Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Midwinter Recap

Like many librarians across the country, I attended ALA Midwinter this weekend. It's the first time I've been to the Midwinter Conference and I found it a very different experience than attending ALA Annual (which I did for the first time last June). The main reason I wanted to attend was to see the announcements of the Youth Media Awards and the main reason I was able to attend was because the conference was held in Dallas.

I don't want to do a full recap of events but the reason I found Midwinter so different is because the majority of the conference was taken up by committee meetings. I'm not involved in any sort of committee (yet, anyway), so I didn't really need to be attending. Since I wasn't really keen on sitting in on committee meetings that I would have no effect on, that made it pretty easy to choose which sessions I wanted to attend.

Most of what I went to were publisher presentations - really straightforward sessions with publishers where they introduced big titles they had coming out this spring/summer. However, the very first session I attended on Saturday morning was put on by Abrams and included some of their authors - Michael Buckley, Margi Preus, Tom Angleberger and Lauren Myracle. This session was particularly interesting. Each author got a chance to talk about their books. Tom Angleberger demonstrated how to make Origami Yoda with an oversize piece of origami paper - and he chose me to assist him! I turned bright red (because I was nervous and excited) but I think I did a decent job. Definitely a highlight of the conference for me! Lauren Myracle also talked about the National Book Award debacle in public for the first time ever, so it was really interesting to be there for that. The way she talked about it was very emotional but I'm glad she's made peace with it. It's a very unfortunate incident that occurred. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just Google it and you'll soon learn.

Another highlight of the conference for me was hearing John Green speak. I really like him, but I'm not as much of a fangirl about him as I could be - something I instantly regretted after hearing his presentation. I've read nearly all of Green's books and I never tire of them - his writing is smart and witty and heartbreaking and wonderful. His characters are fantastic. To me, Green is a writer to admire because he believes in teens. He doesn't "write down" to them or pander, something that I truly appreciate. I follow him on Twitter as well, where he continues to show how smart and funny he can be. But seeing him speak made me feel like I should be following him wherever I can (that sounds really stalker-ish, but mostly I mean I should be following the Vlogbrothers as well). He talked about reaching out to communities that teens create themselves. He talked about his great appreciation for librarians. He talked about many things and I listened, totally rapt. I couldn't resist the urge to buy a copy of The Fault in Our Stars (which I then got signed by him). I started reading it almost immediately because it truly felt irresistible. But, I'll talk more about that when I post my review.

Of course, how can I talk about the conference without mentioning all the books? When I attended ALA Annual, I returned home with, I think, about 150 books. Most were advance reader's copies and this thrilled me to no end. I didn't expect to come home with that many books this time around because I knew it was a smaller-scale conference. Additionally, we have run out of space in our apartment for the books (for now, my boyfriend just bought us a new bookcase we've yet to put together), so I planned on restraining myself. But, I have a disease. It's a book disease. I cannot resist the pull of free books. I don't know how many I walked away with this time (because I've been forbidden from bringing them into the apartment so they still reside in a pile in my trunk) but it's a pretty significant haul.

What remains to be seen is whether or not all the books I graciously received are worth it. Thrillingly, I managed to snag copies of seven or eight of my top twenty most anticipated books of 2012, which is fantastic news for me. I also received copies of some books that I criminally overlooked when creating the aforementioned list, most notably Adam Rex's newest book, Cold Cereal. I cannot wait to start reading all the books I received and, of course, reviewing them here.

Another highlight of the conference was attending the Youth Media Awards, but I think I'll save that discussion for a separate post - I'd like to take a look at the winners. My final highlight was the wrap-up concert, this year given by Lisa Loeb. I have always enjoyed her music and I think she is just adorable. This concert was proof of that. She sang some of her "grown-up" hits and also some selections from her recent children's sing-along book. I think it's safe to say that everyone who took the time to stick around for her show greatly enjoyed themselves.

Ultimately, I had a good time at Midwinter but I don't think I'll attend again unless I join a committee or it happens to be local again. Talking with other attendees from Texas made me really want to attend the Texas Library Association Conference in April, so now I'll have to see if I can work that out. I hope anyone who attended Midwinter had a good conference and best wishes to all attending ALA Annual in Anaheim!

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