ALA

#ALAMW14 in Philadelphia

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I went to Philadelphia in the snow and the cold to meet and learn at American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference.

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(Image courtesy of http://alamw14.ala.org/ <accessed 27 January 2014>)

The conference was held in the Philadelphia Convention Center right downtown on Market St and 11th St. I met many great librarians and library advocates from all over the United States. Besides searching for academic library jobs, I also got to talk about my own start-up, Metamedia Management, LLC and our work as 21st Century Librarians in document management and technology solutions to that end.

Besides meeting all my library colleagues and learning about applications being put into action in libraries and archives all over, I also took in an important discussion on the social construction and intersectionality of gender, inclusion, race, ablism, hiring practices and technology in libraries. I heard from people such as Coral Sheldon-Hess, Eric Phetteplace, Cecily Walker , Chris Bourg and Myrna Morales from Community Change, Inc. I live-tweeted from @meta21st (our company Twitter acct) and @jlibraryist (mine) as the discussion went back and forth between live-in-the-room to Twitter. I was happy and impressed to see librarians and library advocates bring together such important notions. Don’t hesitate to get involved in the ongoing chat on Twitter with the hashtag #libtechgender.

I learned about so many important technology and standards in use, but I want to draw attention to two intriguing online educational companies: First,  JoVE, Journal of Visualized Experiments, a video collection of science experiments meant to bring lab results and processes into the open in order to encourage continually tackling those processes to double-check, rethink and verify results.

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The second company I got to hear about was EducationonDemand, a K-12 subscription service meant to deliver time-saving video education collections to teachers. They can be likened to a mix between PBS Learning Media and Khan Academy.

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Take a look at either of these sites and see if they will work for you. It is good to see so many people adopting so many approaches and platforms toward connecting library work and education. These notions go together.

It was a good conference.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

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Banned #Books Week 2013

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American Library Association and several other groups such as the American Booksellers Association are hosting the 2013 edition of Banned Books Week – which this year goes from September 24-28.

The Library of Congress’ Center for the Book is not a sponsor, but has endorsed the week-long promotion.

I find it interesting this celebration, attention producing event, is the week after National Book Festival.
– which is squarely hosted by the Library of Congress. It marks a blur between the abstract notion of being free to read, a general celebration of reading and print culture and the world of authorship. It works as a federally funded library event for the whole family on that Saturday and Sunday. At the same time, both events have investments by retail-based organizations. American Bookseller Association in the case of Banned Books Week and big companies like Barnes & Noble Booksellers at National Book Fest. As far as I know, the book selling tent is coordinated by Barnes & Noble most years.

In no way am I criticizing B & N’s involvement in these events. It’s a great thing to be a large bookseller and to be able to promote literacy events on a national scale. But the book selling tent at National Book Fest is not a store per se – it’s a table full of books featuring the  authors at the festival (and a few other sundries published or distributed solely by Barnes & Noble). It is my belief the National Book Festival, given its prominence on the mall, should be an antagonistic force drawing attention to authors who may not often get such a large platform to get noticed. If not authors, then smaller presses carrying high quality authors. I think about presses such  as Talon Books, Dalkey ArchiveNew York Review Books and the fabulous Melville House. As it stands, the list of featured authors at this year’s book festival contains high quality writing from people attached to much larger publishing conglomerates.

These authors, such Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, James McBride and Linda Ronstadt are published by Scribner, Ecco/Harper Collins, Riverhead/Penguin and Simon &  Schuster respectively. These are not independent publishers by any stretch of the imagination. And if we take this festival into context with Banned Books Week starting just the day afterward – a celebration of alternative visions judged by communities as too alternative to be accepted – we find a strange contradiction of terms. On one hand, we find a quieter education model of thinking designed to link the history of culture and oppression of ideas to other ideas  discussed in American schools and libraries. The ALA, as a whole, is very supportive of the freedom to read. Banned Books  Week is often used as an alternative teaching tool in public schools.

In tandem, Barnes & Noble Booksellers often displays a Banned Books promotion table in honour the same week. In other words, corporate Barnes & Noble is playing both sides of this issue in the name of the dollar. And bless them for doing so. In addition, each of the authors featured is talented in his or her own right. There is no dearth of great writing in every genre at the book festival. I want to be clear, I am a big fan of many authors doing readings and signing this year. And each publisher featured has a roster of real artists in its ranks.

There has to be a better way of unifying NATIONAL BOOK FEST with Banned Books Week. The reason for said position is the scale of ambition implied by the name of the festival itself. It’s called National Book Fest, not Recently Featured on New Release Shelves Fest. Unless that is the point. There is something to be said about using such a large event to promote newly published books each year from the same spot on the National Mall annually. It does not have to be an activist festival. But with a title like National Book Fest, I must admit I keep hoping for a more philosophically well-rounded festival agenda – similar to that of Library of Congress’ Center for the Book mentioned above.

Banned Books Week on the other hand, a promotion of alternative reading and ideas, a celebration with a narrower focus offers a much more philosophical relationship to books, reading, education, literacy and libraries. Center for the Book HAS endorsed Banned Books Week because maybe their relationship to reading is more philosophically rounded than the Book Fest – which seems to be a festival steeped in the NOW. In my humble opinion, National Book Fest could embrace a slightly different rhetoric in order to realize the scope implied by its title.

Just a thought.

Thank you for reading.
Jesse L.
Twitter: @jltaglich

PS: I am starting a new #hashtag this year on Twitter to promote bicycling to the National Mall for the Festival: I am calling it #biketobookfest. I see this hashtag as one reusable from year to year. Promote it. Use it. Thank you.

Freedom to Read to Freedom to Read at #ALA2013

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My experience at the 2013 American Library Association conference & exhibition began before the official beginning by joining a Freedom to Read Foundation committee meeting and concluded with a variation on the theme via a Q & A on an important piece of rebel “science-fiction” writing.

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In between, I headed into meetings considering the value of education (whether it accomplishes its goals and its ROI), how to work out licensing for research data between research university libraries; we pondered the notion of classroom education vs project-based learning; I learned about a fantastic nonprofit created to link arts conversations to library programing (playing around with the idea of programming as collection development); I learned of public libraries dropping Dewey in their nonfiction sections for eye-readable language-based subject headings favouring the casual browser (logical within the assumption of the browser but not helpful to research-minded library patrons); and enjoyed a lively Q & A on privacy, surveillance and the NSA.

There were plenty more sessions attended by yours truly. I could write an essay on my experience. But here I will restrict my word-count to a relatively blog friendly number.

I wrote in the first paragraph my #ALA2013 experience was sandwiched by intellectual freedom themes…Well, my concluding session was a fascinating learning experience tied to an examination and appreciation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In this discussion we talked about banned books, a recent motion in a small town in Texas to remove the book from school reading lists and I learned the FBI investigated Ray Bradbury for eight years and for another six years only an expurgated version of F. 451 was in print. It was a pleasurable and engaging discourse on intellectual freedom – an abstraction Ray Bradbury referred to as “creative freedom.” Certainly, a theme of creative freedom can be found in library/learning conversations as a whole.

Don’t be afraid to bring up your own #ala2013 experiences or unifying themes. The more themes the merrier. Bring your ideas into the conversation below in the reply box or @Twitter.

Thank you for reading.