ALA 2009: The Chicago PL's Tamela Chambers Shares Her Conference Experiences

LJ reviewer Tamela Chambers, Chicago Public Library, reports on her conference experiences: 
tamela chambers - chicago public library - ala 2009
"Although this is not my first ALA conference, I always experience it as if it were. I never cease to be amazed at the outcome of months of planning and could sense from the buzz of the crowd at the registration desk that I shared this enthusiam with other registrants."


"Walk the Fine Line Between Selection and Censorship"

YALSA - young adult library services associationI attended this session, presented by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), which included a panel of young adult librarians and a representative from Zest books—publishers of "smart and edgy titles that focus on the colorful chaos of teen life." The room was filled to capacity, brimming with young adult specialists and others working with (or planning to work with) teens—and seeking to step outside of their comfort zones to build a collection of materials of high interest to their patrons. 

The panelists discussed the need for a strong collection development policy to defend the decision to add street literature, religious fiction, hip hop CDs, graphic novels and edgy non-fiction materials to their collections. In addition, they stressed the need to be aware of our own biases and self-censoring thoughts when deciding not to add items we personally find objectionable or uncomfortable. The key take-away point of this session was to remember that collection development is "not about you but the needs of the teens."

"Mentoring Minority Librarians Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities"
bcala - black caucus of the american library associationThis session was sponsored by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and featured a panel discussion of librarians representing REFORMA (promoting library and information services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking), The American Indian Library Association, Asian Pacific Association of the American Library Association and BCALA. Each panelist discussed formal and informal opportunities for mentoring within their organization and offered some tips for forming successful mentor/mentee reationships. 

The common theme in each panelist’s presentation was that communication is the key to the success or failure in these relationships. One of the participants urged those in positions to serve as mentors to be mindful of cultural and language barriers when interacting with mentees. The event was attended by approximately 30–35 diverse participants seeking mentorship advice as a means to recruit underrepresnted groups to the library profession.


I witnessed first-hand the rock-star like draw of Neil Gaiman as I watched a line of enthused conference attendees patiently waiting with copies of Mr. Gaiman’s books—some with multiple copies—for him to sign. I overheard one attendee say that she had gotten in line at an hour when I was probably wiping sleep from my eyes. Sadly for me, 9 a.m. was too late to get an autograph from Mr. Gaiman. However, it was early enough to join the other atendees for an informal photo shoot. If I couldn’t get an autograph, at least I could get close enough to snap a photo with my camera phone and pass it off as having actually met Neil Gaiman!

While I didn’t actually get to talk to Neil Gaiman, I did get a hug from the Cat in the Hat!

Library Journal ALA Annual Conference News

Click here for more ALA 2009 Conference News coverage from Library Journal and School Library Journal.

Margaret Heilbrun About Margaret Heilbrun

Margaret Heilbrun is a former Senior Editor, Library Journal Book Review.