Monday, February 14, 2011

This is Why I Do What I Do: How ALA reaffirmed my love for librarianship

I had the privilege of bringing a group of my In BeT(w)een Book Club teens to the American Library Association Midwinter conference a few weeks ago, and the experience reaffirmed by love of this job. We were invited to participate in the Best Fiction for Young Adults session in which teens were asked to submit feedback on books from the list of 191 nominated titles. Over the last five months, the teens read and took notes on at least 12 of the titles - a huge undertaking considering many of them are already overcommitted with their school workload, extracurricular activities, and everything else on their plates. The payoff was totally worth it though!

My teens, along with about 40 other teens from Southern California, represented their libraries and high schools well with their insightful feedback and witty commentary. I was like a proud stage mama snapping photos and nodding encouragement every time one of my teens would step up to the mike.

At lunch, sponsored by Penguin Publishing, the teens had the opportunity to dine with Penguin editors and staff, so it was an excellent opportunity for me to sneak some career exploration in without them even knowing it! As voracious readers, these teens know that being a librarian is a great career option from their interactions with me, but it was nice for them to see what else they can do with their English/writing/communication skills and a love of reading.

As a reward for their time and commitment, the teens were then let loose on the exhibit floor to speak with publishing reps, meet authors and get signed copies of their books, and best of all...get free Advanced Reader Copies! We had the opportunity to meet Lauren Myracle (author of TTFN; TTYL; L8r, G8r), Melissa de la Cruz (author of the Blue Bloods series), and Ann Finnin (author of The Sorcerer of Sainte Felice). We were like pack llamas on an Andean trek with all the bags of goodies we were hauling, and I literally had to drag them out of the exhibit hall when they shut the lights off on us. It was so fulfilling to see the teens that excited about reading. The whole drive home they thanked me profusely for being "so cool" and getting them involved in the conference. In return, I thanked them for being so committed and for participating in my programs. They're currently hatching a plan to raise money so they can come to ALA Annual in New Orleans with me in June...we'll see what my admin has to say about that. :)

While we were in the exhibit hall waiting in line to meet Lauren Myracle, I had a very surreal experience. A wonderful young librarian tapped me on the shoulder and apologized for "bothering" me but said she had wanted to introduce herself to me for a while but never had the chance because I was always so busy and surrounded by people (this entourage is news to me!). She said that she's seen me present at California Library Association conferences and at Serra Library Cooperative workshops over the years and that I have inspired her with my creative tween and teen programming ideas. She made me feel like such a rock star despite my insistence that I'm "just a YA librarian from Escondido, CA". The best part, though, was after the effusive praise of my prowess as a librarian she said "and I also love your personal style!". We exchanged cards and have since collaborated on various professional issues. She truly made my day, and I now consider her both a colleague and friend.

I encourage those of you out there reading this to get your teens involved at a professional level whenever the opportunity arises and share your praise for one another. We are our strongest supporters and need all the encouragement we can get from each other and our patrons. These are the reasons I do what I educate, to influence, and to inspire, and it's moments like these that remind me why I love what I do.

Happy Valentine's Day!