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ALA Annual Conference 2014
Updated: 15 min 40 sec ago

Q&A with Laurie R. King

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 12:13pm
The ScoopOn Mary Russell and the joy of librariesBy Mariam Pera

Laurie R. King is the bestselling author of 23 books, known for her detective/mystery fiction, including the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli mysteries. She spoke Monday at the United for Libraries Gala Author Tea during the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition.

American Libraries: What kind of books did you enjoy reading when you were younger?

Laurie R. King: If there was a genre, it would have been science fiction. When I was very young, I of course did the whole girl thing of horse books and Walter Farley was my great fantasy. But as soon as I settled into a genre, I became very fond of science fiction. If you told me 30 years ago that I would be a writer, I would’ve assumed that it was going to be science fiction, but as it turned out, no.

AL: What sparked your interest in religion and theology?

King: I’m a child of the 60s. Enough said? [Laughs.] I started in on it when I was at the University of California–Santa Cruz, which is a very interdisciplinary school, and was interested in what the Hindus call "the thread that runs through the world’s religions"—the common themes you look at in various world traditions. So I did my bachelor’s degree in comparative religion, and then I wanted to more closely focus on my own tradition, the Judeo-Christian tradition, so I did my master’s in Old Testament theology at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, looking at mostly the Old Testament and specifically the role of women and the feminine in God. It’s quite interesting how Mary Russell the character has interests that are similar to mine. It’s extraordinary how our tastes are close. [Laughs.]

AL: Tell us a bit about introducing Mary Russell to another fictional character like Sherlock Holmes versus a historical figure.

King: I tend to do one or the other in books. A couple of the books have real-life characters. Some have fictional characters like Kipling’s Kim. But then you get down to Sherlock Holmes, and you say, “Are we dealing with a fictional character here?” [Laughs.] I was interested in how the mind is a kind of engine that can be used to power a number of different motors, machines. If you take that engine of the mind, a habit of thought, the interaction of the senses and analysis, and you put it into an upper-middle-class Victorian male, it’s going to look like one thing. If you take that identical motor and put it into a woman of the modern era, it’s going to look very different. That was what really interested me in the books at first; how the two of them can be so very similar and yet come out so very different. I think that’s something I keep exploring, that the two of them see the world in such a similar way.

AL: You mentioned during the tea that PBS was responsible in part for your inspiration of incorporating Sherlock Holmes.

King: I can’t remember what series was playing on TV; this was 1987, and I couldn’t tell you what programs were then being broadcast, because they worked their way through the [Sherlock Holmes] stories fairly quickly. But I’m relatively certain that it was going on at the time because it put Holmes into my mind in a way that it wouldn’t have been otherwise. Because I didn’t read Holmes, I didn’t watch a lot of old film; obviously everyone is aware of Sherlock Holmes and what he looks like, what he does. But the immediacy of the character would not have been there in my mind for ready use if it hadn’t been for the Granada Film Television series that happened to be playing. I think it was a happenstance of a series of events that happened to come together. And if it would’ve been someone else, I might’ve written Mary Russell meeting someone entirely different.

AL: How are you interacting with libraries today?

King: If it comes for just pleasure reading, modern stuff, I tend to buy it. I tend to support my books because I think it’s my responsibility as a writer. And I also love books, and a lot of them, if they’re not books I want to keep permanently (because at a certain point you run out of shelves) I donate them usually to the Friends of the library and they can either use them or sell them. But I do use research libraries a lot, because there’s an awful lot of the stuff that I do that isn’t available. Theoretically, there’s a lot of stuff available that’s been scanned in the Google Project. In practice it’s sometimes really tough to get at it, and it’s not a really friendly way of using them. You can’t just flip through an e-manuscript. So I depend very heavily on the availability of a lot of books from my time period—I’m writing two series now set in the 1920s. So I need books that are reflective of that time, not looking back or an analysis of what was happening. Sometimes those are helpful, but for the most part, I need something that gives me what’s going on then and there. And that’s libraries.

AL: How has your writing process changed over the years after 23 books?

King: I think that really between 20 years ago and now, the basic difference is I’m now writing on a computer. I used to write with a fountain pen, and as soon as you could actually sit with laptops on your lap, I shifted over to them and I began to actually compose on a screen. Always before, I’d write something out and then transpose it. I think, too, having 20 books makes me aware that I always go through certain phases in books. I always get to about page 200 and I feel that the book only has another 20 pages to it. That’s not a novel, that’s at best a novella. And I get in a panic. Well, every book has been that way. So after awhile, you begin to say, “Yeah, never mind. That’s okay.” So to just not panic is very helpful, and to know that everybody has their own writing style. Mine happens to be what to an outsider looks very disorganized. I don’t outline. Often I don’t know exactly where the book is going. I know where it starts, but because I don’t do a formal outline, it looks to somebody who does outline as though I’m just winging it. But I think for those of us who don’t outline, there is the machinery of the outline process, but it’s in the back of our heads. I know that somewhere back in my brain I know very clearly where this book is going, because if I start to push it elsewhere, the brakes are screeched on. If I am writing and I discover that I so hate what I’m doing that I’d rather go clean the oven, that kind of writer’s block is usually a sign that there is something about to go wrong in the manuscript. And it tells me I need to go back and check to see where I’ve started to paint myself into a corner. That tells me that there is an organizing principle back there, it’s just not in the front of my head, and it’s not on paper on my wall. But it seems to be fairly efficient.

AL: Do you have a quota or page count for how much you’d like to write in a single day?

King: When I have a first draft going, I usually have a rough word count that I aim at. Any kind of self-employed job is hard enough without being a bad employer on top of it. So you have to give yourself a break, take days off. There are certain times when you need to go care for grandchildren or need to fly somewhere so honestly you just can’t write today. But I do try to do however number I’ve set myself. It partly depends on how close I am to deadline. If I’ve got a very generous length of time, I will aim for 1,000 and usually hit 1,500 words a day. If I’m really pushing it, I’ll aim at 2,500 and not always get there, but that’s where I’m aiming. And I think it helps keep the pace at a certain production. I’m fortunate in that I’m a fairly rapid writer, so it doesn’t take me 10 hours to do 2,500 words.

AL: Do you have any specific library stories that you’d like to share?

King: My mother was actually a librarian—not trained. But we lived in a small community outside Tacoma, Washington, called Dash Point. And Dash Point was not an incorporated town; it had two little markets and a community hall where basically everything the community did happened in this multipurpose room. They had a kitchen for potlucks, chairs, and a stage, and one of the rooms had doors along three sides of it that folded together and locked with padlocks. And when you opened the doors, there was your library. And my mother was the librarian three afternoons and one evening a week. So I got to go and get my hands on all the new books, because it was part of the Tacoma library system so they would send out new books. It was a treat because I’d be there helping Mom stamp the cards and I could get my hands on the books first. That was my introduction to the joys of libraries.

Top Ten (Never!) Tweets – Tuesday (Day 5) #alaac14

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 1:06pm
The ScoopBy Julie Cai



Libraries for the win!















B. J. Novak lit up the stage and Twitter!









Attendees got fit over the weekend exploring all Annual and Vegas had to offer! 








Saying goodbye to Vegas and hello to reality:



























Back to your masters!

















Thank you for a great conference, everyone! We couldn’t have done it without you! See you in Chicago for Midwinter 2015!















See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

An Interview with Heather Gudenkauf

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 10:12am
The ScoopLibraries and Little Mercies at the Gala Author TeaBy Mariam Pera

Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence and Little Mercies, was featured as a speaker at the United for Libraries Gala Author Tea at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas. She sat down with American Libraries to talk about her love of reading, her writing process, and the importance of small gestures.

American Libraries: What were your interactions with libraries growing up?

Gudenkauf: I grew up the youngest of six, and the library was definitely a place that I sought out and really enjoyed getting my books. I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, which is famous for being the inspiration for The Music Man. Part of that story involves the librarian and the footbridge that leads to the library. I went to a school that was very close to that footbridge and library, so once a month our teacher would hand out our library cards and we would make the trek several blocks, cross over the river on the bridge, and go to the library where the librarian was waiting to read us stories about faraway places and help us pick out the books that were just right for us. So that was always a really good memory for me.

You mentioned a story about reading in your toy box as a child.

I was born with unilateral hearing loss, which means I’m deaf in one ear. The difficulty is I can’t tell where sounds come from. And when I’m in a crowded situation like a classroom, I miss a lot. It would be like hearing every third or fourth word in a sentence, so you can imagine I was always the kid who was a few steps behind. School was exhausting because with this kind of hearing loss, you have to really work hard to attend to what’s happening. I would come home exhausted. And I have great brothers and sisters, Mom and Dad, a house full of pets, but I was tired. I would take my stack of books from the library, pull out all the toys from the toy box—which was a gift to my father who was a counselor at an Indian reservation in south Dakota, and my mom was a school nurse there when I was very young, and his students made this for our family—I would climb in with my pillow, a flashlight, and my books, and that’s where I really learned to love to read. Then down the road as years passed, I outgrew the toy box but still loved to read. When I got married, my parents had the toy box repainted a really pretty cream color, stenciled flowers on it, filled it with towels and linens, and gave that to me as our wedding gift. I still have it in our house, and my kids played in it. I’m sure I’ll pass it on to somebody.

How did you transition from education into the writing field?

I’ve been in education for more than 20 years. I still am a Title I Reading Coordinator for our school district, so I work with at-risk schools and their reading programs. But for a long time I was a classroom teacher, and as a teacher we always encourage kids to follow their dream. At the end of our day, with my 3rd and 4th graders, we had a rhyme that they had to recite every day that encouraged them to dream big. And I thought, "Well if I’m telling them to follow their dreams, then I should probably do that too."

One summer I packed up my classroom, bought a really pretty journal, and my family was going to a little trip around Iowa, and I wrote in longhand the first 50 pages of the Weight of Silence. And by the end of the summer, before I went back to set up my classroom again, I’d finished my first draft. Then I stuck it in a drawer, waited until winter vacation to decide what I was going to do—was I actually going to send it off somewhere or keep it in the drawer? I did end up sending it off, and it worked out in the end. Really it’s my students. By encouraging children to do what they wanted to do, I had to try to do that too.

Can you describe your writing process now? Do you still write during summer vacation?

I still work for our school system, and I do write during summer vacation, but I try to write all the time if I can. Family comes first, and I have three teenagers now, but I try to set some time aside to write every day. It could be 10 minutes or three hours, depending on what’s happening in our lives. But sticking to a schedule is really important for the book to get done on time and also for the flow of the book. I write whatever I can, whenever I can, wherever I can—even sitting in the car waiting for my daughter to get out of basketball practice.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

People who may never end up seeing their books for wider audiences do have an audience, whether it’s themselves or someone close to them, and I think that’s important. The audience can be yourself, and if it’s important to you, do it. You find that time and you set aside those precious minutes to write. That’s my biggest advice: Just to do it. Sit down and finish whatever inspires you. Write about what you love, because you don’t want to spend time doing things that you aren’t passionate about. And read. That really can help inform writing, so read far, wide, and deep.

Not expecting miracles is a big theme in Little Mercies. Can you tell us a bit about the importance of that idea?

I think when we’re faced with challenging circumstances, we tend to think, “Oh, if only they would just be cured of a terrible disease,” or “If I would just get that big job,” and we think that might fix it all. But sometimes we get so caught up in the big things, the life-changing situations, that we forget it’s the little things that make all the difference in taking that next step forward when we are in difficult situations.

Sometimes you’re living day to day, hour to hour, or even minute to minute. Sometimes just a little smile or pat on the shoulder can get you to the next minute. I think that’s what the book is about: recognizing those small gestures, and whether we’re giving them or receiving them, knowing they can make all the difference to people.

Twitter: @alaannual  and #alaac14






Finding Hope Through Tragedy

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 10:04am
The ScoopBy Phil Morehart


Paul Rusesabagina’s last name translates to “he who disperses his enemies” in the Kinyarwanda language. There is no more fitting name for the man responsible for saving 1,268 Tutsi refugees from certain death at the hands of Hutu soldiers during the Rwandan genocide.

Rusesabagina was the featured speaker at the always popular Alexander Street breakfast, held Sunday morning during the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Rusesabagina, whose harrowing story was depicted in the Oscar-winning film, Hotel Rwanda, gave a riveting, heartbreaking talk about his life and the events that would forever change it. He detailed the socio-political and historical background of the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis that escalated into horrors that would take the lives of much of Rusesabagina’s family, his friends, and an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Rwandans. The stone-silent audience hung on every word.

“Within a period of three months, our whole kind of life completely stopped,” he said. “One-hundred percent. The whole country was smelling of death. You could see the flies and dead bodies on the roads.”

Rusesabagina’s surviving family members begged him to leave the county. Upon seeing the devastation, though, he knew that he had to stay and help. “I heard my conscience say, ‘If you leave these people here, you will never sleep.’” Rusesabagina offered safety to refugees in a hotel that he managed in the city of Kigali, using his persuasiveness to divert those who might come to harm them.

“Words are the most important weapon in a human being’s arsenal,” he said. He also credited his belief in the goodness of man for saving lives. “No matter how hard a heart is, it has a soft spot. You have to find it.” By appealing to his enemies’ hearts, Rusesabagina saved lives.

“Each and every one of us on Earth has a mission,” he said. “Every day I live is a bonus.” Rusesabagina uses his days now to speak to audiences about the genocide and by working with the Rusesabagina Foundation. It’s ongoing work, and Rusesabagina didn’t mince words detailing the history of the struggle to raise awareness. When asked what his advice would be to possible US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Africa and genocide, Rusesabagina turned fiery. He places much blame on President Clinton and the United Nations Security Council for turning blind eyes to the genocide in 1994 despite pleas for help from Rwanda. “Clinton swallowed it all,’ he said. “If he had intervened, these people—my grandmother and her six grandchildren—would still be alive.”

Twitter: @alaannual  and #alaac14






High-Wire Creativity: Philippe Petit

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 9:05am
By Phil Morehart

Card tricks. Sleight-of-hand magic. Props. Audience participation. No, this isn’t a description of a hot new show on the Vegas Strip. These are a few highlights of the United for Libraries President’s Program, held Monday at the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

Philippe Petit, the high-wire artist best known for his infamous tightrope walk across the World Trade Center in 1974, which was documented in the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, was the featured speaker and he delivered a high-energy, often hilarious presentation on creativity and the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone to achieve maximum results.

“There is no creativity without rebellion,” Petit said. “You have to be free to create freely.” Petit’s philosophy on creativity and the creation process is outlined in his new book, Creativity: The Perfect Crime, and the book was a focus of his talk. He wasn’t making a sales pitch, however. Petit was self-deprecating as he discussed his work, stressing that it contains no recipe on how to be creative—the book is only about his own process, which he hopes will serve as inspiration. He said he hates the self-help creative book industry and was determined not to write a book in that vein.

Not surprising, breaking the rules to find creative inspiration is a major component of Petit’s philosophy. Upon entering the hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, audience members were given a plastic fork. Together, Petit and the audience used the fork to discover new ways of using the utensil beyond its intended use: hair comb, shoe horn, picture hanger, Morse code device, and a dozen more. Petit encouraged the crowd to step outside of their comfort zones daily; to go to places that they would never go to find new ideas; to walk barefoot in places that require shoes; to close their eyes and walk around their homes. Retraining your brain to operate on new levels is key, he said.

“We take ourselves much too seriously,” Petit said. “We need to play, be silly, and remember our childhood.”

See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual  and #alaac14






Championing Introverts

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 8:43am
The ScoopBestselling author discusses how quiet influencers can change the worldBy Mariam Pera

Appearing as an Auditorium Speaker on the ALCTS President’s Program on June 30, bestselling author Jennifer Kahnweiler said she has been an avid library patron ever since she was a child. In fact, her father led the renovation of the library in their hometown. “The library was like the other sibling in my life!” she said, laughing.

Author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introverts Guide to Making a Difference, Kahnweiler argued that many ideas and solutions are not being expressed simply because someone in our work or personal life who is introverted may not be speaking up to offer input. She called them the “quiet 50%.”

So how do you know if you’re an introvert? Kahnweiler said a good indicator is that an introvert is someone who “recharges from the inside,” like a battery. Extroverts get their energy from the people and places around them and may be anxious in very quiet situations, whereas an introvert needs that down time.

Some of the strengths of introverts include a quiet/calm demeanor, thinking before speaking, and the ability for reflection. Kahnweiler believes that introverts need to stop trying to mimic the characteristics of extroverts in order to become effective leaders or move ahead in the world. Instead, she suggests they play to their natural strengths and exert quiet influence.

Quiet influencers, Kahnweiler said, are people who toss a pebble and create ripples in our lives, but they don’t necessarily see them. In turn, we go out into the world and influence other people, she said. At this point, she asked the audience to think of a quiet influencer in their life and share it with the person next to them.

Kahnweiler included personal anecdotes as well as examples from people in leadership positions on how best to work with introverts. She discussed five things that often prove challenging for introverts:

  1. People exhaustion
  2. Making fast decisions
  3. Working in teams
  4. Selling themselves
  5. Putting on a happy face

Introverts need alone time, so being around people for long periods of time is challenging, especially when those people are extroverted. Working in teams is generally a good thing, Kahnweiler said, but as a society we do this too much, which doesn’t leave time for reflection—something introverts need.

“The best thinking is done in solitude,” she said.

Applying her ideas to libraries, Kahnweiler discussed some of the challenges librarians face today—maintaining relevance, shifting to linked data, generational shifts in the workplace—and then offered six strengths of quiet influence:

  1. Quiet time: the source of an introvert’s energy and creativity
  2. Preparation: giving you an opportunity to prove the “value of your proposal”
  3. Engaged listening: a chance to build rapport and understand someone’s concerns on a deeper level
  4. Focused conversation: a way to position your ideas and float them out to others. The honest dialogue becomes a giving/getting of feedback but can also be used to address conflict
  5. Writing: being clear yourself before talking to someone and making your case
  6. Thoughtful use of social media: be conscious and deliberate in how you use it

“When we [introverts] only listen, we create a perception gap,” she said. “That other person projects ideas on you because you’re not saying anything else, and you become overlooked as part of the conversation.”

She added that either only listening or talking is often a way to avoid conflict and suggested several listening tips:

  • Don’t multitask
  • Bracket your thoughts and come back to them when you’re interrupted
  • Ask what you can learn from a situation
  • Move your body

Kahnweiler stressed the significance of quiet influence and what it can achieve in the world: “When you give a ripple power and direction, it becomes a river.”

Watch an exclusive American Libraries interview with Kahnweiler on the qualities of leadership and how introverts can build on their quiet strengths:

And how libraries are where "dreams endure":


See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

Inaugural Brunch

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 8:42am
The ScoopBy Mariam Pera

On Tuesday, ALA got a new president. Courtney Young began her term as 2014–2015 ALA President after being inaugurated at the Closing General Session by now Immediate Past President Barbara K. Stripling. During the Inaugural Brunch, Young thanked Stripling for her mentorship and the chance to develop a friendship she hopes will continue to help move the profession forward.

“Thank you for being the kind of librarian I want to be when I grow up,” Young said as she presented Stripling with personal thank-you gifts of jewelry.

The brunch was a fun-filled event with food, a DJ, and dancing. But Young became emotional while thanking her mother who passed away a few years ago, and her father who was in the audience. She expressed excitement for the year to come, and said she really wanted to focus on communicating the value of membership to other librarians.

Young also welcomed the new division presidents. They are:

AASL – Terri Grief

ALCTS – Mary Page

ALSC – Ellen Riordan

ACRL – Karen A. Williams

ASCLA – Kathleen Ann Moeller-Peiffer

LITA – Rachel Vacek

PLA – Larry P. Neal

RUSA – Joseph A. Thompson, Jr.

United for Libraries – Christine Lind Hage

YALSA – Christopher Shoemaker


See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual  and #alaac14






Getting Out of the Box

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 8:04am
The ScoopBook clubs engage patrons beyond the libraryBy Mariam Pera

On Sunday afternoon, programming librarians shared their ideas for “out-of-the-box” book clubs.

Janie Hermann, public programming librarian at Princeton (N.J.) Public Library (PPL), shared some of the success stories and troubles her library has had. She stressed the importance of getting to know your community and offering variety, because what’s boring to one person may be interesting to another.

Hermann gave an example of the kind of programs that happen at PPL, including authors attending book clubs on their books. “We found it really quashed discussion,” Hermann said. “People didn’t feel like they could be honest, and it becomes about the author as opposed to the book.”

One of PPL’s book club series, “Book Journeys,” involved choosing themes that would interest patrons the library wanted to attract. For example, PPL had a “Books on Tap” book journey that drew in the 20–30 age demographic library staff members were hoping to capture, but also a variety of other age groups. The series has been on hiatus, but Hermann said that there is nothing wrong with letting a series be temporary.

“Not everything is permanent,” she said. “It’s fine to let something run its course. You never know when it may come back.”

PPL also did book club programs on cooking—especially as foodie fiction grows. “The key to programming is food,” Hermann said. PPL worked with a local chef and author who made fresh pasta (what her book was about) for the book club, which they then got to eat.

Hermann also said it was important to promote your book clubs and their variety in your different channels, including newsletters and social media.

Laura Damon-Moore and Erinn Batykefer from the Library as Incubator project, whose presence is mostly online, populate their website with art made at libraries or by librarians or library patrons that is inspired by books. They started the idea of a book-to-art book club and have a strong social media presence.

Damon-Moore facilitates the local Library as Incubator chapter at the Madison (Wis.) Public Library. She reaches out to book club participants and asks them to prepare ideas on what they may want to make during their session on a given week, even sending Pinterest links for ideas.

In these two-hour meetings, participants bring their art supplies to supplement what the library provides, and start making even as they discuss the book. Damon-Moore keeps some coloring book pages for adults on hand in case people come without a particular idea that night, or someone walks in off the street and wants to participate. Other chapters have more structured setups, depending on the preferences of the book club members.

Knowing her community was very important to Erin Shea, head of public programming at Darien (Conn.) Public Library, where most of the population commutes to New York City for work. Noticing that residents were not participating in book clubs or other library activities, Shea decided she’d take the library to them.

“Attendance in our clubs was starting to drop, and staff were spending a lot of their time preparing for them. So we had to try to figure out something new,” Shea said.

She began standing on the train platform and around the train station, giving people copies of the book that was being read in book club and set up the meeting place at the bar right outside the station, to make it easier for commuters.

“It’s less a commitment if you don’t have to get in your car and go anywhere,” she said.

Depending on the book, the demographic shifted. When the club read Lean In, it attracted the 20–30 year-old demographic. But sometimes the chosen title was a business book, which you don’t necessarily need to read cover to cover; people in their 40s starting coming to the book club and networking. “These book clubs became networking events, and that’s how we began to market them,” Shea said.

DPL even had a “Back to the Future” ebook club, at which library staff taught patrons about public domain books available for e-readers and copyright. Shea recommended public domain as a great option for ebook clubs since most of them are free or very inexpensive.

ALA First-Timer: Practical Professional Development

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 8:54pm
The ScoopProgram teaches tips on crafting a successful grant proposalBy Jennifer Whitley

Sharon Skinner, national president of the nonprofit Grant Professionals Association (GPA), presented tips for writing a successful grant proposal at a June 29 program at ALA Annual Conference. Skinner’s advice provided skillful guidance for any grant-writing novice. For experienced writers, she offered reminders and tools to get at the heart of any proposal.

These skills are especially relevant today, as library budgets diminish and many of us form partnerships to provide services, programming, tools, and equipment for our users. Skinner discussed these partnerships during her introduction, telling attendees that this type of team approach is a smart way to tackle new library initiatives. Why not leverage community partnerships for increased success in the grant-writing arena as well?

Skinner suggested that librarians and potential grant writers join forces to serve on grant-review teams and become certified in grant writing. The experience of evaluating grants—learning about scoring rubrics and guidelines—would only strengthen the skills required for writing your own proposals, she said.

For more information about certification and grantsmanship as a profession, visit GPA’s website.

JENNIFER WHITLEY is media coordinator at Tanglewood Elementary School in Lumberton, North Carolina.

See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

Resurrecting The Speaker

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 7:21pm
The ScoopBy Phil Morehart and George M. Eberhart

In 1977, the American Library Association decided to get into the movie business. Produced by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC), The Speaker follows the aftermath of a high school group’s decision to invite a controversial scientist (loosely based on William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor and an outspoken eugenicist) to speak on campus. The scientist believes that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. News of the speaker’s engagement sends the school and community into an uproar, but the group holds firm to the scientist’s right to speak at the school, regardless of how they personally feel about his views.

The Speaker rocked the Association upon completion, with members accusing the film and ALA of racism. Schisms were created that persist into the present day. “Speaking about The Speaker,” a panel discussion held Monday at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas, confronted the controversy head-on.

Moderated by Julius Jefferson Jr., information research specialist at the Library of Congress and president of the Freedom to Read Foundation, the panel consisted of Mark McCallon, associate dean for library services at Abilene Christian University; Beverly Lynch, professor in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA; and Robert Wedgeworth, ALA executive director from 1972 to 1985. Each explored the film, its reception, the controversy, and the lingering impact. The Speaker was also screened twice as a part of the Now Showing @ ALA film series to allow members an opportunity to see the film in advance of the discussion.

Drawing from resources gathered from the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, McCallon presented a historical overview of the film, from its inception by the IFC and approval by the ALA Executive Board in 1976 to its tumultuous reception at the 1977 ALA Annual Conference in Detroit. The details were fascinating and reveal an Association struggling to defend and explain a film both admired and reviled by its membership. A rare 1977 segment from 60 Minutes detailing the controversy was shown, with Dan Rather interviewing Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Judith Krug (who served as producer on the film), former ALA President Clara Jones, and others, interspersed with footage from the heated Detroit membership meeting on the film.

Lynch uses The Speaker as a case study about the complexities of the ALA in an intellectual freedom seminar that she teaches at UCLA. She hopes her students will understand the differences of opinions found in both the film and the Association by seeing the film. Interestingly, Lynch noted that she was unable to locate a copy of the film and had to procure a copy from Krug’s personal collection. (The Speaker can now be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. The discussion guide (PDF file) that was included with the film in 1977 was readily available, however, and served as an invaluable tool in both creating and teaching the seminar, she said.

Lynch noted that the majority of her students don’t find the film to be racist, but they do find the film difficult to watch. One student blamed the library press for some of the controversy, saying that their continual coverage fanned the flames and kept the issue alive. (AL’s July/August 1977 cover story on The Speaker can be found here (PDF file).

“I’ve never spoken publicly about The Speaker,” Robert Wedgeworth stated at the beginning of his panel segment. “Even my friends were reluctant to discuss it with me. It was a dream turned nightmare.”

ALA executive director during the controversy, Wedgeworth recounted invaluable first-hand testimony to the events as they unfolded in 1977. His retelling of a private screening held for the Executive Board after the film’s completion foretells the uncertainty that would soon envelop the Association.

“When it ended, not a person moved,” Wedgeworth said. “That’s when I knew that we were in uncharted waters.”

Ultimately, Wedgeworth was sympathetic to all sides involved in the controversy. “I didn’t think there’d be such a big controversy. I regret the film caused so much anguish amongst our members,” he said. “I’m not here to defend The Speaker. I’m not here to defend Judith Krug. However, as executive director of ALA, I’m responsible for whatever will happen after. It pitted friend against friend; colleague against colleague.”

Comments from attendees

Wayne Wiegand, LIS professor at Florida State University, thought that a comment by 1976–1977 ALA President Clara Stanton Jones was characteristic for the times. She had said, “What has ALA done for African Americans?” He noted that it’s possible that Judith Krug did not have the long struggle to desegregate libraries in the South from 1954 to 1968 on her mind at the time.

Trustee Leontine Synor said that “we still need to have a discussion about this movie. Our different backgrounds influence how we perceive things. I have a right to express my views openly, whether we agree or not.”

Former ALA Treasurer Herb Biblo remarked that there have been only three issues in ALA’s recent history that caused so much controversy as The Speaker: the Vietnam War, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the issue of South African apartheid.

Former ALA Councilor Mary Biblo said she had just joined ALA in 1977 when the controversy erupted. “This is what got me started,” she said, “and I haven’t stopped since.” She agreed with Wiegand, saying that there were fundamental differences in Clara Jones’s and Judith Krug’s backgrounds. “Some of the things we as black people face, you will never face as white people.”

Another African-American librarian summed it up for many in the audience: “The big question was why ALA at this moment in history, when blacks had just become an equal part of the organization by joining committees, would turn around and publicly humiliate them?” She added, “The film in essence did make the statement for Shockley: Blacks are inferior to whites.”

Robert Hubsher, executive director at Ramapo Catskill Library System in Middletown, New York, remarked, “As a child of a Holocaust survivor, I would love to deny Holocaust deniers the opportunity to speak.” However, he added, “by closing that avenue off, we open the door to the possibility of denying access to our own thoughts and ideas.”


See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

A Conversation with Philippe Petit

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:37pm
The Scoop


Philippe Petit, the subject of the Academy Award–winning 2008 documentary Man on Wire, talks about creativity and how he became a high-wire artist. He says the process of creativity is often chaotic, but the key to success in anything is passion. “There are no recipes of how I do it,” he says. “I love it, that’s how I do it.”



See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

A Conversation with Lois Lowry

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 12:31pm
The Scoop



Acclaimed author Lois Lowry shares childhood memories of her library and her positive outlook on libraries’ future role in the lives of children in an exclusive video interview with American Libraries.


She also discusses The Giver.


Read about her President’s Program appearance here.

Tumblr Talk

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:59am
The ScoopAs social media continues to impact our way of life, libraries have been using these tools to expand the way they reach out and communicate with library usersBy Jennifer Petti

It’s quite common to see libraries on Facebook and Twitter, but many institutions have gradually been branching out to Tumblr. This social media platform is fast becoming a vibrant online community where libraries and librarians connect with peers and patrons. These “tumblarians” are using the platform to promote collections, perform readers’ advisory, and start conversations about our profession. 

At the June 30 TumblarianTalk conversation starter, six tumblarians shared a bit of background on their respective Tumblrs and gave insight on how they approach content sharing. 

First, Ian Stade from the Hennepin County (Minn.) Library spoke on tumbling images and information from his library’s special collection and digital archives. He highlighted how staffers focus on tumbling timely topics and guest posts from interns and volunteers, and how they use Tumblr to cultivate partnerships with local researchers. Because the collection is becoming more well-known, the library has changed its rules on who is allowed to view the special collection in person, making it a more inclusive collection. 

Colleen Theisen, outreach and instruction librarian at the University of Iowa’s Special Collections and University Archives, shared how the special collections Tumblr operates as an umbrella for four others, all of which focus on specific collections within the library. Theisen also commented on how her library’s Tumblr success has led to much more foot traffic in the library, both from people within the community as well as outside the state. She echoed Stade’s sentiment that having an open and accessible special collection is important. 

Katie Anderson runs the Tumblr for Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers University. She has noticed that many libraries don’t have questions enabled on their Tumblr blogs and that even fewer accept submissions. These are missed opportunities, she said, to connect with our communities. 

Rachel Dobkin, coordinator of the Government Info/Docs Student Interest Group, spoke about how every librarian is a government information librarian, and she strives to engage users with timely posts that highlight government documents related to current holidays, heritage months, etc.

Daniel Ransom runs a Tumblr that mixes his professional interests with his personal ones. Ransom said he was drawn to the platform because he saw it as an alternative to Twitter and a place where character limits did not define engagement. Ransom highlighted the importance of tagging your posts so that those in related communities who may not follow your blog are able to find their way to your content. 

Finally, Molly Wetta spoke about how her Tumblr for the Lawrence (Kans.) Public Library has engaged many teens in the local community. Wetta uses the social media platform to focus on readers’ advisory that’s a bit outside the box. She recently gathered materials about women in art to serve as a companion to a local young women artists show. 

It was great to hear from a variety of tumblarians about the Tumblrs they run. If you’re interested in getting involved on Tumblr personally or professionally, I recommend jumping in. I have found the community to be incredibly welcoming and encouraging. Plus we throw a mighty fine conference party. I hope to see some new blogs on the #tumblarian tag soon.

JENNIFER PETTI is a recent Kentucky graduate. You can find her shelving books in Seattle, as well as tweeting and tumbling @sassafrassj.

See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

Hey Librarians, Call Me

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:50am
The ScoopBy George M. Eberhart

On Tuesday, comedian, actor, director, and author B. J. Novak offered some entertainment at the Closing Session of the 2014 ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. In addition to having the “honor of addressing an audience of more than 1,000 librarians in Las Vegas,” Novak quipped that it was a “specific sexual fantasy.” He put up a photo of himself and a phone number on the big screen with the caption, “Hey librarians, call me.”

Novak said the first thing he ever wanted to be was a librarian, because the library in his school was a place where “no one told you where your mind was supposed to be.” He loved that everything was “cataloged and ready to go.” Now, as a writer of adult and children’s books, he described the process he used to create books that he hoped would be useful contributions to everyone’s libraries.

After spending several years as a stand-up comedian and a writer and actor on NBC’s The Office, Novak said he needed something that was entirely in his own voice and with more depth. So he began developing short stories that were “all comedic, but balanced with other elements.” For what became One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (Knopf, February 2014), Novak “workshopped” each story at his comedy programs by “reading the stories to audiences and editing them, pen in hand, depending on the laughs.” Anything that wasn’t sufficiently entertaining was dropped from the finished product.

For his first children’s book, The Book with No Pictures (Dial, forthcoming), Novak said he wanted to create a book that adults could read to children with amusing and perhaps embarrassing results for the reader.

Noting that the rule of reading out loud is that whoever is reading must say the actual words that are in the book, he decided to turn that rule on its head. Again, he workshopped his manuscript by reading it to his friends’ children and watching other parents read it to their kids and observing their reactions. He played a clip of himself reading The Book with No Pictures to a roomful of schoolchildren. The reactions were riotous when he came to read “blork” and “blurfff,” a song that goes “glug glug glug, my face is a bug,” and “My best friend in the world is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt.”

Novak said his intent was to show that the written word alone can make the world an exciting and fun place for kids and that maybe other text-only books could offer them joy and empowerment. He finished by saying it would be a “huge honor to have the book in your libraries.”

Intellectual Freedom Manual Dominates Council III

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 11:31am
The ScoopBy Mariam Pera

ALA Council met for its third and final session at the 2014 Annual Conference and Exhibition on Tuesday, July 1.

The Intellectual Freedom Committee presented 14 action items (CD#19.3–19.17) as revisions to the Intellectual Freedom Manual, which is set to be published later this year. After a motion to refer the section on labeling and rating systems (CD#19.12) failed—though not without much discussion and in a very close vote—Council passed the package with an edit to CD#19.11 as a matter of housekeeping. The 10th bullet point, which details “a service philosophy . . . that affords equal access to information for all in the academic community with no discrimination” adds two groups: people with gender identity issues or with sensory or cognitive disabilities.

Council heard from the Committee on Legislation and passed two action items on the Digitization of US Government Documents and Reaffirming Support for National Open Internet Policies and “Network Neutrality” (CD#20.6 –20.7).

Council approved CD#40.1, adopting Copyright: An Interpretation of the Code of Ethics. It also heard a report from the International Relations Committee and passed a resolution that directs ALA to become a signatory to the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development (CD#18.1–18.4).

Breezing through most business—including memorials to Eliza Dresang, Marilyn Lea Miller, Emily Stewart Boyce, Margaret Mary (Maggie) Kimmel, Birdie MacLennan, Nancy Garden, Esther Crawford (MD#12), Crenetha Session Brunson, and Ernie DiMattia, and a tribute to ACRL on its 75th anniversary—Council passed an FY2015 Budgetary Ceiling of $64,078,221 (CD #13.2).

Council also heard reports (CD#12.3) from John C. Sandstrom, chair, Council Committee of Tellers, on the winners of the elections for the Council Committee on Committees (COC) and the Council Representatives to the Planning and Budget Assembly (PBA).

The winners of the COC election were: Ann Crewdson, Karen E. Downing, Jim Juhn, and Susan F. Gregory.

The PBA winners who are Councilors at Large were Loida A. Garcia-Febo, Matthew P. Ciszek, and Ismail Abdullahi. The Chapter Councilor winners were Stephanie Braunstein and Regina Greer Cooper.

ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels reported that Annual Conference attendance was 13,019 registrants and 5,607 exhibitors, for a total of 18,626.

Boba Fett at the Circ Desk

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 9:49am
The ScoopBy Jennifer Petti

“Welcome to planet Tatooine. That’s what it feels like outside.....”

Star Wars nerds and public librarians united on Friday for a hilarious and important panel about managing a circulation desk with moxie to match the Rebel Empire at “Boba Fett at the Circ Desk: Library Leadership Lessons from The Empire Strikes Back,” sponsored by the Public Library Association.  Library directors Brad Allen, of Lawrence (Kans.) Public Library, and Susan Brown of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Public Library, shared the important lessons learned from The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) and how we can apply those to managing employees. Their goal? To fight the “imperial” status quo.  

Both Allen and Brown are relatively new in their directorships and found themselves relating to ESB because they themselves are sequels. They follow in the footsteps of the directors that came before, and they are laying foundations for whoever will follow. However, they maintain that just because you are a sequel, doesn’t mean you have to suck. They encouraged attendees to stay true to their unique vision as, chances are, they were hired to be bold.

So how do you get employees excited about your vision? First, seek out your Solos. While Han may start out as a gun for hire, he is transformed by the hero’s journey. Allen and Brown are emphatic in their belief that you have Solos in your library right now. There are people who are ready to help you out and fight for your vision.

Second, good communication is critical. In the Battle of Hoth, you see a dichotomy of leadership styles. The Empire is closed off; you have to interrupt Lord Vader to convey information, there is no conversation, and the staff understands that speaking up or asking questions is dangerous. The Rebels are completely opposite. As we see them preparing for battle, they are constantly talking with each other and their leaders. The Rebels are also given critical and inspiring information when necessary to motivate each other in their work. Their command structure shows that there are leaders all throughout the Rebel Alliance. In contrast to Vader, General Rieeken is subtle and soft-spoken.  He recognizes he can’t do it all and has developed leaders to execute his strategy.

Allen and Brown believe this should be emulated in the library. There are informal leaders in your institution who are waiting to be noticed and developed.

“But wait! Didn’t the Rebels lose the Battle of Hoth?” you ask. Yes, they did, and this is Allen and Brown’s next point. It is important to embrace failure.  Beyond that, it is critical to reassess and offer new ideas.  When Han, Leia, and friends are escaping Hoth, C3PO knows there is a problem with the Millennium Falcon and has the solution, but is ignored. If we get bogged down by the minutiae of the crisis, we can miss potential solutions.  It’s important to ask everyone for ideas.

After the battle, Luke finds himself stranded on Dagobah, where he begins his training as a Jedi. Yoda informs Luke that it is easy to turn to the dark side. “Fear, anger, and aggression are quick to join you in a fight.” When things go wrong in our libraries, it is essential that we challenge the negativity. We all have the instinct to share our frustrations about our workplace by griping with our friends and coworkers, but as Yoda says, we must unlearn what we have learned. We can raise our metaphorical ship.

Lastly, we return to the title character of this session.  Boba Fett is an ancillary character in the Star Wars world, yet his actions have incredible repercussions on our heroes.  Much like Fett, there may be people at our institutions who are not on board with the mission and vision. Their attitude and actions have the potential to impact our coworkers and patrons in a dramatic fashion. It’s critical to be aware of these possibilities and work to bring them into the fold.

Overall, it’s important to celebrate the humanity and success of the “rebels” we work with. The library mission won’t always be easy, but the tools to succeed exist within ourselves and the people on our side. May the Force be with you.

JENNIFER PETTI is a recent Kentucky graduate and enjoys mac and cheese. Like, a lot. You can find her shelving books in Seattle, as well as tweeting and tumbling @sassafrassj.

Top 10 (Not Quite…) Tweets – Monday (Day 4) #alaac14

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 9:13am
The ScoopBy Julie Cai

The odds of having fun were definitely in the favor of all those who attended the Library Games!



























Here's what happens in Vegas...






















And the award for best tie goes to…













It’s time for most to pack up and head home…












From one extreme to another…





Awesome people say awesome things…






Now read all the Top Tweets from #alaac14:

Day  0 (Thursday)
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

And see, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

Top 10 (Sike!) Tweets – Sunday (Day 3) #alaac14

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 8:19am
The ScoopBy Julie Cai

Even if you weren’t there to witness the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet, living vicariously through those in the twitterverse was just as enthralling!




















































The ALA Left Behind are holding on…














Awww, shucks…

Stars Shake Up the President’s Program

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 5:19pm
The ScoopJeff Bridges, Lois Lowry, Lemony Snicket, among others, take the stage By Phil Morehart

The President’s Program at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition began as a calm affair, with this year’s award-winning librarians, authors, and library supporters taking the stage to receive recognition and gather their prizes.

Then Lemony Snicket hit the stage.

Daniel Handler—better know under his pen name, Lemony Snicket—is author of the popular A Series of Unfortunate Events kids books and was on hand to present the first-ever Lemony Snicket Prize for Librarians Faced with Adversity, a new annual prize honoring a librarian who has faced adversity with integrity and dignity intact.

Handler transformed the calm awards presentation into a hilarious, often ribald affair as he cracked blue jokes and dryly poked fun at everyone, including Snicket award-winner Laurence Copel, youth outreach librarian and founder of the Lower Ninth Ward Street Library in New Orleans. Author Mo Willems surprised everyone when he literally jumped onstage to join Handler in the wackiness.

Handler provided the perfect introduction to the main attraction—President Barbara Stripling’s conversation with Lois Lowry, author of young adult dystopian classic The Giver, and Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges. The pair joined Stripling to discuss the upcoming film adaptation of The Giver, which stars Bridges in the title role (he also served as the film’s producer), as well as discuss concepts found in the film and Lowry’s and Bridges’s individual creative endeavors: memory, collaboration, community building, artistic responsibility, diversity, and literal and figurative journeys. An exclusive “sizzle reel” that features behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the new film was also screened for the audience.

Lowry and Bridges had a playful, comfortable rapport. They looked to each other as they answered questions, corrected each other if one got off track with an answer, and laughed freely. The vibe was that of two old friends. This relaxed, open energy flowed into their answers to Stripling’s questions.

When asked about the power of dreams and memory, Lowry and Bridges said they are both believers. “[They] are a source of fascination to me,” said Lowry. “They are the only things that are really ours.” Bridges agreed, adding that he recalls memories of his father, the late actor Lloyd Bridges, to channel his spirit as he creates his characters. “I feel like he and I were in a relay race, and he was reaching back and passing me the baton,” Bridges said.

The conversation often shifted to the process of creating, with the trio discussing book-to-film adaptations, film production, the writing process, music, and photography. Bridges and Lowry noted that the endeavors offer both collaborative and solitary rewards.

“To work together and have it come out is fascinating,” Bridges said. “I hesitate to even talk about it because it’s like being a magician and saying this is how we do it.”

Lowry and Bridges both have strong feelings about books and the important role reading plays in the lives of young and old. “There are books that you read and reread because they trigger something in you,” said Bridges. “The same goes with music. They can make you feel a certain way. It’s a wonderful mystery.”

Asked if she, as a writer, feels that she has to protect children from the brutality of life, Lowry had a thoughtful response: “Reading is the most important way to prepare for life,” she said. “Reading is a rehearsal for life. We all experience bad things. If we read about other people’s responses to these things, it can be a preparation.”

Bridges agreed. “Books and movies are a safe place to explore tragedy,” he said. “I think that’s where compassion can kind of develop for our fellow man.”

See, hear, and read more about what’s going on at Annual—in real time and after.

Twitter: @alaannual and #alaac14

A Conversation with Jane McGonigal

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 2:23pm
The Scoop



Jane McGonigal, alternate-reality game designer, speaks with American Libraries about gaming and the experience of mastery, resilience, and how the human brain processes intense videogames.


Read about her Opening General Session appearance here.