A comedian, a gameshow, and a pina colada

I am wicked exhausted. Today was even better than yesterday, and I suspect tomorrow will be even better still. My first program was Teen Book Groups Can Work: how three very different libraries created teen reading communities. Aside from the awesome ideas I got from these presenters, my favorite part of the program was getting to see video from a Duxbury, MA “Bookmarks” meeting, which is a teen book group that uses the Socrates’ Cafe theory of discussion. So instead of just reading a book and discussing it, they use the book to formulate philosophical questions. For example, they read a book where a character died, so they discussed how they envisioned their own funerals. Okay, this may sound a little off-putting, but come on, we have all thought about it. They’re actually discussing it! A few of the teens came to DC with their librarian (and parents, of course) and talked a little about what they got out of the group, such as social skills, “a place to go and talk about things other people would think I was crazy for talking about”, and pizza. (All great reasons LOL)

Then I went to my favorite (so far) program of the weekend: Library Services to the Poor and Homeless. We heard from Victoria Hill, a children’s librarian from Brooklyn Public Libraries who discussed her outreach efforts which include reading to kids in the area Emergency Rooms and writing a grant that got them money to have an internship program for teens who were interested in being librarians.
The next speaker, Nick Higgins, is a correctional librarian for NY prisons. From the day he began that job he has been advocating for more resources and more staff. He wants to host more than once-a-month programs, such as the story times for babies living with their imprisoned mothers. (Had no idea that was going on. I am dumbfounded.) He wants to host programs for inmates that teach them to be members of society, simple things such as tying a tie that they didn’t need to know, but do once they get back out in the free world.
Lastly was Julie Winkelstein, a doctoral student from University of Tenn-Knoxville, who has been researching library services for homeless individuals. She taught us a few things: not all homeless people are alike so we shouldn’t call them “the homeless”, instead we should address them as the individuals they are. Some library staff and patrons need to be trained on sensitivity and be reminded that not everyone chooses to be homeless, and that they need to be treated with the same respect we show others. Her focus group suggested that the library advertise their services to the homeless, because they need to be technologically literate just as much as other patrons. She said something that really stuck with me, “Do not assume that that person has a house, is literate, or had enough to eat that day.” And that is SO true! Public librarians need to realize that our patrons will not always be the sweet ladies who sit on the couches and knit while waiting for their sweet, smiling grandchildren to be done at storytime. That there will be smelly (yes, smelly), sleeping, bag-carrying patrons but dammit we cannot turn them away or give them bad service. They deserve great service, just like every other customer.

I could really go on and on about that topic, but I won’t. As I said yesterday though, I’d love to have this conversation with someone else who is interested.

So next I spent some time in the exhibit hall with my bff’s sister Katie, and a few of her fellow UMD peers. We spent half an hour listening to Jim Breuer (SNL comedian, looks perpetually high) talk about his new book, and holy crap I cannot WAIT to read it! He was absolutely hysterical and just real pleasant to be around. I would love to like, go to a cookout with him. Really, he’s probably the life of any party. Then I got a galley of his book (due to be released Oct. 5!) which he signed for me. Then I got another book signed.

Oh, and that was after getting WILL SHORTZ!!!! to autograph a book for me. WILL SHORTZ!!! Yeah, the crossword puzzle guy!! His talk was fabulous! He got the entire ballroom full of librarians to play some word games, breaking us up into two groups (Fiction and Non-fiction, he called us). I really can’t write in words how to play the games (I am SURE Blogger has some kind of length restriction) but it was super fun and hysterical.

The titles include:
I’m Not High by Jim Breur
This Book is Overdue: how libraries and librarians can save us all by Marilyn Johnson
The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo
I Don’t Care About Your Band: what I learned from indie rockers, trust funders, pornographers, felons, faux sensitive, and other guys I’ve dated by Julie Klausner
…and the only one I bought: Will Shortz’s Wittiest, Wackiest Crosswords by, you guessed it, Will Shortz
**3 of these are signed by the author. To me. THAT is awesome!

I also went to an afternoon program called Growing Learners Together: school and public co-ops. We were told about some fantastic collaborations, such as some Wisconsin libraries that, in order to avoid being sued for allowing the public libraries to advertise their summer reading program, joined forces with the public library to co-host summer reading! Genius! Another library gave special library cards to educators that allowed them extended loan periods, renewals and holds, and offered curriculum support. And that was only in the first half hour!!

Today’s sessions were very informative, and my only regret is that I don’t have a library to start doing some of these activities with. But someday I will be working in my own person library heaven. Until then, I will continue to gather fabulous ideas, read listservs and blogs, and learn as much as I can.

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