By Soraya Silverman-Montano

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s September already. This year has flown by so fast! ALA 2013 is well over, and 2014 is right around the corner. This year, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Annual for the first time and it was such a great experience. The programs were very educational, the speakers were astounding, I made quite a few friends, and let’s not forget all of Chicago’s good eats. Next year ALA is coming to my home town, good ol’ Las Vegas, and I thought I’d compare my experience from this year to what you can expect in 2014!

Chicago: The Windy City- Highlights

First off, the Speaker Series this year consisted of a phenomenal line up of guest speakers. Steven D. Levitt, author of the Freakonomics series, was the opening keynote and cracked up the audience with an extraordinary story reminiscent of his books. Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, discussed his most recent, chart-topping novel, And the Mountains Echoed. And to conclude, the incredible Alice Walker presented, reading stories from two of her most recent books, The Cushion in the Road and The World Will Follow Joy. She is so elegant and inspiring; it was such an honor to see her present live.

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The Exhibit Hall was mind-blowing! I happened to be in the area when they cut the opening ribbon and man, are librarians crazy about free swag. Not that I blame them! There were so many awesome giveaways: Free hardback books, advance reader copies, posters, calendars, flash drives, pencils, bookmarks, trinkets, tickets to blockbuster author signings and, my personal favorite, a Mo Willems Pigeon foam hand puppet.

The programming itself was so informative, resourceful, and exciting! I went to a few professional development, advocacy, and management panels, but to be honest, the ones I enjoyed the most were those concerning children’s and teen services. To name a few:

The YALSA 20 Programs Under $20 was particularly useful. I now have a handful of excellent teen programming ideas for future events, including Marshmallow Wars, Candy Casinos, and Minecraft Crafts—and on a budget, too!

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There was a POWERHOUSE panel of speakers at the Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia program. Featuring Cory Doctorow, Veronica Roth, Patrick Ness, and Lois Lowry, the panel blew my mind. Definitely A+ celebrities of YA literature.

YALSA’s President’s Program was a blast as well! I was introduced to our current YALSA president, Shannon Peterson, and got to speak with several board members concerning YALSA’s current practices and what the future may hold. It was a great networking opportunity, and it was nice to feel like my opinions made a difference.

My favorite experience, though, was meeting some of my favorite authors. These people are heroes in my book (authors! books! ha!). I got the chance to shake hands and get autographs from Laurie Halse Anderson, Marie Lu, Patrick Ness, Veronica Roth, Tamora Pierce, Francesa Lia Block, and David Levithan! My little librarian heart was so happy it melted from joy.

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Last but certainly not least, Chicago itself was a wonderful city to explore in my free time. The museums and parks, the architecture, the fountains, the weather, and the food were incredible. Overall ALA Annual was an outstanding experience that I cannot wait to relive for years to come!

Vegas: Sin City- What to Expect

Welcome to my neck of the woods! As fantastic as last year’s programs were, the schedule for this year promises to be even better! There were a lot of great proposals submitted. YALSA members voted on the ones they were most interested in seeing, and below is just a small sampling of the ten that received the most votes.

Teaching Teens How to Fail: Library Spaces and the Maker Movement

“The maker movement has already infiltrated many libraries. But who is a maker? What does s/he do? Much of the philosophy behind making is mentoring youth in tinkering and experimentation. We are committed to spreading the gospel of why it’s important to fail, learn, and try again as integral to the making and learning process.”

The Art of the Author Visit: Connecting Teens with Their Favorite Authors

“Want to engage your library’s teens with stand-out author events? Get successful techniques from two youth services librarians who regularly host high-profile authors at their libraries, and hear the insider’s perspective on what makes an ideal library visit from popular YA authors Leigh Bardugo, Jessica Brody, and Lauren Kate.”

Teen Spaces 201: What’s Next for Teen Spaces in Libraries

“Learning labs, technology centers, teen centers, makerspaces – there is no shortage of great ideas for creating spaces for teens in libraries. This is an opportunity to learn more about what these spaces have in common, how to flexibly and creatively create teen spaces that meet a variety of budget needs, and how to gain support for creating these kinds of spaces in your library.”

Sci Fi for Librarians Who Don’t Like Sci Fi

“When you hear Sci Fi do you think of Klingons, light sabers, and robots? Does an all-day Star Trek marathon make you cringe? Well, never fear – just because you don’t like Sci Fi doesn’t mean you can’t recommend it. Sci Fi on the Sly will provide middle school, junior high, and high school librarians assistance with readers’ advisory and collection development in the area of Science Fiction literature.”

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There are also the usual ticketed programs, with a few scheduling modifications that we hope will allow more people to participate. The Margaret Edwards Program is now a brunch, which results in a lower ticket price, and the Michael L. Printz Program has been moved from Monday to Friday so that anyone unable to stay until Monday will still be able to attend.

YA Author Coffee Klatch – Sunday, June 29, 9am’ 

“Enjoy coffee and meet with YALSA’s award winning authors! This informal coffee klatch will give you an opportunity to meet authors who have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA’s five literary awards. Librarians will sit at a table and every 3 or 4 minutes a new author will arrive at your table to talk!”

Margaret Edwards Brunch – Saturday, June 28, 10:30am NEW TIME

“Come join us for brunch and listen to the winner of the 2014 Margaret A. Edwards Award speak about their writing. The award honors their significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens. The annual award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by School Library Journal magazine.”

Michael L. Printz Program and Reception – Friday, June 27, 8-10pm NEW DATE AND TIME

“Come listen to the 2014 Michael L. Printz award-winning author and honor book authors speak about their writing, followed by a reception. The annual award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by Booklist magazine.”


Be sure to check out the YALSA Wiki page, where you can find more information about programs, including many more not mentioned here. It also provides regular updates about events and guests as well as useful info about the city, such as how to get around, all sorts of tips for good eats, places to go, and how to make the most of your budget while you’re here.’  Check out the local information here.

The slate of programming looks very promising, and I can tell you that Vegas does not disappoint. With our world-class dining, shopping, and entertainment options, we will have an ALA Annual you won’t forget. I’m looking forward to hearing all sorts of crazy, fun stories from ALA Annual 2014 and hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did in 2013!


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