by Shari Randall
At the end of June, I was lucky enough to attend the American Library Association (ALA) Conference in New Orleans. A friend calls it the Amazing Library Association conference and I have to agree with her. If your idea of candy is books, this conference is a candy shop.
The ALA conference has been held in New Orleans several times. At the Opening Session, I learned that ALA has a special relationship with New Orleans that few know about. The Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, gave a passionate speech – no, a love letter – to the thousands of librarians at the opening ceremonies. She said that after Hurricane Katrina, many of the organizations that met in New Orleans’ vast conference centers and hotels pulled out, leaving the city without the convention dollars so vital to its recovery. ALA, however, honored its commitment to the city, and in 2006, nearly 17,000 librarians came to the first city-wide meeting held in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Further, those librarians volunteered in NOLA’s devastated libraries and neighborhoods. ALA loves NOLA and the feeling is mutual.
Nobody does it like New Orleans. How many conventions start with a parade led by Trombone Shorty and his jazz band? Jambalaya served for lunch to attendees? A world famous zydeco festival and jazz clubs a short shuttle ride away?
Sure, the exhibit floor booths had offerings that are only of interest to librarians (digital storage, anyone?), but half of the booths are publishers, where smiling reps give away, no, force into your hands, ARCs of the books that will be best sellers in the fall. Lines for author signings snaked through the aisles. Swag was everywhere. Even though I swore that I wouldn’t take any ARCS – because how would I get them home? – I ended up shipping home two boxes of books. How could I resist?
My main purpose at the conference was to represent Sisters in Crime as Library Liaison and raise awareness of the We Love Libraries Grant. Haven’t heard of it? Sisters in Crime awards $1,000 to a library every month with an easy-to-enter lottery. Here’s the link:?
The “It’s a Mystery to Me” panel with Pulitzer prize winner Robert Olen Butler, Amy Stewart, Jude Devereaux, Deborah LeBlanc, and Ellen Byron, who ably represented Sisters in Crime.
The Sally Field interview, where thousands jammed into a theater to hear the beloved actress speak about her upcoming memoir, In Pieces. The interview was an intriguing glimpse of the guarded, and surprisingly prickly, star.
The highlight of highlights? Michelle Obama’s conversation with Librarian of Congress (and library superstar) Carla Hayden. The line wound four times through the half mile long lobby of the Morial Convention Center. I was close enough to see the Jumbotron! I imagined the preorders for the former First Lady’s new memoir, Becoming, skyrocketed when all the librarians headed home.
What was the most photogenic experience I had in New Orleans? It was when I sneaked out of the convention center for an hour and walked to a nondescript warehouse behind the convention center. My goal: Mardi Gras World.
Mardi Gras World is the place where many of the floats that make the Mardi Gras parades so memorable are designed, built, and stored. Here are a few pictures.
|Yes, that's a Chick-Fil-A cow behind the Queen.|
|King Cake at the end of the tour!|
Have you been to New Orleans? What’s your favorite part?