Thursday, May 8, 2008

Massachusetts Library Association Conference

This is a busy week for me- yesterday and today I'm in Falmouth at the Massachusetts Library Association Conference, then on Friday morning I'm attending the New England regional meeting of the Association of Jewish Libraries- that's a lot of library meetings for one week! I was too exhausted (not to mention overwhelmed) to write yesterday, so here goes.

Day 1 of MLA was simply overwhelming. I was going from 7:00am until after 9pm, basically nonstop. Even mealtimes are "working" times, when you network and meet people, so there's almost no time off. I attended two sessions; in the morning, I went to a great session on reader's advisory with library guru Nancy Pearl, then saw her again in the afternoon for the marathon "Book Buzz" session, where we heard about upcoming books from publishing reps from Macmillan and Harper Collins (hi Talia! hi Bobby!).

Both sessions were excellent. In the first, Pearl talked about breaking down a book's appeal into four broad categories- Story, Character, Setting and Language- and using those categories to find books for people based on the way they talk about the books they enjoy. She suggested finding three books for a patron- what they're asking for, something related, and something the patron may not have considered. So for the person who likes strong stories, you'd find the Grisham novel he (or she) is after, then maybe a Patterson, then maybe something from the true-crime section. For the person who loves elegantly-crafted writing, find the new Updike he wants, then maybe last year's Booker Prize winner, and a book of poetry to round it out. Very helpful.

The discussion also prompted me to think about how I would classify my own preferences. She asked us to list our top four favorite books, off the top of our heads. Mine were:
Possession, by A.S. Byatt,
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood,
A Very Long Engagement, by Sebastien Japrisot,
Everything is Illuminated, by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Then she asked us to think about how we would break them out using the categories of Story, Character, Setting and Language. Looking over my choices, I would say I'm a Story-Language person, with Character a close second. Setting does nothing for me- it's a nice touch sometimes, to have a vivid sense of place, but it doesn't redeem an otherwise boring book for me. She also suggested creating displays based on the four categories, which I think is a super idea and I've already started thinking about how to implement that in my library.

Later on, after lunch, I returned for "Book Buzz." Three authors spoke on a panel- Katherine Hall Page, Mameve Medwed and Linda Barnes- and they were fun and interesting to listen to. I always enjoy author panels and listening to writers talk about writing. Then the publishing reps gave their talk and I got some good notes about upcoming books for the summer and fall.

After the sessions we all took a bus over to the beautifully renovated Falmouth Public Library and enjoyed a tour lead by several librarians including the library director. It is an impressive building and I'm glad we got to visit. The bays, the lighting, the beautiful tiling and furnishings- stunning.

But the best part of the day was dinner. Through some twist of fate a friend and I ended up having dinner with Pearl, publishing reps Talia and Bobby, librarian Barry Trott of Williamsburg, Virginia, as well as Dorothea Benton Frank, the author of several books including Bull's Island and the night's speaker. (There was one more woman at our table and I'm embarrassed to admit I've forgotten her name. Sorry.) What a treat. I can't thank all of them enough for being gracious enough to include a couple of random librarians at their table. And Franks' speech was terrificly funny and entertaining.

What a day!