My conference experience started with a crash and a blister on Friday morning at Libraries Build Communities. Approximately 200 librarians volunteered in libraries and communities through the New Orleans region Friday morning, and I was one of 9 at a house in St. Bernard’s Parish. We, along with a representative from St. Bernard Project, walked into a house that had no insulation or dry wall (pros came in and cleared it out), but was caked in dust, dirt, loose nails, and even a syringe. We removed removed trash/large objects from the interior, loose nails, painted the front exterior, swept, weed-wacked the front lawn, and pulled up plants/weeds and leveled the back yard. In five hours we took a house that had been hit by a hurricane and turned it into a real work in progress. A few pictures:
The first shot was taken after a bit of yard work. The second…so this furniture basically hasn’t been touched since August 2005. We found pictures and letters that put into reality the fact that this family hadn’t lived in their own home in nearly six years. The SBP rep gently reminded us that many families haven’t been able to rebuild for numerous reasons such as contractors stole their money (happened more than anyone knows), insurance money not coming through (6 months before Katrina the Army Corps of Engineers claimed the region was no longer in danger of a flood, so flood insurance was removed from thousands of homeowner policies unbeknowest to the owners), and poverty (for some homeowners, their homes were the only thing they had). So seeing such personal treasures as family photos and love letters was jarring, and reminded us why we were busting our asses on our ‘vacation’.
The weekend was an absolute dream. I met great people (authors, librarians, YALSA members, strangers in restaurants/on the street, exhibitors, etc.) and feel like it was money well spent. People asked me if my library sponsored my trip and they did not (I’ve been at LCPL for <1 month), but even if they never do, I’ll continue to pay my own way. Conferences such as this do so much for me; knowing that there are others out there who are enthusiastic as I am, who love serving the public, that the money spent is of no matter to me.
What was YOUR favorite ALA experience? What would you do differently next time?