Back to Blog

On the Road to ALA 2017

By: Susan Yutzey

“Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again”

With the lyrics of the Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson song “On the Road Again” playing in my head as

my companions and I headed north on 33 through Ohio’s farmland on the way to ALA, I hoped this third trip to an ALA  Conference in Chicago would not be marred by stolen wallets or two-foot high snow drifts and delayed flights home. Every conference has a story to tell and for me this time it was the road trip, the accompanying hotel stay with Liz Deskins, Christina Dorr, and Deb Logan, and the engaging array of authors. If you want lessons on how to attend an ALA Conference, just ask these three. While this ALA Conference for me

was akin to a leisurely stroll down the Magnificent Mile, for them the conference was akin to a 440 relay. Each had multiple committee meetings and exhibitor engagements while there but managed to squeeze in sessions as well.

Arriving on Wednesday evening and fighting the Chicago in-bound traffic we managed to find our hotel after looping around Wacker Drive and the Trump Tower more than once because there is no GPS underground! On Thursday morning bright and early we set out for the ReadingCon sponsored by Follett at Northern Illinois University in Naperville. Author Gen

e Luen Yang opened the event and he was followed by sessions on MakeSpaces, diverse books, visual literacy and more. Lauren Wolf, author of Wolf Hollow, Candace Fleming, Julie Berry, E. Lockhart, Neal Shusterman., and Kwame Alexander were among the authors presenting and signing books.

For me this year’s ALA was the year of the authors. On Friday, I attended the #PRHLibraryCon with Liz. DC’s Young Animal Planet Discussion with Gerard Way, Cecil Casterlllucci, Jon Rivera, Jody Houser, and Nick Derington kicked off the event. I was delighted to meet Jon Rivera, author of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye and fellow Mahwah High School (NJ) alum. At 11:30, Girl Power panelists Shea Fontana, Kim Swinell, Cecil Castellucci, Shantel LaRoque, Jody Houser, and Kel McDonald took the stage. After a delicious box lunch, Marc Thompson (Star Wars audiobook narrator) hosted a Jeopardy-style game show with authors Julie Berry, Peter Bognanni, and E. Lockhart and three audience members. Signings followed each panel.

On Saturday, Liz, Christina, and Deb joined me at the AASL Awards Ceremony. After opening remarks by AASL President Audrey Church, Dorcas Hand, Chair of the Awards Committee, introduced the award recipients and their sponsors. Touching stories from the recipients of the Disaster Recovery Grants, the Inspire Collection Development, and the Inspire Special Event Grant were the highlight of the ceremony. OELMA received the ABC-CLIO Leadership Grant and I was pleased to accept the award on behalf of OELMA.

The YALSA Koffee Klatch resembled a speed dating with authors. Sitting at a table with two public librarians and an author from Indiana, we listened to Deborah Heiligman, Meredith Russo, Julie Halpern, Melissa Albert, Rob Rufus, and Sharon Cameron. The 2017 Stonewall Book Awards on Tuesday was the most emotionally touching event of ALA. With heartfelt acceptance speeches by Chris McCormick (author of Desert Boys), Robin Stevenson (author of Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community), Meredith Russo (author of If I Was Your Girl), and Rick Riordan (author of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor), it was an opportunity for the audience to reflect on the meaning of the awards. Rick Riordan’s comment that “inaction is a choice” is still buzzing around my head as I watch what is happening in communities around the country. Proud to see that Dr. Christina Dorr will assume the leadership of the Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Subcommittee in 2018.

The closing session on Wednesday was the highlight of ALA. Up early we made our way by taxi to the Convention Center where the lines to enter the ballroom to see Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton stretched as far as the eye could see. Inspiring words that have been captured in the Chicago Tribune and CNN. Wednesday afternoon we hopped in the car to return to Cbus. After seven hours that included a stop at Granite City in Fort Wayne, IN, we unloaded suitcases and bags – no boxes of books! You know why? Because every librarian knows if you are on the road – you must send your books ahead. Mine arrived yesterday ahead of my arrival.

“On the road again
Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is making music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again”

For me, this trip to #ALAAC17 was an opportunity to make music with my friends, not only Deb, Christina, and Liz but the friends I have made throughout my AASL career as a member of Affiliate Assembly.