ALA Winter 05

17 January, 2005 at 11:01 pm (library)

Attended a day of the Winter 2005 conference of the American Library Association. But not really. My fellow library school students and I were encouraged to register with the ALA and attend the conference, so that we could go to the lectures and the roundtables and the discussion forums and absorb the issues that currently form the topics of professional conversation for contemporary librarians.

And when phrased like that, it sounds vaguely interesting (except to my bevy of non-LIS friends, who are starting to avoid asking me, “So, what’s going on with your life?” as they find my answers about my current course of study and it’s content to be intensely stultifying), but ALA membership and Conference registration didn’t strike a harmonic chord with the contents of my wallet. So I forgot about it, despite repeated e-mail messages from the college, attempting to convince me how much of an opportunity it was that the conference was so close by and so accessible.

Julie Hearn's THE MINISTER'S DAUGHTER and Christopher Bing's CASEY AT THE BATBut it turns out that I could get a free pass to the gig from my mother’s workplace, YBP, Inc. (formerly “Yankee Book Peddler” before they went international and discovered that “Yankee” has negative connotations in the rest of the world. Which shouldn’t have been too great a shock, as it’s not the most complimentary of terms in the majority of the States, either), which allowed me access to the Vendors’ Exhibition, but not any of the serious librarianing. Still, free is free, and I figured I could learn a lot about the “issues that currently form the topics of professional conversation for contemporary librarians”, sociologist-stylee, by observing what the vendors were trying to sell the contemporary librarian.

Which turned out to be a lot of fun, as the Vendors’ Exhibition contains the part of librarianing that my studies have so far scrupulously avoided: books. The vendors were almost overwhelmingly publishers, booksellers, and distributors, and so I got to wander past table after table of books, books, and books, all displayed with their glorious cover designs turned out to face the world. It was marvelous. I wish that more free Uncorrected Proofs of books that interested me had been available, or that the comics folk in the Viz, Tokyopop, and Diamond Distribution booths might have had anything for free. That’s not quite fair, as I did get a cool Batman pin and a useful guides to interpreting the manga boom. But actual comics would have been nice.

Actually, while I saw a great many people loading up on the freebies and discounted books available (“Complementary shower curtain!”), lugging Baker & Taylor and BATMAN BEYOND bags full of loot, I emerged from the floor relatively free of free stuff. Three potentially good finds, though, the first being BWI Public Library Specialists guide to stocking quality and age-appropriate graphic novels in a library. I need to read this more carefully, but my first impressions is that it contains a staggering amount of useful information, but that their evaluation of what is age-appropriate is slightly off in places. JENNY SPARKS at ages 12+? POWERS and 100 BULLETS at ages 14+? TWO-FISTED SCIENCE as a “Graphic Novel For Girls”? Anyway… not a perfect publication, especially when they mention CALVIN AND HOBBS [sic] in the introduction.

Second, Julie Hearn’s THE MINISTER’S DAUGHTER was also picked up, for four reasons: 1) it was free, 2) it had a gorgeous cover, 3) interesting fonts, and 4) the promotional text featured the phrase “from a student of Philip Pullman”, which I find almost as amusing as the “suggested by” screenplay credit in the recent I, ROBOT.

And third, the best time I had at the conference was the twenty minutes I spent standing in line waiting to be able to chat for a minute with illustrator Christopher Bing, who was singing copies of his books, and selling out of every one. I hadn’t realized that last bit, and left the booth intending to return when there were lesser crowds and get a copy of his adaptation of CASEY AT THE BAT signed. Upon my return, all copies had flown out of the booth, which I should have anticipated. CASEY is a gorgeous book, by the way, with some of the most elegant, detailed, and magnificent verisimilitude I’ve laid eyes on, this side of the majestic Irene Marsh. And, of course, CASEY costs $20 for 32 pages of beauty, whereas a single painting by Ms. Marsh will run you upwards of £1000. Mr. Bing was extremely friendly and courteous, signing personal notes, getting a feel for the person for whom he was signing, open about himself and his art, and happy to talk technique. An extraordinary gentleman.

Lastly, let me say that I truly believe that the people chosen to run these booths were at least partially selected on the basis of their attractiveness. It wouldn’t be a bad technique, after all, wouldn’t you be more likely to talk about check-out systems if an attractive young person caught your eye and greeted you warmly? Just on the off chance? Comic book conventions, of course, take this idea to a farcical extreme by hiring booth bunnies, and while I don’t think that sort of prostitution was in evidence here — everyone I spoke with was clearly good at his or her job and well-informed — the ALA vendors still employed a staggering variety of truly attractive people. All of which is to say that if the young woman from Hyperion Children dressed in slim black were to ever drop me a line, I could be in New York for a cup of coffee before you could say “Peter and the Starcatchers.”


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