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.”)

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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. 🙂

 

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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 fatgirlreading.com. 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.

Highlights!

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!

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Saturday (what a day)

If yesterday’s theme was meet-and-greets, today’s is author talks. Yes! I am pretty much experiencing a TED conference within ALA, albeit with much longer time slots.

My day started bright and early with John Irving, one of my lifelong favorites, who answered question on a variety of hot (literally) topics such as the various attitudes of his characters regarding sex (or lack thereof). The audience was treated to a reading of a portion of Irving’s new tome, In One Person. Especially relevant to this particular conference (in at least one way) is the character of Miss Frost, the transgendered librarian who provides reader’s advisory to the book’s main character, Billy.

After patiently enduring a 30 person deep line at the Hilton Starbucks, I sat in on David Weinberger’s presentation wherein he hypothesized that the properties of knowledge takes the shape of the ecosystem in which it is transferred. In this regime of the network, knowledge takes the shape of the Internet itself: unbounded, unsettled, messy, and connected. My notes are pages long, and I’m looking forward to digesting this argument by reading my signed copy of Weinberger’s new book “Too Big To Know.” Attending this session required the sacrifice of several wonderful presentations scheduled in opposition, but I’m so glad I went. I feel better educated for it.

Lastly, but certainly not least, after lunch and a nice panel on fair use and new media, I heard Glee’s Chris Colfer wax rhapsodic about authoring his YA book, The Land of Stories (see my previous post). As one of the contestants on The Glee Project (yes, I’m watching) declared about Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer is adorable in person – lively, eloquent and funny. If I sound like a fan girl, that’s because I just might be one, much to my surprise. Very rarely am I star struck!

The rest of this day is dedicated to socializing at Hack Library School’s Tweet Up, and maybe the librarian fashion show. Should be quite an event; librarians are a stylish lot!

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Photo Journal: ALA Author Talk with Chris Colfer

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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)

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For your viewing pleasure, some pictures from today!

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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!

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All of the ways!

The day has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things. Of brand new books, of RDA, of librarians and kings.

Ok, cheesy, but totally how I feel about the fact that this afternoon I will be at ALA12!!

Here’s a reminder about all the ways to keep up with us while we’re in Anaheim this weekend:

This blog! My plan is to write a short post after every session or event I attend. This will 1, make it easier for me so I don’t forget what I saw! 2, make it easier for you, dear reader- if you have questions about what I saw I’ll be more apt to remember an answer! And 3, many short updates will be better than one really, really long “what I saw at ALA12” essay next week, which let’s face it, wouldn’t be done for a while.

Twitter! Follow me at @librarian_allie for updates throughout the day, especially this afternoon at the kickoff and tomorrow afternoon as I either see Chris Colfer or George RR Martin (I can’t decide!). If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about what to see and do next, tweet them to me! (Especially the advice bit.) I’ll be tweeting a TON of photos, so if you want to see what I see, that’s the place to look. Don’t forget to follow Davis at @daviserin as well!

Vinette’s audio blog! Don’t forget to check out our very own (and very favorite) Vinette Thomas’ audio blog here. There’s already a ton of great content, so head over there

Let’s do this thing. ALA 2012 is a go.

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