Wednesday, November 11, 2009

AASL in Charlotte

The American Association of School Librarians conference was held in Charlotte and it was a terrific place for a conference, especially in November. The weather was fabulous every day and we walked everywhere. Not only was our hotel conveniently located close to the convention center, it was also surrounded by a host of fantastic non-chain restaurants. We sampled the cuisine at Merts, Zink, Ratcliffe on the Green,and Coco Osteria among others.

Directly across from the convention center is this wonderful green. The entrance is flanked by these fantastic book tower sculptures. Needless to say, all the convention goers were photographing it like mad.

One of the seating areas in the green was home to these lovely fish sculptures. The green was a wonderful spot to spend a few relaxed minutes during lunch and many people took advantage of it.

As for the conference itself, it was dominated by sessions on Web 2.0 tools and the new Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. My half-day preconference on the new standards was with Dr. Carol Kuhlthau and her daughters. I also did a regular conference session with Dr. Gail Dickinson, one of the creators of the standards. Both were very helpful.

The keynote address at the opening session was given by danah boyd, an ethnographer who is often called "the high priestess of networked social media." It was not your momma's keynote speech, and was entertaining as well as information rich.

The Exploratorium that went on before the vendors' exhibit opened was a sort of science fair for media specialists. For my money, the best in show was this neat idea called a sticky note wiki.

Sticky notes can be color coded (pink for reference books, blue for books in the regular collection, yellow for what you think you know, etc.) The creator, Craig Coleman, even had a hands-on element asking viewers to contribute to his information gathering about genres. Many different applications come to mind using this great little idea!

The vendors' exhibits are always popular. Everyone was taking pictures of Baker and Taylor and collecting pins and bags with the pictures of the real cats. What is it about cats and librarians that seems to go so well together?

One of the highlights of the conference for me personally was getting to attend two in-person sessions with Dr. Annette Lamb. Annette and her husband, Larry Johnson are professors at Indiana University School of Library and Information Science, who teach only on-line classes. The most valuable class I had in library school was Annette's Information Inquiry for Teachers. When I first started blogging in 2004, it was for her class. Larry's classes on Electronic Materials and Information Architecture for the Web brought me to things I use every day. Meeting them both, in person, was a real treat.

Getting to spend time with authors is always inspiring at these gatherings and I had a wonderful time listening to great speeches by Laurie Halse Anderson, Linda Sue Park, and Richard Peck as well as Charles R. Smith, Jr. who was new to me. Above is Richard Peck signing books in the Penguin booth. I've been fortunate enough to meet him two other times and we chatted about DePauw and Wabash while he signed my copy of A Season of Gifts.

The closing party was at Imaginon, a fantastic library/childrens' museum/theatre complex in Charlotte. Don't let anyone tell you librarians don't know how to party!

This lovely little drawing by James Marshall is part of the collection at Imaginon. George and Martha were big favorites of my children.

In closing, I would love to see this conference go for fewer, non-concurrent sessions that blow one's socks off and really enlarge the idea of the Bloggers' Café. I was lucky in what I chose. Only one session I attended was underwhelming, but I heard several people complaining that their sessions were sort of mediocre, state convention level gatherings. When you spend $500.00 plus airfare, meals, and hotel, it should be dazzling.

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