My oldest sister is the library director at the Pendleton Library, and she's one of my favorite people to talk to about books and publishing. I wouldn't call her innately gadget-oriented, but these days she has a Kindle, and she's well versed in the issues surrounding the digitization of books. Her job, as she sees it, is to anticipate the needs of her community—needs that will increasingly involve digital and e-book technologies (and already involve internet training, support, and access).
My sister is town this weekend, along with thousands of librarians from around the state and the country, for the Public Library Association's 13th biennial National Conference. I stopped by the conference this morning to see what happens when you cram thousands of librarians into the Convention Center. And no, it wasn't a pillow fight. (It's weird that I made that joke. Because my sister. Anyway.) Hit the jump for more.
Technology and its applications are definitely a theme in the conference's offerings—one panel description asks, "Are your technology projects inspired more by the latest bell or whistle instead of what will pay off for your library? Do your technologies deliver both the steak and the sizzle?" Other presentations focus on privacy in the digital age, incorporating social media into libraries' websites, and "developing 21st century skills to serve today's children and teens," and the front page of the conference guide encourages attendees to follow along on twitter with #PLA10.*
Even this morning's Book Buzz panel, moderated by the undeniably bad-ass Nancy Pearl, began with a plug for a website, as Pearl directed librarians to EarlyWord as great resource for keeping up with new releases. Pearl then copped that even she's recently started reading e-books, noting that she likes listening while she rides her bike (on trails, not roads, she quickly amended). After Pearl's introduction, marketing directors from four major publishing houses got a few minutes each to introduce upcoming books they thought particularly worthy of librarian attention. There was no new news here, just publishing folks trying (in relatively earnest fashion) to move books. The guy from Penguin described The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, a novel about black homesteaders, as like "The Color Purple Meets meets Little House on the Prairie," a phrase that made me never want to read a book again. (To be fair, the same guy singled out a Commonwealth-Award winning book called The Slap, by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas, which I'm looking forward to reading. He also included a picture of his cat in his slide show, so obviously he's pretty OK by me.) Aimee Bender's newest, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, was described as a "dark adult fantasy tale" about a girl who, whenever she takes a bite of food, experiences the emotions of the person who made it. (This is pretty similar to the plot of Image's detective comic Chew, and I thought it was maybe a little weird that the Random House rep was talking about this premise like it was the most original thing ever—until it came time for her to plug trade paperbacks of DC's comic The Losers, at which point she confessed, "This means nothing to me. I could be talking Greek to you—but there is a huge audience for this." Not a comics reader, I take it.) There was also some gushing about The Devil's Star, a creepy-sounding new detective thriller from huge-deal-in-Europe Norwegian author Jo Nesbo—Nesbo is reading at Powell's tomorrow night, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few PLA attendees in the crowd.
I didn't get a chance to check out the exhibits, hear Nicholas Kristoff's speech at the opening presentation, or see Natalie Merchant (though perhaps someone who was there could explain the W, T, and F of that last one?) but I'm going to try to make it back over this weekend.
And... just for the record, yes, there were some very sexy librarians there, but not quite as many as I'd hoped.
(*Though this has nothing to do with technology whatsoever,I would be remiss in not also mentioning a presentation about the cutest literacy program ever: "Partnering Children with Dogs to Read. )