Wearing Two Hats at ALA: Author and Librarian | ALA Annual 2012

Eleanor Kuhns, who holds a MLS from Columbia University, is assistant director of the Goshen Public Library, Orange County, NY. But she also writes. The 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition for A Simple Murder attended June’s American Library Association (ALA) summer conference in Anaheim, CA , in her dual roles as a professional and a newly published author. She shares her experiences below.‚ WIlda Williams, LJ Book Review.

I’ve attended many ALA conferences through the years, as well as state and local conferences, but this is the first time I went as both a librarian and a writer. And I have to say that the addition of another commitment as a new author made this year’s conference very hectic. But considering the issues facing our profession, I appreciate the inspiration from learning something new and different.

At the Opening Session keynote speaker Rebecca MacKinnon, author of Consent of the Networked, spoke on the need to govern the Internet, especially in light of increasing surveillance. Thought provoking and terrifying, her speech was worth the price of the ALA registration. Since the ebook conundrum continues to confuse and I felt I must educate myself, I sat in on the E-book Elephant in the Room, where a panel of academic and public librarians offered different models for purchasing ebooks and providing access to patrons. This program sparked a 20-minute discussion with a colleague afterwards on the exhibit floor, which was just as stimulating as the panel itself.

Typically at conferences I run from one workshop to another, squeezing in as many as I possibly can. But this time other commitments pulled me away. On Saturday I drove to Mysteries to Die For, an independent bookstore in Thousand Oaks, to speak and sign. It was fun, and I spent a long time talking with readers. I probably would have stayed longer, but they had another author coming in and I cleared out to make space.

We raced back to Anaheim so I could catch Where the Wild Things Are: Children’s Discovery and Learning Spaces. (I was late, of course. Believe everything you hear about L.A.traffic. And I’m from New York; I know bad traffic.) The library in which I work was built in 1918, and the word inadequate does not fully describe how desperate we are for more space for both patrons and materials.

Sunday morning I attended a session on creativity and innovation. Some of the projects other libraries concoct are truly original. Though not all those ideas can be transferred whole to my library, I love that they frequently inspire another one that I can use.

On Monday I had another signing, at the Macmillan booth. I was thrilled to see the line snaking down the aisle and around. I signed and gave away every single book there. Since most of the people in the line were librarians, I’m sure it took longer for me to do so than it should have. I had to talk to everyone.

Afterwards, I finished my own tour of the exhibits. My suitcase was so packed with books and handouts that I worried about getting it home.

The final signing took place at a bookshop called Book Carnival in Orange County. I have developed a new appreciation for these small niche bookstores. The three I visited seem to have very devoted clienteles, but my conversations with the owners always touched upon the challenges facing these shops. I love speaking at them and hope to visit many more.