YALSA President’s Program, ALA annual 2006

It took me a whole week to sort through my thoughts and notes for the YALSA President’s Program! Here they are at last.

The YALSA President’s Program kicked off Monday afternoon June 26 with Pam Spencer Holly and Beth Yoke delivering highlights from the past year (did you know YALSA is the fastest growing division in ALA? 😉 It’s really amazing that not only has membership increased by 10%, but 25% of YALSA members are student members. Could a student interest group be in the works?

The President’s 2005-2006 Report was well-organized and reflects accomplishments that align with the YALSA Strategic Plan.

I think Pam was so eager to pass over her presidential gavel to incoming president Judy Nelson that she forgot to mention an item on the agenda – Friends of YALSA. The website shows that YALSA only has 18 friends! I slipped a form to my boss, and I think I can get my mom to contribute too – who can YOU ask?

2007 sounds like it will be as busy as 2006! Tons of events are in the works as YALSA turns 50, Teen Tech Week lauches, and much, much more.

Judy Nelson announced a return to our roots with the theme of her presidency, “Still Reading After All These Years,” a focus on the wonderful rich and diverse world of our beloved YA literature. Very fitting, and smart, in light of the recent misconceptions of YA novels as fluff and nonsense.

Appropriately, the program that followed the membership meeting was all about the Renaissance of YA Literature, and a sequel to a program 10 years ago on the same topic: What’s so Adult about Young Adult? The afternoon was a celebration of crossover titles including the likes of Weetzie Bat (the original crossover novel) Perks of Being a Wallflower, and more. I missed the names of some of the speakers, so thanks in advance for any corrections you guys who attended can contribute.

Author and YA lit critic Michael Cart (Booklist’s “Carte Blanche” column, My Father’s Scar, and editor of Rush Hour, who convened the original program on this topic, gave a brief history of crossover novels, lamenting that titles so appropriate for teens are published as adult for (mostly) economic reasons, and commenting on the lack of adult recognition of the value of YA lit, stated of those who think that YA lit is “the stuff of Sweet Valley High, more the fools, they.”

What makes a crossover title? They share several traits:

  • first novels
  • young authors
  • coming of age theme (teen protagonist)
  • incorporate the mysterious, puzzling, and enigmatic

Next, a publisher spoke (missed her name!), sharing the stat that of the top 50 bestselling juvenile titles, 9 are (currently YA titles), and explaining a little about why editors publish young adult books under adult imprints.

Author Aidan Chambers (This is All, Postcards from No Man’s Land) offered the British perspective with humor and aplomb, quoting Shakespeare, poking fun at himself and explaining his position on the “life follows art” theory.

Author Greg Galloway (As Simple as Snow) followed, and discussed literature as types of glass – the transparent “windex” kind popularized by the likes of Dan Brown, and the more complex stained glass kind in which literary greats such as Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Chandler delight in use of language.

Sheila (Scofield? sorry Sheila!) provided the librarian in the field point of view, speaking about the gamut of authors and formats and genres teens ask for. She recommended promoting adult titles to young adults and young adult titles to adults by incorporating them into displays and booklists recommending YA titles to librarians serving adults, and asking the adult services librarians to recommend crossovers.” Promoting teen lit IS advocacy for teens, she said; her top suggestions are

Pretties/Uglies/Specials by Scott Westerfield
I is Someone Else by Patrick Cooper
titles by Marcus Zusak
Feed by M.T. Anderson

She concluded by reminding us that authors tell stories; they don’t write for a selected audience, and quoted Ranganathan: “Every reader has his or her book; Every book has its reader.” The concept was followed up in the Q&A period when one of the panelists reminded us that the readership of a book is one (the original Long Tail?).

Three excellent booklists distributed at this program are online at http://www.ala.org/ala/yalsa/annual.htm

~posted by Beth Gallaway

Burger’s Blogger Bash

Posted by Beth Gallaway

Burger Blogger Bash, ALA2006

Photo: Leslie Burger welcomes guests to her Blogger Bash – folks from the biblioblogosphere mingled with heroes whose libraries and lives have been devasted by Katrina.

I showed up at ALA President-Elect Leslie Burger’s hospitality suite Saturday night expecting to rub elbows with fellow bloggers and thank Burger for her open acceptance of the biblioblogosphere. There was lots of elbow rubbing going on that night and Burger greeted each visitor as s/he walked in the door.

Invitations to the reception were extended to Gulf Coast libraries, and it was Burger’s hope, since she is a shrewd and savvy woman who recognizes that blogging is an important communications tool, that bringing these two groups together might help extend the message that the devestating effects of Hurricane Katrina have not diminished much.

We heard heartwrenching stories from public, academic and school libraries about loss of staff, defected to other parts of the country; losses of millions of dollars worth of books and computers; the struggle to maintain some basic library services to citizens still living in tents; the plea for “NO MORE BOOKS!!! We need MONEY!”

We also heard heartwarming stories, some told to the crowd, others exchanged one on one, about children who raised a few hundred dollars with lemonade stands, of libraries in other parts of the country who did local fundraising to send to specifically designated sister libraries in New Orleans; an academic library that saw an opportunity to promote remote and electronic services; a school than managed to graduate its class in December. The evening was a much deserved tribute to and celebration of the workers who returned and are every day heroes for simply doing their jobs in such terrible conditions. I’m not convinced I would have done the same.

I asked where the donation bucket was – how could you not want to give something after watching the emotion play out on someone’s face as such losses are described? – but I can’t help feeling that although I agree libraries are essential – ESSENTIAL! – perhaps permanent shelter, clean drinking water, and public health & safety are higher priorities than new books and computers. What do the rest of you think?

Donate to the New Orleans Rebuild Project at http://www.nutrias.org/~nopl/foundation/katrinafoundationdonation.htm.

The Kids are Alright, and Stephen Abrams is great

Posted by Beth Gallaway

The YALSA Technology for Young Adults committee traditionally hosts a program at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning (okay, 8:00 AM – it’s early!) and it is ALWAYS worth getting up for.

This year, Stephen Abram, whose job title is Vice President of Innovation (how cool is that!?) and blogger extradordinaire of Stephen’s Lighthouse, presented The Kids are Alright! Millennials and their Information Behaviors to a LOT of other people who found were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and eager to hear what he had to say.

I walked in to hear him encouraging the audience to pay attention to gaming (yay!) and to read Beck & Wade’s Got Game (the paperback edition is named The Kids are Alright. Abram went on to impart characteristics of the millennial generation and show by example how they are different from Boomers and Gen X/Y. They are generally:

  • More direct (polite but assertive and demanding)
  • Smarter (IQ tests are revised and made more difficult every year; the current standard of 100 would have been genuis level when the test was first standardized) Healthier (about 8% smoke)
  • Both more liberal and conservative (multiculturally and globally aware, and patriotic and spiritual)
  • Well-balanced (able to both multitask and commune with themselves.

Some stats:
90% own a home computer
85% spend at least an hour a day online
75% have a TV in thir room (cramming 8.5 hours of television viewing into 6.5 hours, due to multitasking

In light of these facts, Abram challenged libraries to meet the youth where they are. “They live on the phone,” he said, challenging us to make our webpages be readable on small screens, to set up IM screen names and get into MySpace where our users are.

One of the most interesting things I heard was they the eyeballs of millennials move differently when reading – they skim the bottom and edges then focus on the center. And specific COLORS attract and repel -red draws attention first, neon green and orange are skimmed, and black is ignored completely. A slide on the teen brain compared activity patterns to show the shift on how the millennial’s brain is being used differently than the boomer’s brain.

Audience questions included:

  • Do you think the prevalence of cutting is due to the detachment of kids and immersion in technology? to which abram replied it’s not a technology related problem, it is more likely a response to pressure to perform and succeed placed upon youth by adults;
  • How do I get my OPAC search bar into MySpace? to which Abram recommended contacting Hennepin County, whose page he had highlighted during the presentation
  • Where can I find a poster of the image of the brain you showed, to use a tool for teachers, parents, admin to SHOW how these kids process information differently? Abram gave several sources for text posters.

All in all, well worth getting up for – watch http://stephenslighthouse.sirsi.com/ for the PPT presentation to appear.

Please continue the discussion of Millennials right here on YALSA’s blog! Do you agree with Abram’s assertations of millennial characteristics? What other programs and services are YOU offering to meet their needs? Share your ideas via comments!

Booklist Forum

Posted by Beth Gallaway

I make it a point to get into twon in time to see the Booklist Forum at each ALA. Traditionally 8-10PM on Friday night, it is always a delight.

Mo Willems, former stand-up comic, opened with how to draw his famed pigeon: An “O” within an “O” for a head, a strategical placed pupil to indicate emotion), a sideways letter M for a beak, two lines for the neck and to deliniate a throat (sound effects optional), a “cirdrangal” (starts out as a circle with a triangular end) with a wing, stick legs and letter V’s for legs. “The faster you draw the more life it has,” said Willems, before congratulating us on our differently-styled brids and imploring us to “make people draw pigeons!”

Author Lisa Yee spoke about humiliation, headache and heartbreak in humor (Willems helpfully drew a large letter “H” to illustrate her alliteration) and talked about her everyday life that includes researching her books through spying, mostly on her children, blowing up peeps in the microwave (hint – put 2 in, stick a toothpick in each, and let the jousting begin!) and “dropping Mentos… into diet Coke to watch the explosions.” In her research to prove that guys can be sensitive (“Right? Right? Back me up, guys,” she asked of her fellow panelists – Lubar made a great show of laughing at this assertion) she gave us great and funny quotes from young readers. “Girls travel in wolf packs and just talk and talk and talk… about why unicorns have horns” Lisa’s son informed has informed her.

David Lubar was uproarious per usual, noting that now we’d all learned two lessons – don’t go on car rides with Mo and make sure Lisa doesn’t have Mentos when she’s drinking a Pepsi. He gave us some great reasons for writing humor:

  • Mark Twain lived til he was 75 – Kafta, 42
  • Angst is for whiners
  • High school would have been bearable if the Pearl had been funny

Punctuated by two signature Lubar booklists (“Great Books Set in New Orleans” and “Edgiest Books”), David (who is not bitter at all about his books being virtually ignored by bestowers of YA lit awards, really) touched on the need for more humor in fiction for teens. He doesn’t need to write books about kids with alcoholic parents and in other terrible situations: “I don’t write books about those kids… I write FOR those kids.”

Jack Gantos delivered a more sober speech about the background of comedy in the history of literature – the Homeric tradition of engaging the reader by making him/her her smarter than the protagonist. This is Gantos’s way of thinking about the reader when he was writing. Comedy is based on a foundation of truth, and is doubly successful when the character reinforces the reader’s view of the character’s stupidity. He also discussed his theory of dramatic comedy.

The evening ended a little early, but it was a great program – so full they had to bring in more chairs.