and library communities. Therefore, attendees are encouraged to bring real examples and tangible ideas to create an equal exchange between the publishing and library world. The discussion will focus on key issues in diversity, children’s books, and librarianship.  While I was one of 20 librarians,  a total of 300 participants attended from the areas of publishing, educators, editors, book sellers, authors and illustrators. ( I can honestly say that I met Wendy Lamb of Wendy Lamb imprints!)

A number of the outcomes from the day of dialogue center around  better education:  education of librarians, teachers and editors who are entering their fields.  Buying books with diverse themes to offer on library shelves is not enough.  Librarians need to educate teachers of these titles to include on their summer reading lists,  including titles of diversity within the  Youth Media Awards ( think Newbery, Caldecott, Belle Du Pre  awards etc.) drives increase purchasing and demand for these titles as well as employing editors and publishing houses which recognize the need for diversity within the materials they are publishing.  It is intended that these  diverse materials are  for two audiences….for the diverse audience themselves  with an accurate portrayal of their lives and secondly as a learning experience for audiences which are not part of that slice of society.  Diversity can be defined as multi cultural, sexual orientation, economically disadvantaged  and mentally / physically disadvantaged.  it is time that publishing reflect the  changes in our societal make up.



The location,  an opulent conference room at the Chicago Hilton, across from Buckingham Fountain,  was true to Chicago’s architectural heritage.

From there, I took the conference shuttle to the McCormmick Conference Center.   Gale Cengage sponsored the cost of the shuttle buses.  I really loved the bus wraps!


I checked into the conference, picking up my conference badge  and conference listing book.  After heading back to my hotel for a quick nap to recharge and fight off my flu aches, I returned to tool around the exhibition area.  For anyone who has never been to an ALA Annual  Conference or Mid Winter conference,  let me explain.  The exhibition hall is like a library geek carnival.  There are prizes and giveaways, drawings for gift baskets, and Advanced Reader Copies of the latest novel  that publishers are promoting. Author signing, cooking demos and sometimes a celeb sighting or two happen. Collecting ribbons for yourIMG_0686 (4) conference badge is truly a ‘badge of honor’. There are demos and sales people eager to answer questions about their products.   Yes, library products  are  a whole industry upon themselves.  From traditional library  pockets and protective book covers to book mobiles, library furniture and databases.  I find it to be a helpful time to finally meet vendors face to face with whom I deal with over the phone .  ( Hallu to W.T. Cox subscription services and SWANK movie licensing!) If there is one thing I can impart to first time attendees ….it is to pace yourself.  Do not ‘do’ the exhibition hall in one false swoop.  That can be to overwhelming and exhausting.  Break your visit up into several sessions.   Secondly, it takes resolve,  though it is key to resist picking up everything that is handed out.  I have seen people with ‘carts’ collecting every ARC copy they can get their hands on. ALA does provide a helpful service of USPS  postal outlet in the exhibition hall to mail items back to your library.  Yet, those of us who flew in,  must remember that the airline does have luggage weight  restrictions.  Many of these items can be mailed upon request from the vendor to your library directly.chicago-conference exhibtionOne of the coolest displays was of a book vending machine. I have heard of such services,  though never seen one in action before.   It operates similar to a dry cleaner’s carousel.  Once the patron’s library card is scanned ,  the slot number is selected on the touch screen,  then it is dispensed.  Alternatively,  this vending location also serves as a book return for all library materials.  It was pretty cool.chicagovendingmachine

The following day,  I was feeling moderately less flu like and spent a portion of my morning volunteering at the Young Adult Services Association (YALSA) booth,  another division I belong too.


I was able to attend a number of info session and presentations relating to library services transforming community.  One of my neighboring librarians , in Red Hook, NY, is a recipient of the Transforming Communities grant from the Harwood Foundation.  Their principle is that in order for library services to improve,  the community must buy in to the improvement by being participatory.  Municipal services are part of the fabric of the community,  yet the community must be participatory.

chicago-benbizzleAlso noteworthy, I attend Ben Bizzles’  Create a Revolution presentation.  Bizzle, an IT guy for the Craighead Jones Library System in AK,  is part of a creative marketing team which has reached out to the community is fun and innovative  fashion, relying heavily on social media to get their message out to the community. Women and Geekdom was a panel of four women from the field of technology and spoke about how to better program to  youth, particularly girls.  An hour of code was discussed…something which many libraries in the Mid Hudson Library System already do, including Lagrange.

Saturday night, before leaving for supper @ the South Water Kitchen with Erica from Red Hook , her Deputy Mayor and one of her clerks, I was notified by the airline that  my Sunday night flight was cancelled. With luck, I was able to get a seat on a flight out of O’Hare @ 7.30am   ahead of the snow storm.  While leaving  early, ahead of the Youth Media Awards ceremony is disheartening,  I  was on one of the last flights out before the snowstorm hit. And on an up note, I was able to fly  into Newburgh, NY in late afternoon, just in time  to enjoy the Superbowl ( and subsequent New England Patriots win) with my husband.


Author: spotwin

While I am a librarian , I am a reading cheerleader. The purpose of this library blog is to better promote reading and information literacy to my community. I love books, reading with my son, properly placed apostrophes, canoeing, locating the nearest Starbucks, cheering the Montreal Canadians, and Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s