Las Vegas? OK, Why Not?

By Lisa Martin

OK, I admit it.  I’m not a Vegas person.  Casinos and gambling are just not my thing… but books, authors, illustrators, booksellers, and librarians definitely are!! So to Vegas I went with a fellow school librarian along for the adventure.

Although I expected to stick to our hotel and the convention center, there were numerous events that took me out to some of the crazy casinos on the strip.  A publisher’s focus group at Caesar’s Palace, The Printz Award reception at Paris Casino, and back to Paris another evening for Paula Poundstone’s comedy event.  Still no gambling (I’m so boring!), but we did have some yummy crepes for a late night dinner there.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas Strip

Speaking of yummy (don’t worry I’ll get to the conference highlights soon), there were some great little restaurants within a half mile of our hotel and the conference center.  One was an English pub known for its pastries with intriguing photographs of miners on the walls. Another night we tried a great mom-and-pop Korean place with very fragrant and flavorful food laced with kimchi radish and cabbage and other chili sauces.

But I digress.  The ALA conference is a creative and inspirational career shot in the arm. Watching the new documentary about Bill Watterson, creator of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes strip, reminded me that it is a great hook for young readers and my library is down to its last dog-eared copy of one collection (ordering note to self).

The tour to three independent school libraries was so worth it–with ideas to consider about collections, author events, library displays, and showcasing student research.  I can’t wait to try the iPad app Aurasma–look it up!

I can report that Stan Lee is a delightful, funny, and totally entertaining speaker.  He’s got a book coming out called Zodiak that sounds like it will hook even reluctant readers.  Prior to that happening, though, students just might want to read and reread Lois Lowry’s The Giver, before the movie is out in mid-August.  Anyone who needed a flame relit for book-talking would have found that need met at the session with Lowry and actor Jeff Bridges presenting together. What a wonderful and unlikely pair.

Meeting Frank Cammuso (Knights of the Lunch Table), Tom Angleberger (Origami Yoda), Kevin Henkes, Peter Sis, Lemony Snicket, Kate DiCamillo, Patricia McKissack, and countless other authors and illustrators was too much fun.  You find yourself picking up an insane amount of books.   I didn’t know Adam Rex had a new Smek book coming out! Smek for President!

It was interesting to realize that since my last ALA conference experience two years ago, I’ve purchased hundreds of e-books, and dozens of children’s literature apps.  It’s no wonder the session I was most excited about was the AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning.  They do this yearly now and based on their research and evaluation, they present info about five of the best apps related to: children’s literature, STEM, content creation, social science, and organization and management.  The whole list for this year and last year can be found at http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/best-apps.

I can also highly recommend the book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Penguin Press (2011) by the exciting keynote speaker, Jane McGonigal.  ALA described her as a “world-renowned and inspiring designer of alternate reality games— games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems.” Since I came to the conference with budding ideas about how to bring gaming into my library and family literacy programming this session was inspirational and informative.

When I get to the next ALA conference in a year or two, I’ll bet I will be surprised at how much more of my collection and programming includes not only e-books and apps, but also games and gaming. Viva Las Vegas!

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