Committee Day!! Hoo-ha!!

8:32 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

One of the best things about today was I didn’t have any obligations until the afternoon, so I got up late, had brunch at Oro, and then walked around San Antonio taking pictures for my iPhoto collection. A ton of people were doing the same thing, particularly air force and navy personnel who were walking around in uniform and taking in the sights. Regrettably, the weather was rainy and cooler (in the high 50s/low 60s) but I was in my new Talbots suit and didn’t need a jacket. This was in high contrast to the Texas natives and visiting southerners who were bundled up like a blizzard was coming in. I even saw a parka! People are silly.

Anyhoo, I got over the convention center, scoped out the all-committee meeting room, and spent more time talking to vendors and getting free pens. Funny story (actually it’s terrfying) – I decided to go to the Baker and Taylor booth to see there new ordering softward demoed and I had carefully researched this because of my deep seated fear of the cat mascots who they always have being photographed by people (yech…shiver). Well, there were plenty of public librarians in the audience who were asking boring questions (for me who didn’t deal with branches, etc.) and it was extending the demo. A lot. And you had to sit through the entire demo to get the cat calendar and get entered in the DVD player raffle, so I felt I had committed myself to being there. But out of the corner of my eye, I saw what looked like a serial killer clad in an old carpet and I knew they were here. The cat killers. Dammit! I put my hand up to my temple as if I was getting a headache (which wasn’t far from the truth), but in actuality I was shielding my gaze so I couldn’t see them (although I had begun shaking, so much so that the woman next to said, “It is drafty, isn’t it?”). I finally had to leave the demonstration (hello, an hour is WAY too long!) but I sidled up to one of the reps and asked some questions about getting a free trial to the software (you have to pay for it) and having our area representative call us. I got my calendar and filled out the form for the DVD player raffle and scurried away all the while keeping the “cats” out of my sightline. It wasn’t easy, but luckily the walk to my committee room was lengthy, so I had time to compose myself before I got there.

The all-committee room is a really nice brand of chaos, with probably 50 tables with signs that display the committee name and people with tote bags crowded around them animatedly discussing issues. I found mine quickly and Michelle (the chair of the NBPTS Special committee) is just as professional, cheerful, and fun as her emails led me to believe! We have a great group of people from state reps, library science professors, and field level practitioners like me and I heard lots of great information and advice about ways I can contribute to my profession. We talked over a bunch of great ideas and I can’t wait to throw myself into really helping the committee!

We agreed to meet for dinner at the Republic of Texas restaurant with members of the SIG group for NBPTS (another example of Michelle’s excellent leadership) and since I had time to kill, I did another exhibit hall foray and then walked up and down the Riverwalk for a couple miles. What a beautiful area! I think the thing I liked best was that it wasn’t just tourists at the shops and restaurants – people who obviously lived in the city were there and older people, families with small children, and teens were all making great use of this wonderful space. The food was great at the restaurant and the people who came were wonderful to listen to – really fascinating (and funny) so I learned a great deal while being charmingly entertained.

I got back to the hotel around 8:30 and wondered why I was so tired until I realized that my body felt like it was 10:30. I’m becoming such an old woman! What happened to all those all nighters in college when I wouldn’t even feel it the next day. Ah, youth.

Best Practices Pre-Conference or Old Home Week

11:31 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

I’m bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to go for my pre-conference session which will last pretty much all day. Intoxicated by the great food last night, I go down to Oro for breakfast and am not disappointed. I order the Brioche French Toast with bananas and raisins which is heaven on earth and the portion size is enough for three people. I ate as much as I could (thinking of the bus ride to the school’s later, one must be careful) and walked over to the convention center. About halfway there, I saw the shuttle bus, so I hopped on and I had a nice conversation with the bus driver. It was easy considering I was the only passenger! At the convention center, I stood in a very long line to register and get my badge and materials (P.S. – no tote bag at midwinter. Kitty would be horrified) and then hustled over to the Marriott for my pre-conference. I found the ballroom and settled in to a seat.

The was hosting the pre-conference for AASL which focused on best practices. And Northside should know considering that they won the National School Library Media Program of the Year! What a dynamic, fun group of libarians. They prepared a fun, interactive day for us with lots of demonstrations, group discussions, and a great tour of some of their schools. I had a lot of fun speaking with other librarians (several independent school librarians as well) and catching up with people from the past. Valerie Diggs, the director of library services in Chelmsford, MA where I did my practicum at one of the middle schools was there. (I was supervised by the ever-wonderful Joan Wright. Joan is retiring to Vermont with her husband - go, Joan!). Valerie has been helping out with the school library classes at Simmons to great reviews from students. It was so wonderful to see her!

Another pleasant surprise was the presence of Hotchkiss attendee Walter DeMille who I had interviewed with when Ethan and I were doing the search that brought us to Sem. I remember Walter as just the loveliest person and a real treasure-trove of information (he takes the somewhat controversial approach of intershelving media – DVDs and Cds are shelved amoung the books with the same Dewey number) and I enjoyed hearing about what he’s been up to the last few years. I look forward to seeing him again at AISL in Atlanta this year!

The pre-conference brought us back from our tours at just the right time – we were able to get back around 5 pm and the exhibit hall opened at 5:15. Imagine my delight when I found out that GREENWOOD PRESS HAD CHAUCER BOBBLEHEAD DOLLS!!! Readers of my blog will remember how elated I was in scoring all my Jane Austen bobblehead dolls at the Pittsburgh conference so I had no idea that Chaucer was going to be next in line!! Suddenly it was a high priority to be first in the exhibit hall and specifically the first at Greenwood Press’ booth. Fortunately, ALA Midwinter attendees are amateurs compared to the AASL mavens (and the security here at San Antonio is much better – there was a commanding security guard who was brooking no hedging forward). I was first through the door and actually ran to the Greenwood Press booth where I clearly startled the exhibitors while I gasped (it’s a big hall), “I….hear…you have…Chaucer bobbleheads…” while clutching the stitch in my side. A very nice woman listened to my tale of my wonderful Library Advisory Board and how they have come to expect a bobblehead from every conference, about how we decorate the bobbleheads for Christmas, about how we knit blankets for the bobbleheads, etc. Probably just to shut me up, she went under the counter and pulled out two of them and she said something which must have been, “Is two okay?” but she was facing the cabinet when she said it so I didn’t quite hear what she said and must have cocked my head questioningly. She took it mean that two wasn’t enough, and so then added (this time in my direction), “Oh, well, I bet three is better” and gave me three! In a snazzy totebag!! Score.

I walked around the exhibit hall some more and only managed to see probably one fifth of it before I was exhausted. The ALA President, Michael Gorman, announced at the ribbon cutting that this was the biggest exhibition hall for any Midwinter conference, ever, so it wasn’t just me being overwhelmed. The ProQuest people were really nice and let me go up onto the top deck of their double decker booth to take a couple pictures of the exhibit hall for the AISL newsletter which was much more effective than from the ground. Once I had a good three bags worth of stuff (mostly paper that I read that night), I limped to the shuttle bus and headed back to my luxe hotel room. On the way, I was talking up how great the Oro restaurant was at the Emily Morgan and I must have made an impression since one of my bus mates showed up behind me while I waited to be seated. We ended up having dinner together which was really lovely since I got to hear all about her work at a regional public library in Oklahoma. I love hearing about the work of other librarians – the whole profession is really interesting and just populated with nice people.

Early to bed after a call home. I was so tired I didn’t even take a Jacuzzi!

Where's the yellow rose? San Antonio is beautiful!!

5:30 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

My plane is once again the super small kind, so we disembark on the tarmac and the sunny 76 degree weather hits me immediately. Everyone is smiling despite our being cramped from the 3 hour flight and no leg room. And it’s January! It turns out that San Antonio’s aiport is the prettiest I’ve ever seen! It’s clean as a whistle, light and airy, and has inlaid Mexican style mosaics throughout the floor and walls that are so cheerful and pretty, I wish I wasn’t rushing past them to the baggage claim. Fiesta music is piped through the speaker system and they appear to have some folk art and southwestern jewelry stores in addition to the usual Brookstone and Sbarros. I get my checked luggage immediately (as I arrive in the baggage claim – no waiting) and pet the cutest golden retriever puppy (maybe 6 weeks old) who is attached to a long couple via a thin lead and who, they tell me, is going to meet his grandmother who is arriving from Maryland. D’oh.

I ask a bored looking Nationwide representative where the airport shuttle is (better signage would be helpful) and he directs me to go outside. Outside? Yes, it turns out a lot of things you don’t expect to be outdoors are, because of the balmy weather. An outdoor kiosk has a gibillion librarians in front of it, and three shuttles have already filled up with librarians now bound for their hotels. I begin chatting with the women around me at it turns out that the immediate two before and behind me are from Pennsylvania and are school librarians, so we have a lovely chat. The airport shuttle arrives and a friendly man helps us with our bags and takes off for downtown. In the brief drive (20 minutes and that’s with stopping at hotels), we talk to each other and listen to the driver’s friendly banter and fun information about the city. My favorite moment was when he was talking with a grave tone about the drought conditions in San Antonio and asked all of us to help as tourists by be careful with our water consumption – by drinking only margaritas while we are here! He got a lot of laughs with that one!

Downtown San Antonio is beautiful – it’s a juxtaposition of old historic buildings and high rise towers that actually reminds me of Boston, although the native architectural vernacular is obviously not saltboxes and brownstones! We see the Alamo, with its low stone wall, and soon we spot the Emily Morgan hotel with its stunning triangular structure and gothic details. I get dropped off with cheerful goodbyes from my shuttle buddies, and enter the lobby. It’s smaller than I expected and very, very elegant with marble floors, beautiful modern furniture and the old lighting fixtures and elevator doors from the original period. It makes for a stunning effect.

I get room 302 and find it easily at the end of the hall (right next to the stairs which I know will set Ethan’s fire safety oriented mind at ease) and open the door. My room is beautiful. All in shades of taupe and cream with dark wood and lovely modern art. Of course, I have my priorities and so I run into the bathroom and see it. My whirlpool tub. It’s huge. It’s stunning. I secondarily notice the granite countertops and my Aveda toiletries. Glancing out the windows, I can see that my view is lackluster (office building rooftops from the bathroom windows and the pool and streetscape from the bedroom windows) but the drapes are so pretty that I don’t think I’ll feel deprived without an Alamo view.

I walked around downtown to get my bearings and the convention center is actually very close by. They weren’t ready for people to register over there, but I appreciated being out and enjoying the weather. The Alamo is actually very peaceful – it has a garden area out back with a steam and koi in the water lazily swimming. I also can’t over that there are actually things blooming everywhere – and that San Antonians keep apologizing for how brown everything is from the drought. For goodness sake, I sat next to a bed of blooming fuschia petunias today and couldn’t get over it!

The day of travel totally caught up with me when I got back to the hotel so I ordered room service (only $2 extra) and had a delicious meal – two appetizers, a bowl of butternut squash bisque with marscapone cream and macaroni and cheese with wild mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil. Both utterly amazing. I think I actually whimpered with pleasure during the bisque. I followed it up with the chocolate volcano cake and it is now my life’s mission to figure out that receipe. I fell asleep at 7:15 pm San Antonio time and slept all the way through until 6:00 am the next morning. Go Emily Morgan bed!

In Cincinnati ... or prayers against pooping

2:26 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I made it to Cincinnati where I’m waiting to change planes. My flight from Wilkes-Barre was uneventful, if slightly uncomfortable. The teeny plane was packed like a sardine can and I was sandwiched in the last row right near the bathroom. (Every time someone went back there I offered up the slight prayer, “No poop, no poop” lest I be overpowered by the smell emanating from there. Prayer works.) I couldn’t recline my seat at all, but luckily my recent weight loss held me in good stead and I was comfortable. A very nice man sat next to me – he works for a mechanical engineering firm that is a subcontractor for Proctor & Gamble so he regularly flies from Cincinnati to some little town above Tunkhannock that has a huge P&G plan to check on the machinery. He also has a 15 year old son, so we discussed teenagers for most of the last 40 minutes of the trip. There was an ADORABLE little girl about 3 years old, blond, all in pink, who had her own little, bitty rolling carry on bag with a sparkly My Little Pony on it. I helped her carry it on the plane since I was behind her and helped her find row 7 (she knew her numbers, she told me, she just wasn’t big enough to see the row markers, but I shouldn’t worry because one day she’d be big). This little cutie had to go potty (see prayer, above) in the middle of the flight and her mom took her back there but they had a bit of dilemma when the girl was a little frightened of the bathroom and wanted her mom to come in. I think most people know how unbelievably small an airplane bathroom is and the little girl was probably the only one who could actually fit in it comfortably, so getting her Mom in was pretty much a lost cause. Luckily, the little girl decided midway through piddling that it was pretty cool, and she kept saying, “Mommy! It’s like having potty adventure!!” which provoked the three rows closest to the bathroom into a fit of giggles. Thank heavens someone was having a positive potty adventure.

The man across from me (I was in the aisle) was not having an adventure. The poor man clearly shopped at the “Big & Tall” store (can any Simpson’s fan think of that phrase without picturing the episode where Homer becomes a country music manager and shops at “The Corpulent Cowboy” for his suit made out a “space age material invented for Elvis. Sweat actually cleans this suit.” This poor man and his wife/girlfriend were pretty wedged in and I felt so terrible for him every time he shifted his weight uncomfortably.

Good landing and it was warm enough on the tarmac that I didn’t need to put on my raincoat. The Cincinnati airport has an odd design (which E. Blaum doesn’t care for) where it is made up of weird circular concourses. I actually had to take a bus to get to a separate building to reach my gate. Freaky.

But it’s average airport material (although they play strange Musak here – some kind of weird Euro Jazz Fusion that I find very disturbing) and I had a good lunch at Quizno’s – Country French Chicken soup in a bread bowl. I would accept anything presented in a bread bowl! They’re boarding the flight, so I better head out.

Against inappropriate salesmen

12:00 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I start my trip at the Wilkes-Barre airport and I’ve gotten here nice and early. I do like the smaller airports – you can always watch your luggage actually get on the plane (hence my propensity for electric blue suitcases so I know that mine is in the hold) and the people are relatively unrushed and friendly. The security person tells me to not go through the line at 8:30 for a 10:00 am flight because the security team is closing (?) to “calibrate the machine and eat lunch”. Well. I sit out next to the Hooters gate (quite the advertising scheme judging by the posters) and read my Barbara Stripling book on creating a culture of inquiry. I’m pretty into it when a gentlemen sits in the chair behind me with a thump, jolting me from my reverie. Just as I’m settling in, I hear the tell-tale beeping of his cell phone directory. Uh-oh. A cell phone talker. Yikes.

I have major issues with cell phone talkers in airports. You know, the people who rather than read, eat, or talk to someone near them (not that I’m advocating chatting up strangers), will instead pester everyone in their phone list with, “Hey! Guess where I’m calling from!” As if the jumbo jets taking off in the background won’t tip off the recepient. So this jocular gentlemen settles into his numerous phone calls (I counted 12 in an hour) and he MUST be a salesman based on his combination of inappropriate humor and utterly boring discourse on the weather and “plant conditions”. His first words out his mouth (which were never “hello” or “this is Hank”, not that I know his name) were, “Well that’s the last time I take your advice. You told me to give myself a hug last night and I got so excited that I couldn’t sleep!” Wha??? Maybe this is sensual banter for a wife at home, I thought. Until I realized – he is talking with his boss. Other topics, “Rachel got drunk as piss and starting spouting off about Jack Murphy’s daddy and you know why that’s funny.” May I never see what “drunk as piss” looks like. Yech. Thankfully he sits elsewhere when we move into the gate. I have to go watch my luggage being placed on board now.