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19 May 2014

TLA 2014 retrospective

Last month I was lucky enough to get to go to the Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio. I learned a lot and got bunches of cool stuff and met like a bazillion people and basically had a blast!

Day 1 | In which, surprising no one, Louise gets slightly lost

I live within reasonable driving distance of San Antonio, so that's how I chose to travel. I'm glad I did, because I got to see all of the wildflowers in bloom. It was so, so tempting to stop on the side of the highway and take a selfie among all the bluebonnets, but I somehow managed to refrain.

I went to only 1 session on Tuesday. TBH, I'm afraid I was a little too tired and overwhelmed to fully appreciate it, so I'll refrain from writing too much about it. After that first session, I wandered around and got a little bit lost down on the Riverwalk. Got some delicious fish tacos for lunch at Charlie Wants a Burger, which I certainly recommend -- but be careful about sitting out on the patio, the ducks are a little bit pushy about your scraps! I finally found my way back to the convention center (a very nice place, by the way) in time for the grand opening of the exhibit hall that afternoon.

That evening, I ended up at the Menger Hotel bar, a cozy little spot with lots of dark wood paneling and a giant moose head on the wall. The GLBT interest group was having a little social there and I had the pleasure of meeting some pretty interesting librarians!

Day 2 | In which the conference is in full swing

Wednesday started with a light breakfast with a friend -- thankfully I knew someone who was staying at the same hotel (hi TPR!) and we were able to walk down to the convention center together. The first session of the day... wasn't what I expected, unfortunately. That's too bad, but at least the next 2 sessions I went to were perfectly lovely.

I wandered around the exhibit hall for a few hours on Wednesday as well. I tried to meet with most of the vendors we use at my library and I was also able to pick up a handful of books and other "swag" for use as giveaways for our library's teen volunteer group.

A small group of us ended up at a little bistro called Zinc for dinner that evening. We probably occupied our table for just a little too long, but the food was simply wonderful, and so was the wine. I managed to get just a little bit of work done once I got back to the hotel, but much of what I ha been intending to do involved internet access and it was just impossible to get my laptop to connect. ¡Qué lástima! At least it wasn't like I lacked for books to read in what little free time I did have.

Day 3 | In which Louise is starstruck

Thursday was probably my longest day at the conference; I was out and about from 8 in the morning until 11 at night! Yeah, that's a lot of work, but most of it was the fun sort of work, so I can't complain.

The day started with a fantastic session on e-books / databases. Then I went to the "Texas Tea with YA Authors" for lunch. Well... not lunch so much as a glass of iced tea + a single mediocre pastry. Luckily I had been warned ahead of time that this would be the case, so I had a quick sandwich from a snack stand on the way to the event. I found out later that the hotel's catering company charged the organizing group about $1,000 just for the iced tea, and they didn't even provide enough seats for everyone who'd bought a ticket (extra chairs had to be squeezed in at the last minute). Ridiculous!

Catering complaints aside, the event really was quite lovely. It was set up speed-dating style, with 1 or 2 authors traveling around to the tables where the librarians had gathered in order to give 10-minute talks on their books or answer questions or just chat a little bit, depending on the group. I was very impressed by all of the authors and their books and I only wish that we could have spent more time getting to know everyone!

I was invited to a couple of publisher events that evening. Here's something they don't teach you in library school: when you're on a book/author list/committee, publishers will make an effort to get you to read their books... and sometimes that effort involves free food and booze. Even better: sometimes that effort involves spending time with authors! I got to meet several YA authors + their supporting staff from the publishing houses. In the interest of everyone's peace of mind, I won't go into any detail about these events. I want to be invited back again next year, after all! Suffice it to say that I had a swell time and everyone was just amazingly lovely.

Photo from Laurie Halse Anderson's Instragram

Day 4 | In which The Fonz makes an appearance

One last early morning session: a "Women of YA" panel. I am so, so glad I managed to drag myself out of bed for this one! Possibly the best panel at the con, and nowhere near big enough of an audience (can't expect too much at 8 in the morning on the last day, though, really). My favorite question was something about male authors who write books for teens and kids -- not because of the actual question (oh yes please let's talk about how important the menfolk are during our ladies-only panel) but because of some of the sassy and well-thought-out responses from the authors. This panel alone was worth the trip to San Antonio, IMHO.

The next session was on vendor relationships, and it wasn't as amazing as that morning's author panel, but how could it be? Authors having a lively conversation on really cool topics >>>>> librarians and vendors talking about how librarians and vendors can get along without wanting to strangle each other. Still, I felt it necessary to be there, as the subject is now relevant to my job description.

I went to General Session III, the official closing session, right after that. This session's special guest was Henry Winkler, a.k.a. The Fonz. He's co-writing a series of children's books meant specifically to help kids with dyslexia get into reading. Mr. Winkler was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult, so the topic is very important to him.

The very last event of the afternoon was a quick meet-up with my fellow Spirit of Texas - High School committee members. We went over the bylaws and guidelines and talked a little bit about what we can expect over the next year or so, all while stuffing our faces with delicious cheeseburgers (well, some of us). Even though this wasn't an "official" meeting, I'm so glad that we got a chance to see each other face-to-face. I'm really looking forward to working with this interesting group of ladies over the next couple of years!

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