Bookends at #ALAMW19

Cindy & Lynn: We’ve been attending ALA Annual Conferences and Midwinter Meetings regularly since 2000, but we’ve each missed at least one. We were awed to learn that Booklist‘s Editor & Publisher Bill Ott achieved his eightieth straight ALA while in Seattle last week—40 years without missing even one. This one was special as it honored his retirement from a long career with ALA and Booklist. We were happy to be in attendance to raise a glass in his honor. We wish you well in retirement, Bill!

If you’ve never been to an ALA exhibit hall, you don’t know what you are missing. Thousands of square feet of library furniture, equipment, software demonstrations, and, our favorites: book and audio publisher booths! Seeing last year’s most loved books on display with starred-review bookmarks is fun, but even more fun is seeing what is coming this year. Even after almost two decades, it’s still thrilling to get our hands on an early copy of a book by a favorite author. This time we scored Nikki Grimes’ verse memoir, Ordinary Hazards, that doesn’t publish until October. The stacks of Laurie Halse Anderson’s verse memoir, Shout, were secured like a crime scene. By the time the giveaway started, the line to get a copy wound through the exhibit hall and out into the lobby.

We also attended special events. We heard Mike Wohnoutka talk about the genesis of his new picture book Croc and Turtle and watched him draw some of his art. Kwame Alexander and Houghton Mifflin launched the new Versify imprint (something you’ll want to keep your eye on) and it was exciting to hear the new imprints’ first authors speak about their work during a panel presentation. We also managed some literary stops, visiting the Seattle Public Library, two King County Library System branches (including the river-spanning Renton Library), and the iconic Left Bank Books.

A highlight of the Midwinter conference for us is always the Youth Media Awards that take place on early Monday morning. It is here, of course, that the winners of the various ALA youth literature awards are announced, from the Michael L. Printz to the Robert Sibert Nonfiction award to the Caldecott and Newbery Medals which conclude the event. The announcements are always held in an enormous room, set up for the hundreds and hundreds of people who attend. There are cameras, lights, and tremendous excitement and suspense as the presidents of ALA, and the youth divisions, and round tables make their award announcements. There is nothing like being there to hear the gasps and the cheers.

Often, the most difficult part of the conference is leaving. Literally. This year, while the Midwest was in the grip of the Polar Vortex and our school district had an unprecedented SIX snow days in a row, we experienced flight delays, flight cancellations, and other complications that developed into a true “planes, trains, and automobiles” multi-day trip home.  At least if you have a six-hour wait in a train station, it’s nice to hang out in one that’s beautiful (Union Station, Chicago). There’s nothing like going to ALA, but there’s really nothing like home, sweet home. Until June, when we’ll have forgotten all about the travel struggles and will be ready to do it all again!

 

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Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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