Librarians Head for the Hill to Rally for Reading - Page 2
ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., attracts 26,000 enthusiastic professionals.
Posted Tue, 07/27/2010 - 15:10
Another discussion, “News Literacy and Preservation: Finding, Using, and Losing the News,” featured Meg Smith, a specialist in local news and the lead researcher at the Washington Post for the Virginia Tech massacre story in 2007. She asserted that librarians are crucial in assessing the authority of news outlets, determining whether they are credible or the best or only sources. This is especially important when news outlets are increasingly utilizing Facebook. The program was sponsored by the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section and the Instruction Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
Librarians attending the conference also gained valuable tips on the use of technology. The Office for Information Technology Policy, through the Subcommittee on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century, showcased new cutting-edge technologies. One project from the Contra Costa County (Calif.) Library is the “Library-a-Go-Go” initiative, which featured a fully automated touch-screen book-lending machine that operates along the lines of an ATM.
The Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund—established in 1970 to provide financial aid to librarians who are in jeopardy for their stand on intellectual freedom, who face discrimination, or who have been denied employment rights—celebrated its 40th anniversary with a gala dinner in the exhibition hall of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The highlight of the evening was the story former ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano told—for the first time in its entirety, she said—about an experience she described as the worst in her professional career: Shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001, two men came into the El Paso (Tex.) Public Library where Brey-Casiano was (and still is) director, demanding to see the patron computer terminal sign-up sheets. Brey-Casiano replied that she could not release patron records without a court order and that, in any case, the sign-up sheets were shredded every night. After months of intimidation from the El Paso police because in their view she was withholding information, her Merritt Fund–funded lawyer called to say that the district attorney had decided not to prosecute.
Those attending this year’s conference were also treated to a series of speakers who entertained while also sharing valuable insights.
Thousands who attended the Opening General Session responded enthusiastically to remarks by Nobel Prize–winning author, editor, and professor Toni Morrison, whose Beloved earned the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988.
Throughout Morrison’s powerful presentation, she left no doubt about her high esteem for libraries. “I suspect that every single author that speaks to librarians can tell you about his or her intimate, steady, and vital relationships to libraries,” she said. After charming the audience with her recollections about the libraries of her youth, she noted her respect for technology and the contemporary library, ending her speech with: “I’m grateful for your past because it is mine as well, and I am eager to help you secure your future because it is mine as well.”
The Auditorium Speaker Series offered a variety of great speakers, including popular novelist John Grisham (speech or interview), who will be the 2011 Honorary Chair for National Library Week. American Libraries presented Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project that honors and celebrates the lives of everyday people through listening. Other speakers who drew large audiences included Marlo Thomas, Salman Rushdie, Dennis Lehane, Nancy Pearl, who interviewed Mary McDonough; Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor; puzzle master Will Shortz; Junot Diaz, who was interviewed by ALA Office for Diversity Director Miguel Figueroa; and a first-time graphic novel panel featuring David Small and Audrey Niffenegger.
The popular ALA Annual Conference series “Many Voices, One Nation” featured readings from novelists, storytellers, and poets. Benjamin Alire Sáenz, an artist, poet, and novelist, read from his fifth book of poems, The Book of What Remains. The Live! @ your library stage in the exhibit hall featured readings by popular and up-and-coming authors, including Nickole Brown, Laurie Halse Anderson, and R. Dwayne Betts. Thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Arts, this year’s Live! stage also showcased a number of poets, including Kwame Alexander and Heid E. Erdrich.