ALA and I go way back...all the way to 2002, when my mom and I made a road trip from Michigan to Atlanta just so I could attend the conference and speak at the Best Books for Young Adults teen panel the year Cindy (from Bookends) chaired the panel. Oh, she also arranged for me to meet my idol, Sara Ryan, at the same conference. That was an epic adventure, in and of itself.
ALA was a ton of fun back then, and again in 2005 when it was slightly closer to home in Chicago and I served as a chaperon for a new group of teen panelists. So when I heard ALA was again going to be somewhat close to me, this time in DC, I jumped at the chance to go. I'd never really visited DC before, and I haven't taken a vacation that wasn't family oriented in years, so this was going to be a multi-tasking vacation.
I got into DC an hour late on Friday, arriving at three. I'd been watching Twitter during the whole bus ride and saw everyone complaining about the heat and humidity, but it really wasn't any different than NYC, so I shrugged it off. It was definitely hot, but the humidity on Friday was nothing (summers on Lake Michigan were brutal, humidity-wise). Since the exhibits didn't open until after 5, I decided to play tourist, and made my first stop the Smithsonian Museum of American History - specifically the pop culture exhibit.
Hint for pop culture junkies planning a DC trip: skip the museum until they've finished the renovations. There were no more than ten things on display, which disappointed me immensely. Though I did achieve a childhood dream and finally get to see the famous Ruby Slippers
I've wanted to see these for ages, so I'm glad that itch got scratched.
I also got to see Kermit and the Fonz's jacket. Both were smaller than I would have thought.
There were some other interesting exhibits - I checked out the flag that inspired the national anthem, and the exhibit of first ladies' gowns. I also sat in on a cool presentation about the student protests during the civil rights movement - a young museum employee was role playing that we were back in the 60s and we were all at a protest planning meeting, learning how to effectively protest. That may have been the highlight of the museum!
But then...it was time to hightail it back up to the convention center to hit the exhibits!
Well, I did make one small detour...
Can you blame me?
At the convention center, of course, there were books galore. Here's a partial glimpse at the exhibit floor:
But there's also tons of other things going on. ALA has exhibits dedicated to all sorts of library services, from furniture to book carts to shelves to cataloging services.
There are also contests so you can win some of this stuff for your library. There was quite a line on Friday night to take a crack at Wii bowling.
The exhibits were only open for a few hours on Friday night, but a lot of people were crammed in there. Want an idea of how many people showed up just Friday night?
The DC convention center had a lot of great things going for it; adequate exit signage was not among them. Also, if you're going to have employees directing people to other stairs, maybe they should be positioned somewhere other than the bottom of the escalator?
Saturday I was up early with more sightseeing plans...that ended up going slightly awry thanks to my inability to keep track of maps. Long story short: I walked the length of the mall 1.5 times in two hours Saturday morning in search of the Holocaust museum. I did get some great morning pictures, though...
And I really loved this quotation on one of the walls of the WWII memorial:
"Women who stepped up were measured as citizens of the nation, not as women... This was a people's war, and everyone was in it." Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby.
No, I don't know why my camera decided half of my pictures needed to have a strange blue tint. Ignore it.
No pictures from inside the Holocaust Museum - which was a deeply moving experience. The information wasn't anything earth-shattering for me, since I'm pretty well read on the Holocaust, but actually seeing some of the tools of torture was sending chills up my spine. Walking under a replica of the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign from Auschwitz totally freaked me out.
So after thoroughly depressing myself, I headed back to the convention center to make a concentrated go at picking up as many books as I possibly could. When I arrived, I was greeted with the sight of a bunch of librarians glued to a TV - not even ALA was safe from World Cup fever!
I wasn't near a TV when the US lost, so I have no idea how these poor librarians took the news.
Sunday I don't have any pictures for, which is unfortunate because of how awesome it was. Sunday afternoon is when I finally got to hook up with Lynn and Cindy, who you'll probably recall I've spoken about on here before. Long story short, they were my librarians dating from way back when I was in middle school and I consider myself incredibly lucky to still count them among my friends - not only because they are awesome, awesome ladies, but they were willing to let me tag along during their first chance on the exhibit floor and introduced me to pretty much everyone they know.
Also fun: knowing that I got to a highly anticipated book before either of them. Cindy did a literal double take when I told her that not only had I already finished Monsters of Men by Sunday (I picked it up first thing Friday night), but I'd also started reading Sapphique. Lynn was even funnier, trying to wrench my copy of Sapphique from my hands when I showed it to her. I made sure they both got copies for themselves before the end of the day, so no blood was shed nor ARCs torn in half.
The one big disappointment of the weekend? I was so busy running around sight seeing and networking that I didn't get to meet any of my fellow book bloggers! I think we were all mesmerized by the shiny, shiny books, since I've seen from other blogs I'm not the only one who had this problem.
As for all those shiny, shiny books - want to see them?
This is the picture I Tweeted from the convention center on Sunday: My suitcase is literally straining at the seams, and my poor purse couldn't handle any more weight so I stuffed it inside my new totebag along with other books that wouldn't fit in my suitcase.
Here's the "unboxing" of my suitcase, which I didn't dare tackle until tonight:
Here's some of the books pulled out, along with the books that were packed in my purse and tote bag...and my cat Gopher, because he can't resist suitcases.
And here's my final display! In an attempt to stay organized and keep myself from reading too far ahead, the front row has the books that are already published or will be published soon, while the back row is filled with books being published in November, December and March 2011 (totally random, but two books from different publishers are labeled as 3/11 titles). I'm sure I'm going to cheat (after all, I've already finished Monsters of Men and Sapphique which are due to be published much later this year), but at least this way I need to make an effort to cheat!
Oh, and this actually isn't even the final tally. Several publishers volunteered to send me boxes of books after the conference. Can't wait until those start arriving!
ALA was definitely a fun and worthwhile trip for a book nerd like me. I was a little unsure how I'd be greeted, being a non-librarian, but everyone seemed to love having a book blogger around! So, to everyone I met at ALA, thanks for making this blogger feel welcome and part of the club.
And to my readers - thanks for staying to the end of this super long post! Were any of you at ALA? Share your experiences (or links to your conference reports) in the comments!