Category Archives: Thoughts from Allison

ALA Session: Disaster Response- Lessons Learned

This was my Saturday afternoon session. For some reason, I’m really drawn to disaster recovery. I don’t know what it is,  but I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with the idea of being ready to respond to details on the fly, while preparing beforehand for as much as possible. I have a tendency to focus on the details that other people don’t think about (but not as much as my mom does!)- in 2007 during the Witch Creek Fires in San Diego, I was the one in the family who took pictures of how the family photos were hanging up in the hallway so as to know where they went when we put them back up, and remembered the little things (like baby books) tucked away in boxes in the garage. So, I like the nitty gritty details, and disaster planning is definitely an area where the nitty gritty becomes the big and important. Also, this last semester in my Records Management class I wrote my final paper on disaster planning, and focused on the cloud (which is also awesome because Sunday morning I went to a session on cloud management! Post here), so I had some background going into this.

I saw Jeanne Drews, the Chief of Binding and Collections Care at the Library of Congress, speak for a little bit on the work that goes into preparing the disaster plan and COOP, or continuity of operations plan for an institution as gigantic as LC. There are a couple of things about planning for LC- like the fact that it has over 140 million items in the collection (upwards of 150 mil, depending on where you look), the oldest building that is part of the LC was built in 1897, it’s got maps, books, A/V recordings, Mary Todd Lincoln’s pearls, the largest flute collection amassed in the U.S….there’s a lot of variety to take care of, so planning has to take all of that into account.

Disaster planning is disaster planning, regardless of what library you’re at. So some of the more important pieces of what I got out of her presentation was the idea of the ICS and the amount of work it takes to create a federal contract. The first, ICS, or Incident Command System, tells you how first responders talk and are trained, because as librarians, we are not going to be first on the scene- we’re going to be second. Having a crosswalk between emergency workers and those who are not would be enormously helpful when trying to communicate in a high tension situation. Think of ICS like a management system that tells people what to do who don’t normally work together. Helpful!

The second bit, how much work it takes to build a federal contract- wow. Just wow. There are loads of different rules that have to be followed, and it’s a very long process. No wonder there are so many lawyers that work for the government!


Leave a comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison

ALA Session: Critical Thinking in A Digital Age: Positive Influence of Web 2.0 Tools

Saturday afternoon I went to the first hour of a discussion on web 2.0 tools in education. It was sponsored by American Association of School Librarians, and was pretty interesting. A quick and dirty summary:

Student need for searching and information has changed, because the process of searching has changed and the information available has exploded. The greatest need (because it’s suffered the greatest change) is critical thinking skills. This will come as a surprise to no one, because the educational community has been shouting about it for years now (AMC: I feel like I was even told while in school that we lacked critical thinking skills, but perhaps now it’s less of a motivator and more of a reality?) and librarians and teachers need to work on using tools and programming to help students build skills that allow them to go beyond what the question asks them to write down to what the question asks them to think about.

My favorite part was discussion about the “google-proof question” or the writing of questions that require more than copy-pasting from the homework email into the search box. This term comes from the Electric Educator, and he writes about it in this blog post here. The basic idea is that a google-proof question hits the highest two levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, synthesis and evaluation. Answering questions as these levels requires thought and commitment, and more than a 30 second search.

As for technology mixed in with education, the web 2.0 part of the session if you will, some things to keep in mind. Students don’t know as much about computers as we like to think we do. When shown a fake website, students in one study thought the whole thing was real. They didn’t know how to evaluate it or how to tell good information from bad information. This is something we need to teach. There are bazillions of tools out there (wordpress, the Google suite, Evernote, Edmodo, Skype, just to name a few) that link students and schools together, boost collaboration, and help with critical thinking that should be used often and with enthusiasm, in order to give kids the skills they need to not just survive, but excel in today’s world of computers. Computers are awesome! the Internet is awesome! But we need to make sure everyone knows why they are awesome. And that’s not a googleable answer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison

What blog posts shall come.

I’m sitting on a plane in San Diego right now waiting to boogie back to New York, where work, my internship, and my summer school project await me. But, I wanted to let you know what is in store for this blog.

There are still buckets of sessions to be written up, including disaster response, cloud computing, and the digital life of teens and tweens. There will be my thoughts on attending professional conferences as a student, and how important ties to school are. Since I love clothes so much I’m also planning a post on the myriad styles I saw at ALA.

Then to wrap up, my thoughts on the overall experience- the exhaustion, the overwhelming feeling of the exhibit hall, the number of brilliant people I was exposed to, and all that I had the opportunity to learn. Most especially what I want to do next time and how inspired I was by attending.

But first, I need to get home! So look for all that over the next two weeks, and if there are any ever questions about any of the sessions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them!

Leave a comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison

ALA Session: Community Voices: Preserving the History and Culture of Our Communities

Saturday morning, I went to SILS’ very own Professor Anthony Cocciolo’s presentation with Brigitte Doellgast, the library director of the Goethe-Institut NYC on the German Traces NYC project that the two of them worked on alongside Dr. Debbie Rabina.

I was at an advantage, having been one of the research participants that got to play with German Traces in the fall. German Traces NYC is an “augmented reality experience” that gives users an experience in two of the many neighborhoods in New York City that can claim German heritage. Via a mobile web browser, you can pick how much time you have and how far you want to go and the app will build a walking tour, taking you from point to point, where at each site of interest there’s a 2ish minute podcast accompanied by music and photos that tells you about the history of that place. It’s really a lot of fun, and very informative. I enjoyed it quite a bit (other than the fact that it was raining buckets the day I did it, and I cut mine short because slogging around in rainboots while trying to balance an iPad under an umbrella is just really not fun).

The other part of German Traces is the augmented reality, where photos of the buildings as they used to look are superimposed on the building when you hold up whatever mobile device you’re using. That part is cool, but sometimes, as Anthony said, doesn’t work quite as well, because it’s dependent on the cell network recognizing your location, and in New York that can be sketchy sometimes (big buildings, lots of people on the network).

I enjoyed watching the presentation; it was fun to hear it from Anthony’s point of view, since I’d already heard about it from Dr. Rabina. Funny thing: at one point, someone asked what would be needed to do this, and Anthony responded with, “well, a graduate student…” He was, sort of, referring to Dr. Rabina’s reference class project this past spring semester, where we created podcasts based on E.B. White’s “Here is New York,” working under the same idea as the German Traces project, that creating this small vignettes supported by substantial research based on real locations, education is more effective and users learn more in a more enjoyable way. It was a ton of work, but I really enjoyed it, and the finished products were totally worth it!

So in conclusion, German Traces is a really cool idea that I think is a good model for getting archival and museum material out there in the “real world,” everyone who comes to NYC should try it, and in the meantime, check out my class’ website here and watch our projects! (Shameless self-promotion: I did the one called “When Broadway Was A Country Road.”)

Leave a comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison

ALA Session: What’s Cooking at ALA- Eat Naked

Session number two on Saturday was a cooking demo by Margaret Floyd, nutritional therapist, and James Barry, chef extraordinaire. I picked this one because one, there are cooking demos at ALA?! And two, this one was all about healthy cooking and this new book is gluten free! While I don’t eat gluten free, my mom does, and my sister makes an effort to, so it’d probably be a good idea for me too. Three, I was really curious to see how books are marketed to librarians.

It was set up just like at the county fair- demo booth at the front with all the gadgets and food ready to go, a mirror set on an angle above so as to see what is actually happening up there. Margaret Floyd hung out in front and James Barry in the back, often chopping or what have you while she talked. There wasn’t any push to buy the book (they were giving it out). Instead, it was a simple cooking demo. That’s it! And it makes perfect sense. I’m much more likely to tell other people about the book now now that I know what’s in it. The same theory applies to why so many Advanced Reader Copies, or ARCs, are given away here at ALA. I have a stack of books a mile high, that I’m going to read, write up on my book blog, and then tell people whether or not it’s worth their time to read those books. Genius.

And if you want to know, the idea behind “Eat Naked” is that we need to take out the processed foods, especially starches and grains. Eat good fat, not no fat, and veggies can be used to fake almost anything. Cauliflower for couscous? I’m trying that when I get back to San Diego tomorrow.

Oh, and I had them sign the book to my mom. 🙂


Leave a comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison

ALA Session: Not Another Boring Vampire Romance: Going Beyond the Norm in YA Paranormal Literature

This morning I hit up an author panel moderated by the lovely Angie of I didn’t get there on time (thus setting the trend for the day) and stayed for about an hour. On the panel were: Kenneth Oppel, Kendare Blake, Jackson Pearce, and Cindy Pon. I hadn’t read anything by any of these authors, but I’ll look for them now! Except I might need a buddy to read Kendare Blake, because it sounds like those books have a dark streak.

Allison, you might wonder, why go to a YA paranormal author panel if you hadn’t read any of the books by said authors? Because 1, my little sister works for a YA publisher, 2, my other little sister loves YA, and 3, YA books are often the subject of censorship and even though I’m firmly on the side of “teenagers don’t have completely developed brains and therefore, no, are not adults” debate, I believe strongly in the power of YA novels and their ability to fill a space in a community (and culture even) that is magnificently important.

It was a really interesting discussion about why paranormal has reemerged as a YA genre, whether or not the label of “YA paranormal” is correct or even applicable, the role of family and romance in YA paranormal fiction (wow that’s a mouthful), diversity in YA, and how much authors owe to the original fairy tale or whatever that’s (often) being retold.


On why YA paranormal has become a thing again:

Overall consensus was that the Twilight phenomenon was a huge push for an interest in “otherworldly” books. Buffy and  Supernatural were also pointed to as helping with that. Jackson Pearce thought that these kinds of books were filling in a gap that has existed for a bit of time.

On the “YA Paranormal Romance/Literature” label:

Both Kenneth Oppel and Kendare Blake mentioned the fact that genre was the least of their concerns while writing, and Cindy Pon said a lot of it has to do with marketing. Jackson Pearce pointed to the big boom of Sarah Dessen in 2003, 2004 as when YA really took off as it’s own genre (I wondered, did she mean a genre outside of children’s literature? I’m not really up on genre history). Overall, the label is just a label- Kenneth Opper said he tried to be a full service writer and make everyone happy- which wasn’t really possible.

On the role “the family” plays in YA paranormal:

There was quite a bit of discussion about how YA in general allows for more opportunity to feature the family and a protagonist’s relationship with them. YA is generally (clearly) about and features teenagers, and up until that point in someone’s life, self-definition is based on being someone else’s sibling or child, and now the quest is to achieve autonomy.  Kendare Blake said that familial ties ground paranormal- an absurd world needs aspects of realism, and families are a good way to do that. Cindy Pon’s books are based on Chinese mythology, so family figures very centrally to her books, since filial duty and responsibility are of utmost importance in China. Jackson Pearce pointed out, though, that it can be difficult to adventure with parents standing around. Kenneth Opper’s solution to this is to kill off the parents- it’s paranormal, bad stuff happens!

On how romance elements are worked in paranormal novels:

Jackson Pearce started by saying that she never locked eyes with someone across a chemistry classroom in high school and fell in love, and neither do her characters. Instead, relationships are developed over time, and after friendship, maybe romance will show up. Cindy Pon’s quote of the day on why there is so much romance in YA lit: “All those hormones- like whoa!” And Kenneth Opper made a really brilliant statement about how romance in these alternative worlds has to be credible. Those moments of romance “let light in” and show times of humanity while fighting off the monsters. Character reactions in those times are what makes them real, and that’s when an author “can get away with telling your readers anything if they believe in your characters.”

On the criticism that YA doesn’t feature a diversity of characters:

In general, diversity is good, but really hard. Jackson Pearce (very bravely, I thought) said that as a white author, writing ethnically diverse characters is scary, because if you mess it up or get it wrong,you’re in a heap big ton of trouble- to the dog house you go. Cindy Pon thought that she now writes the books she would have liked as a child, but any good author can create characters that anyone can relate to in at least some way. She also pointed out that even dystopian YA still features a largely white, largely straight future- even with all of the ways to be diverse, what will happen to those characters that don’t fit in there?

On owing the original stories:

Jackson Pearce wanted to know how many of us remembered, to the minute, where we first learned the story of Red Riding Hood or Cinderella, to make her point of those stories are just such a part of our collective consciousness that it’s easy to pick and choose the pieces that you want from all of the versions to make the kind of story an author wants to create. It’s harder to do with Hans Christian Anderson tales because there is only one way to do them- ’cause he wrote ’em that way. It’s also interesting to note that she had to take into account the fact that younger kids only know the Disney versions of stories like The Little Mermaid, which definitely does not have the original ending.

Kenneth Opper said they didn’t owe the original stories anything because they were in the public domain!


And that was my first session today!

1 Comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison

Day one, and it ain’t over yet!

Wow. Pretty much all wow.

Today, thus far, I have:

-learned about RUSA

-seen how much $$$ ALA works tirelessly to raise to keep the world spinning, and make it better while it does so

-listened to a brilliant author about the need for internet freedom, corporate responsibility, and the need for a movement to push for those two things

-been dazzled by the exhibit hall

Tonight, I will:

-go to ALAplay (I don’t even know)

-go to ALA Dance Party III (yesss)


For your viewing pleasure, some pictures from today!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Edit:: lies. It’s over. I didn’t realize how tired I am before I sat down and had some amaaaazig fish tacos. I’m going to bed so I can be up bright and early for day 2!

Leave a comment

Filed under Conference considerations, Thoughts from Allison