By Jill Ratzan
While in line to go through security at the airport, my roommate and I run into a fellow librarian. This will be the first, but not the last, today: there are more waiting at the gate, and even more when we arrive in New Orleans. A jazz band greets us at the baggage claim; we're really here!
Arrive at the hotel in time to grab some dinner, unpack, and gear up for tomorrow's adventures.
Roomie and I start out the day with breakfast at our hotel, then head over to Registration to get our badges and booklets. We spend some time exploring Morial Convention Center, finding our way around and looking through the conference materials, which are nearly an inch thick. Fortunately, both of us have a good idea already of where we want to go, but we both keep being tempted by all the wonderful options in front of us.
We have some free time Friday afternoon, so we spend it exploring the French Quarter. The thickness of the program guide, we find, is rivaled only by the thickness of the layer of powdered sugar on the beignets at Cafe du Monde! We take pictures around Jackson Square, and admire the Mississippi River and the architecture that surrounds it.
Friday evening begins with the first annual Kidlit Bloggers Dinner, an event I helped organize. Five bloggers, one friend, one spouse, and one Newbery Medal winning author (the fabulous Linda Sue Park) enjoy some authentic New Orleans cuisine while talking about blogging, writing, literary awards, and book reviewing, and swapping small-world stories (who knew that we knew so many people in common?).
After dinner, our group heads over to the Booklist "What's So Funny?" program. Authors Lisa Yee, Mo Willems, David Lubar, Jack Gantos entertain us with librarian jokes and thoughts on the process of writing humor for kids and teens.
Is a good story a good story in any medium? The folks at the Dewey Manor think so! One highly informative breakfast later, I leave with a greater understanding of WebDewey and FictionFinder, a new tool that allows users to search for different versions of a story across media boundaries.
I have an hour or so before my next meeting, so I hit the exhibits. On top of running into several old library school buddies, I encounter an Elvis impersonator and a robot who asks me what my dissertation topic is. When I confess to not yet having one, he suggests Robots in Literature.
Then it's time to meet up with the rest of my NMRT group for a last-minute strategy session - our presentation is in two hours! We go over the speakers' order, make sure we all have copies of the handouts, and continue our discussion of substantive issues (many of which we disagree on - which is what makes us such a great panel group).
Presentation time! One hundred and twenty-nine interested audience members come to hear us speak about job hunting skills at "Why Should I Hire You? Why Would I Want to Work Here?: A Guide for Both Sides of the Interview." We know they're interested because at the end, they're bursting with questions. We're a hit!
At the general opening session on Saturday evening, Michael Gorman, Mayor Ray Nagin, and others inspire us with tales of libraries and librarians responding to Hurricane Katrina. Gorman asks all Gulf Coast librarians to stand, as the assembled thousands applaud them.
Sunday morning begins with the ALSC All-Committee Meeting, where I meet with my fellow members of the Children and Libraries Editorial Advisory Board. It's really exciting to be a part of this journal, which is getting better and better with every issue. We talk about the various interests of our readership, format and design questions, the challenge of acquiring reviewers, and the sorts of topics we'd like to see covered in future issues.
After that, it's time for the true business of our committee - a baby shower for our editor! ALSC members from around the room bring her copies of their favorite baby books, and our board presents her with a special blanket we've assembled from squares we've each knitted. We have a lovely lunch at the Palace Cafe, and I even manage to convince everyone to wear party hats. Well, for the picture, anyway...
We get back to the convention center in time to catch the end of the Book Cart Drill Team World Championship, and then it's back to exhibits for me. I get books signed by Mo Willems and Lane Smith, two of my favorite picture book creators, and chat with Walden Media about their upcoming productions of movies based on children's books.
The day ends with the NMRT social, where I'm honored to receive a plaque from 3M. I meet the other 3M/NMRT scholarship winners, as well as my conference mentor, with whom I've been talking via email and over the phone. Music and dancing, glittering confetti, a disco ball and shimmering curtain welcome us to a festive evening.
I visit the library education pavilion, where I introduce myself to folks from other library schools - my future employers! Then I hit the 3M booth, where I learn about the new security systems that 3M can offer libraries. I'm especially impressed by the systems that allow patrons to send transaction records to their email accounts - no more lost paper receipts!
Next, I lurk around the HarperCollins booth until two of my favorite YA authors, Margo Lanagan and Brent Hartinger, arrive for their book signings. I chat with them about their work, and pick up some new books to try.
Dinner is a low-key affair with some friends, and then we head over to the Printz reception. Markus Zusak delights us all with his acceptance video, the first Printz acceptance speech to ever include outtakes.
A day for cleaning up, packing, sending notes to all my new contacts, and preparing to leave New Orleans. This has been a phenomenal conference, but the best part has been that it hasn't just been about my learning new things, it's been about my learning how to share my knowledge with the profession, and inspiring others to go home with new ideas, too. The 3M/NMRT professional development grant has allowed me this unparalleled opportunity to immerse myself in the world of librarianship for four days of learning, teaching, talking, meeting, thinking, and imagining. I want to thank 3M and NMRT for awarding me this grant, and I hope that the future brings many more successful conferences for all of us.