ALA San Francisco Recap

The 2015 ALA annual conference #alaaac15 has come and gone and it was another memorable one for the books – literally and figuratively. If you have ever experienced this conference before, you know that some of the battle is getting back home without picking up too many Advanced Readers Copies of books. For bibliomaniacs everywhere, the struggle is real. I try to resist, having purposefully packed only a small carry-on, yet alas ended up shipping 2 boxes of books back anyway. Yay, books!


I was fortunate to be able to garner support and go to the annual conference this year, only having a few months under my belt as Children’s Services Consultant at the Indiana State Library. With a new city to navigate and different sessions from which to learn, it’s definitely a whirlwind and one you have to plan ahead of time. The ALA conference website has a nice online scheduler to assist you with jam-packing your days with high-conflict/high-priority sessions. Whee! Most times, though you’ve planned, you still roll with the punches – seeing how you feel (“I need coffee!”) and where you are actually located to see if it’s feasible to attend the session you wished. And, of course, you HAVE to compare your session times against all the great author signings in the exhibit halls.

I went to San Francisco, gorgeous city that it is, thinking how expensive it would be for the budget-minded traveler. Yet, I never had to take a cab to get anywhere and food was readily available all around the Moscone conference center and my hotel. I didn’t stay close to the conference center but it still felt like an easy walk too. AND it was downhill. San Francisco is known for its hills, but it’s got a great transit system and the cable cars are as fun to ride as a roller coaster – if you’re into that sort of thing.

Friday, I got to the conference center just in time to see the last part of Guerilla Storytime in the Uncommons. Guerilla Storytime, started by the Storytime Underground group, is a grassroots event held to share best practices for library storytimes. Shaker eggs and scarves are passed out and hello/goodbye songs shared with other youth librarians. You always walk away with a new finger play rhyme or a great idea to inspire caregivers and kids alike at storytime. If you‘re attending ALA annual and you’re a children’s librarian, you should seek out one of the Guerilla Storytime sessions.

Next up, it was exhibit time to get some books and swag that are exclusive to opening night. Yummy appetizers to be had, exhibit coupons flying for first-day specials, and authors signing their books. Then it was time to catch the bus to attend the Michael L. Printz Awards! I love some good YA literature and the Printz award honors the best of the best each year. The winners are announced at ALA Midwinter conference, but the honorees and winner get to accept their awards and speak on a panel at ALA Annual. Jandy Nelson, an inspiring and artistic author, gave a lovely speech. If you haven’t read her Printz-winning book I’ll Give You the Sun, what are you waiting for?

Saturday and Sunday were full days with informative sessions and more exhibits time. The “Managing the Future: Supporting Your Youth Services Innovators” panel was a helpful and sometimes heartbreaking presentation on how to support your youth librarians. There were some examples of toxic environments, but moreover, there were great takeaways about how to advocate for yourself and your ideas, plan purposeful meetings with your director, and become a better manager. If you’re on Twitter, search tags #futureys tags and #alaac15 to read more.

Other helpful sessions:

* “The Fusion of Play—and all Five Early Literacy Practices—into Library Environments”

* “Babies Need Word Everyday—Bridging the Word Gap as a Community” – Download free posters and booklist brochures here:

* “Raspberry Pi and Beyond—Tech-ing Up Your Teen Program” – Teen librarians in Springfield, Oregon do a fabulous job with not only Raspberry Pi programming and coding with Minecraft, but also low-tech, Velcro LED lights called “throwies,” Makey-Makey, and Snap Circuits programs too. They confessed little tech knowledge but still jumped in to provide great technology programs for kids.

I learned a lot by attending my first ASCLA – the Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies – 101 meeting and gleaned how helpful this group can be in support of state agencies and consultants all over the globe. So if you serve special populations and you want to give back to the profession, this group is for you.

Make sure you make room for something you want to personally see when attending the ALA annual conference. That one event for me is going to the Alex Awards, which is an award given to the ten best adult books of the year that teens would enjoy. I remember reading plenty of adult books in my teen years and it’s lovely to see some great titles that you can recommend to your communities’ teen readers. Remember these awards when creating a new booklist brochure or library display for your teen department.

Sunday evening was the big treat of the conference – the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet. More author speeches! I heard some powerful and moving talks by respective winners Kwame Alexander, Dan Santat, and Donald Crews. It was my first time going to this one and absolutely worth the personal splurge. For those of you who may not know, a ticket is needed to get into the banquet, but they open up the doors for anyone to come in later (usually around 8:30) and hear the winners’ speeches for free!

The whirlwind ALA annual conference is over and I had the July 4th holiday to rest, recover, and reflect. Not only did I get to bring home plenty of information to share with my Indiana librarian counterparts in youth services, but I also got to learn more about ALA and am inspired to give back even more to the profession.

This blog post was written by Angela Dubinger, Children’s Services Consultant. For more information, contact the Professional Development Office at (317) 232-3697 or email