2014 ALA Annual Las Vegas Highlights and Celebrating the Alex Award

By Danielle Jones, Multnomah County Library-Hollywood

ALALasVegasThere is nothing like 13,000 library folk descending on Sin City during 110-degree weather. How is one to don their favorite cardigan in that? Outside of the conference, 110-degree weather makes for some interesting fashion choices, or should I say complete lack of fashion choice, it is amazing what you do with a little duct tape, (and I wish I could say a little goes a long way, but not always).

OYAN was kind enough to give me scholarship to help fund the cost of attending the conference. This year I am currently serving as administrative assistant to the Alex Award Committee, so most of my time spent at the conference was in committee meetings. Still, there was enough networking and tapping into the buzz to know what the big takeaways of the conference were.

If you haven’t had a chance to read through YALSA’s The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action already, you can start with the executive summary, but it is worth your while to delve deeper into the full report. Many workshops focused on supporting libraries in the ways outlined in the report in “How will we get there? What do libraries need to do?” The steps it sees are:

Embracing our role as facilitator rather than expert.

  1. Refocusing beyond our traditional roles and traditional measurements of success.
  2. Partnering strategically to reach beyond the library’s walls.
  3. Creating a whole-library and whole-school approach to serving teens in physical spaces and online.
  4. Supporting library staff in gaining new skills.

Colleagues that were able to attend workshops commented that many focused on supported Connected Learning. Traci Glass of the Eugene Public Library commented during the Summer OYAN meeting in reference to the conference and Connected Learning is that “many of us are already doing this.” We all care about creating interesting, thoughtful programs for our teens that meet their interests and information needs. For myself, getting a better understanding of the philosophy behind Connected Learning has really helped to put my work with teens into focus, and has given me better tools to advocate for the work that we do.

Alex-AWARDSWinner_lowres Serving this year as the administrative assistant to the Alex Award Committee has been an enlightening experience. I am not an actual voting member, my main duties so far have been to serve as liaison between the committee and publishers, keep the group organized, support the chair, and research eligibility. As a fairly new youth librarian, I have spent a lot of time focused on learning all that I can about the books published as YA that I have forgotten how as a teen it was mainly adult books that I read outside of school that showed me that there was more out there to look forward in life, and showed me the power of writing. Books like Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson, Beloved by Toni Morrison, Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Tan’s The Joy Luck Club are all books that I remember being pivotal to me as a teen reader. I see the Alex Award as fostering that. Turning teens into lifelong readers by highlighting some of the best books out there that they can find beyond the teen bookshelves in the library and bookstore.

Past Alex Award are great to be familiar with for those harder reader’s advisory moments where you have the teen that has read everything. It is exciting to see a couple of past winners (Ready Player One and Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore) on this year’s Oregon Battle of the Books. The 2014 titles is another fantastic list with my personal favorites of Abigail Tarttelin’s Golden Boy, John Searles’ Help for the Haunted, and Lucy Knisley’s Relish just to name a few. To read more on the Alex Awards Presentation from ALA Annual, Paige Battle, 2015 Alex Award Chair and Grant High School Librarian in Portland wrote a great piece for YALSA’s Hub http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2014/07/08/ala-2014-the-alex-awards-presentation/. The Alex Award winners are so important to teens to bridge the transition from teen reader to lifelong reader and have a place in all collections serving teens.

Alex Awards Collage