7:59 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I woke up with such a headache this morning – in retrospect I don’t think that I drank enough water yesterday to keep up with the heat. It is so unbelievably hot here – 97 degrees and tremendous humidity. If I wasn’t putting about half a pound of Aveda Anti-Humectant Pomade in my hair, it would be frizz city and I would resemble little orphan Annie. I decided to stay in bed a couple of hours (after all, I was just going to go to the exhibit hall and it isn’t as if they had a new BOBBLEHEAD (are you listening Greenwood Press) for me to get. I’m sure all the pens will wait.

I had a lovely continental breakfast in the Club Lounge (this city might be a little seedy but it can do pastry just fine). I headed to the convention center to do a little reconnaissance and figure out where my afternoon session would be. So I’m toodling around and I hear a name, “Sarah Dessen”. Excuse me? A kind stranger mentions that Sarah Dessen is in the Scholastic Booth. Right now. Cut to crazy turquoise streak of light (me) running through exhibit hall (the size of three football fields) to Scholastic Booth.

I expected there to be crowds of people around her, but there she was, just like her pictures on her book jackets, sitting at a table with a pen and no one around, looking a little self-conscious. “Oh my God, are you Sarah Dessen!?!” I burst out. She perked up, “Why, yes, I am!” I won’t hide it; I gushed. I told her all about my Library Advisory Board girls, about how they fight for her books, about how they don’t even get to fight over them until I read them because I have first dibs, about how “Someone Like You” is my favorite, blah, blah. Authors must be okay with people blathering about how great they are since she just smiled and laughed in all the right places. I told her that I thought she was a lyrical writer who really touched the lives of her readers and she said, “You know, I never get tired of hearing that. Thank you so much for saying it – it will help me write when I feel stuck.” She also said, “Be sure to tell all your Library Advisory Board girls ‘thank you’ for reading all my books – they sound really cool.” Did you hear that, girls? Sarah Dessen thinks you are cool!! And she’s right!! She let me take my picture with her, which was really nice. I look like someone who has been tortured by hell-like heat and has no make up and an idiot smile on her face, but whatever. It’s Sarah Dessen!!

I got on the different bus that would take me to the Hilton so I could get to the Margaret Edwards luncheon and hung out in the lobby reading the companion book from my budgeting pre-conference yesterday (I had paid a visit to the ALA Bookstore after Sarah Dessen). I looked over to the Hilton gift whop and was stunned to see that they sell wine and liquor – in the gift shop! What is with this city? On Canal Street near my hotel there is a store called “The VooDoo Mart” that sells (brace yourself) liquor, fresh fruit, and feather boas. I’m not kidding. Do people really require feather boas for scotch and/or banana consumption here? I mean, it seems festive, but weird.

Anyhoo, the Margaret A. Edwards Luncheon started and I was so excited to see Jacqueline Woodson in person. She is such an amazing writer (and she was sitting with Walter Dean Myers and An Na – pretty illustrious company) and deserves such great recognition as this. I sat with nice people (of course, everyone is nice here) including a lovely librarian from a private school in Baltimore, Maryland and a public librarian who serves teens in the Hamptons on Long Island. Good food, nice company. I was sorry I had to duck out early in order to get to my afternoon session in the Convention Center. As I was schvitzing in the heat outside waiting for the bus, a friendly voice called me over to share a bench in the shade with her. We had a nice chat about the weather and then moved onto the bus and talked about the city, quilting, you name it.

I hustled to the session room (I felt like I was walking back to the Hilton, it took so much walking to get there) and took a seat in the back. What an interesting session! Nancy Everhart (fellow NBPTS member) was there, along with a library science professor, and a student. They all work together in Florida as part of a new project LEAD, which is funded by an IMLS grant, and basically seems to offer a core curriculum with a MLIS program (there are post-Master’s certificate and degree programs also) that prepares students to undergo the NBPTS process. It can even be done online, so it is definitely something I should look into when I feel ready to try for certification in a couple years (preferably after the library renovation). The student, Rachel, gave a great perspective on the reflective writing piece and how she feels that these classes (taken as part of her MLIS) will prepare her as a practitioner for Board Certification. A really great session.

I didn’t want to be tempted by anything in the exhibit hall until I figured out if I could ship it home (my suitcases were rather full – it turns out that 7 days worth of clothes and stuff is actually a lot!). I located the post office which is a UPS store that rents boxes (very important, since you can keep coming back and loading them up until they’re full and ready to ship). I’ll be all set to tackle at least part of the exhibit hall tomorrow. I saw these great stuffed alligators that I totally want to get for little Thaddeus.

I headed back on the bus to the hotel and realized that I felt exhausted (the heat again) so rather than go to my room (where I would never have the energy to leave) I headed across the street to The Palace Café again. I sat in my favorite seat with a view of the pastry chef working and ordered the Palace Potato Pie, which is shredded pork topped with mashed potatoes, topped with spinach and melted cheddar cheese, served on a bed of onion gravy with garlic breadsticks. Paging heaven – an angel just landed on my plate! Follow it up with the Creole Cheesecake (made with a soft Creole cream cheese) and covered with a local citrus preserves, and you have a meal to dream about. The creaminess of the cheesecake with the acid of the preserves was an unbelievable mouth combination. Back to the room to collapse in a heap and I’m all set.

Pre-Conference Day! Or Advocacy and Budgeting 101…

11:15 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I got up bright and early today. New Orleans has a great NPR station, so that helped me feel right at home as I was getting ready. I walked the three blocks down to the Astor Court hotel and found the ballroom where the pre-conference was taking place. The morning conference was on Advocacy for School Libraries and I really enjoyed it. There was a nice energy from the presenters and lots of great information and resources were shared. I sat next to fellow NBPTS Committee member and AASL Board Member Cassandra Barnett, who was her usual, cheerful, articulate self, and also saw Patt Moser from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., who I had the pleasure of meeting at the AISL conference in Atlanta in April. There were lots of independent schools represented and we got together for the breakout session since our advocacy issues are different from those of public schools who deal with district issues and state funding recessions. I took copious notes and felt really good about the great ideas I got out of the workshop, so when it ended I felt really good heading out for lunch.

I didn’t feel like fast food so I headed two blocks up and popped into The Palace Café, which was recommended to me by a gentleman in the airport in Charlotte. They could only seat me at the “bar” which isn’t a liquor bar, but instead a bar that looks into the kitchen through a plate glass window – kind of like the Food Network with no sound. It was just fascinating watching this busy kitchen at lunchtime, and not feeling too adventurous, I ordered the chicken and lemonade. It took a little while, but it was worth it. My herbed rotisserie chicken on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus was UNBELIEVABLE – it was honestly the best chicken I have ever had. Ever.

I rolled back to the hotel and went to head up to the same ballroom I was in before, but ended up taking the wrong elevator. I wandered around soulless hotel corridors for 10 minutes, coming across the same non-English speaking housekeeping staff (why didn’t I take Spanish?!?) – it was a lot like the scene in This Is Spinal Tap where they are trying to find their way out of the basement to get on stage. I finally gave up, went back down to the lobby, and then found the right elevators and made it to the ballroom. Other people were delayed as well; so it hadn’t begun yet, thank heavens. I sat next to Patt Moser and learned all about this interesting method of student learning centered collection budgeting – the two presenters were professors from Drexel and they were very good – they certainly presented a ton of information in a compressed period of time. I am going to look for their book at the ALA Bookstore tomorrow.

I got back to the hotel and was so not hungry (that big lunch!) that I decided to just have something at the club level lounge and call it a day. Proceed to my riding in the elevator for 15 minutes trying to get the damn thing to accept my room key to get on the 42nd floor! It finally took someone else putting in their key to get me there. I am going to have to have my key looked at by the front desk tomorrow. Turns out that yesterday I missed the fact that there were the biggest cookies ever located in the lounge, so I casually took three of them back to my room and snacked while watching TV (the Oceans Eleven remake which is were I realize a certain Croatian boy might have gotten his inspiration for a certain duffel bag incident as one of the characters is smuggled out of a hotel in an athletic gear duffel – my God, he can’t even be original). The last half of the Bewitched remake (poor Nicole Kidman – I’m really pulling for her, more so after seeing this movie) and some Bill Moyers interviewing Salman Rushdie and I’m good. Off to shuffyland for me.

And I arrive in New Orleans!!

11:13 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

It was amazing flying into the New Orleans airport – you see lots of blue tarps on rooftops still, but the thing that struck me the most was the beautiful blue gray of the Gulf and the verdant green of the wetlands. The whole city looks surrounded by wetlands – I suddenly understand what all the scientists have been talking about in terms of this resource and its ability to protect the city from hurricane damage. The plane flies in very, very low over the Mississippi River (I thought we were going to land on a barge) and then it’s just the concrete shimmer of the hot tarp at the airport. It was easy to find the baggage claim and the airport shuttle was right there. Very organized, very efficient.

So I hop on the bus and chat with my seatmate, who gave me lots of great tips, including the biggie that there are satellite locations for registration today so I don’t have to hoof it 10 blocks in the heat to the convention center. My plane seat buddy George was sitting up front, and suddenly I hear the man next to him say, “Lewis? Courtney Lewis?” and turn around – AND ITS DR. BAUGHMAN, my library science school advisor!! It turns out he is also staying at the Sheraton and we had a nice catch-up talk on the check-in line. It sounds like the Simmons School Library program is thriving and he looks great. I’m thrilled to have been able to see him!

Lots of problems checking into the Sheraton, unfortunately. I didn’t realize that they wanted me to have a signed letter of authorization to use the school credit card because it doesn’t have my name on it. The staff was very polite and apologetic but it took a long time – thank heavens Ethan was able to take a faxed form to an administrator to sign and later find the wonderful business manager, my savior, who said he’d take care of faxing the hotel a letter first thing in the morning.

I was totally exhausted when I finally made it to my room. It’s on the 45th floor so my view is amazing – I can see most of the city and out to the Gulf and all the furnishings are brand, spanking new. The bathroom is really spacious and has a well-lit granite vanity with a magnifying mirror on the wall. Score one for calculated eyebrow plucking! The tub doesn’t have a slanty back for comfort, but everything is marble tile and there is a very big seat that is great for toweling off or storing supplies. Good closet with lots of hangers and a new iron and ironing board. I did my anal retention thing where I put away everything in its place and symmetrical and then I can relax. I hit the club level for hors d’oeurves but realized I needed something a little more substantial – and that I was so tired I better get it fast before I fall asleep. So I headed out onto Canal Street.

Canal Street is a little, well, seedy. There is some damage from the hurricane, spots of sidewalk damage, supported palm trees with suspension wires, etc. The thing that strikes me the most is the people – so many men and women just hanging out on street corners, which isn’t a problem, but they look so unhealthy – really thin and haggard. These look like people who have been through a traumatic disaster. I went across the street to a Wendy’s where it took twenty minutes to get some chicken strips and fries despite there being only one person ahead of me in line.

I went back to the hotel and ate my dinner while watching Law & Order episodes. I took a bath to scrub my legs (my self-tanner was getting a little built up around my ankles and my knees were too white) and then reapplied my tanner. I painted my toenails (fresh sandal feet!) and then collapsed with the lights off at 8pm. Of course, I got sucked into a show – in this case, an Independent Lens documentary on the children of Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital Cancer Ward. Cue crying. Yes, I was sitting in a strange city hotel bed, sobbing over these three beautiful children who died of cancer. Lots of nose blowing necessary. It’s my usual problem where I watch 10 minutes, realize that it’s going to be really depressing, change the channel to try and watch something else, and then flip back because I am so super worried about what’s going to happen to the kids.

Scranton to Charlotte, NC...and beyond!!

11:18 AM 0 Comments A+ a-

It was fun leaving for my conference from the new Scranton/Wilkes-Barre airport - it's a nice improvement on the old, grungy airport but still manages to be small and easy to navigate. I love an airport that thinks that three people ahead of you in the security line is a traffic jam! There was a nice little breakfast area where I got some cereal and orange juice and the oldest, little lady behind the register - this woman was God's older sister and she didn't seem too comfortable with technology. The family ahead of me was getting a couple magazines and some drinks and were paying cash - and this flustered the lady so much! She referred to notes from her pocketbook, looked through her glasses at the screen several times (as if by viewing the register screen through different angles, new information would emerge), and finally gave the receipt to the family saying very matter of factly, "Well, we just don't sell a lot of those (referring to magazines) and so I can't give you change." The family, who were desperate to get to their gate, just nicely agreed (they had over $8 coming to them by my tally) and headed out. In New York, there would have been 20 minutes of yelling and security would have been called. I love northeastern PA.

Bonus for me that I got to meet up with Bill Summerhill, one of my school's administrators, who was on the same flight to Charlotte (en route to a meeting in Nashville) and so I had someone to chat with before the flight boarded. Once on, I was seated next to a very tall, big man who was seated separately from his wife and son (they were headed to Orlando - shudder - and had gone through two canceled flights). I always feel so sorry for tall men (especially the huskier sort). I know I'm uncomfortable on a plane and this poor man barely fit into his seat, with his knees up against the tray table and his head about a foot over the headrest. There really should be some kind of rule that some 4 foot 2 inch person in the bulkhead seat has to switch!

We landed in Charlotte and disembarked on the tarmac (Note: Charlotte is a hot place in the summertime) and then flew through the airport, thinking I only had a hour before my connecting flight left. Nope. It was pushed back to 1:05 pm, so I have lots of time, which is a very good thing, considering that they have in the food court a CAROLINA BBQ stand!!! Yeah-huh!! Hello, pulled pork sandwich with BBQ sauce and steak fries with key lime pie for dessert. Heaven on earth, particularly after almost crying over the dining hall's version of this sandwich yesterday. Not even close.

My people watching during lunch makes for fascinating contemplations. First, exactly how many young girls feel that capri pajama pants with the waistband rolled down to show the tag (wha??) is a fashion statement for airport travel? Those with little dogs in carrying cases, flip-flopping their way through the airport deserve particular censure. My Aunt Martha (who is never wrong about these things) always said to dress nicely when you travel because you never know who you are going to meet. I have found that to be true - what would Bill Summerhill have thought of me as an employee if I was in sweatpants and flip-flops carrying Bugsy in a bag? I don't think I would have been the same person in his mind. But I digress, back to the bored, poorly dressed girls. So they're thwok-thwoking along (toe disaster waiting to happen) and I think, what if there is a plane crash? The kind in water? With high winds? Those pants are going to come right off! They are barely on now! They might look scornfully at my tailored khaki capris and pink blouse (Talbots, of course), but when the coast guard comes, I will have pants on, thank you. And you and your little dog will be very, very embarrassed. Come to think of it, the dog is probably already embarrassed.

I need to go to my gate and watch the people going to Bermuda (already sunburnt families and smooching honeymooners) get out of the seats so I can stake out a position for my flight. I finished my Smithsonian, so I think I'm going to work on my sock. Yes, you can bring knitting needles on a plane now, thank heavens!