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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

A Taste of the Floor (ew!): ALA Annual Conference 2012 (Day Two)

Full credit to the good people of Sterling for keeping a handy coffin on hand!

So Friday actually was a bigger kick-off of than I initially led you to believe, and on the conference floor it was all anyone could talk about.  I alluded to it briefly but hadn’t expected the conversations about it to blossom the way they did.  Apparently on Friday evening there was a Booklist / Guys Read program with a roster of folks talking on the subject.  Even if I had heard about it and had skipped my dinner I wonder if I would have gone.  I mean, we hear about Guys Read and we expect the same old, same old boys-should-read-more topics.  Not even.  It started off evenly enough with Jon Scieszka doing the honors.  But by the time it got to Andrew Smith (The Marbury Lens) things got interesting.  According to my sources Mr. Smith thought to question the notion that boys really are more reluctant a readers than girls.  With statistics and facts under his belt he proceeded to throw the very nature of the problem into question.  That would have been shocking enough and the librarians in attendance would have gone home murmuring how very interesting it all had been.

Then came Mr. Snicket.

Daniel Handler gets up there and proceeds to read a passage from what I believe was The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.  The dirtiest, sex-drenched series of words the ALA Conference may have ever seen.  Like the Stephen Gammel speech of old, reports after the fact vary on how long the reading actually was.  Whatever the length, the audience sat stock still in shock.  The point?  Mr. Handler made it clear that if you want boys to read you give them books with sex in them.  That’s what boys want to read after all.  A librarian later confirmed that recently she was getting a lot of guys requesting and loving John Green’s Looking for Alaska.  Sure the literary qualities are grand, but what they really like?  The blow job scene (a scene that periodically gets the book banned and that I have since entirely forgotten).

SO!  Between Smith and Snicket the conference floor was a veritable buzz on Saturday!

When preparing to descend to the floor you need to be on your toes.  I’ve done enough of these things, so I went through my routine.

The first thing to do is to grab your Annual Conference Program and Exhibit Directory, a sprawling mass of author signings, booth locations, events, speakers, and maps.  If you want your day to make any sense at all, you have to chop away at it until it’s in some kind of workable condition.  In my case I tend to produce something that looks like this:

That’s just a wish list.  There’s no way I’ll see all those folks, but at the very least I should be able to get to the booths.  Now if you are invited to a lunch or dinner with a publisher, it’s a toss of a coin whether or not they’ll have the book you so desperately want.  I knew I had an Abrams lunch coming and I knew Barry Deutsch would be there so the chances that the new Mirka graphic novel would be on hand were fairly good.  But what about that new historical fiction graphic novel series by Nathan Hale?  Would they have that as well?  Impossible to say.  That’s why you have to plan ahead.  Carefully I determined what might be available (the new Adam Gidwitz?), what I’d ask about, and what I needed.  Not too much, mind you.  A suitcase can only hold so many things.

After you figure out the authors and booths to visit, then it’s time to figure out what speakers and speaking engagements you want to fill your time with. I knew that there was an ebook discussion I’d miss so I made sure to see a talk on circulating toys in your library system.

And no trip to the ALA Annual Conference is complete without a trip to the ALA Notables committee to see what they’re debating and arguing over.  This is one of the rare committees you can walk in and watch for hours on end, if you’ve half a mind to.  Since they were in my hotel the room was set up in such a way where they were in the middle and the viewers could sit around them.  Unnerving, that.  Now normally I always miss the fiction days and end up walking in mid-conversation in the middle of a nonfiction day.  Nothing wrong with that, mind you.  Nonfiction’s awesome.  But I’ve always wanted a fiction day to myself and now, lo and behold, oh wonder of wonders, I made it when they were talking about fiction fiction fiction!!!

Of course I walked in the minute they finished speaking about The Mighty Miss Malone, a conversation I would have killed to have sat in on.  Durn!  Instead, as I sat down, they were talking about the second Bink and Gollie title Two for One.  It was interesting to me to see them debate the “problems” with the book.  One person had perhaps not seen the previous Bink and Gollie title and questioned everything from the the use of complex vocabulary words like “scepter” and “replete”, to wondering if the book itself was age appropriate for young readers since it contained two kids without parents around wandering in a state fair and seeing stuff like a fortune teller.  Someone pointed out that this was based on the Minnesota State Fair and that no one could ever possibly run into anything bad at that fair.  I used to attend that particular fair myself.  That and the fact that arguing against Bink & Gollie on the basis of vocab is one of the stranger nit picky things to point out.

I think I would be a terrible Notables committee member since I take a peculiar pleasure in debating books with folks one-on-one.  I like it too much.  So the only problem with me sitting in the audience at a Notable committee is that I want to jump in with my own opinions.  Watching me in the audience must be very frustrating for the folks sitting behind me as I nod vigorously or shake my head or twitch repeatedly.

On top of all that were the lunches, previews, cocktail hours, and dinners of the day.  I was fortunate to have a good schedule of folks willing to force edibles down my gullet.  It was lovely.

And now, a taste of the floor:

Crowds waiting to enter the conference.

An original art auction with donated graphic novelists:

A quilt they were raffling.

I love galley architecture. Sometimes the folks get mighty creative:

Best bag of the season. Kudos, Owl Kids!

Greenwillow’s way of paying homage to the authors, now passed on.

And finally, my lifelong dream of coericing Mr. Schu into wearing a fake sunglasses/mustache combo is fulfilled!

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. About Mr. Handler’s recitation: let’s just say it was LENGTHY. At least 8 minutes of throbbing excerpt. And frankly, at least 6 minutes past Everybody Gets the Point.