Local Author Cary Neeper Recounts American Library Association Conference

Cary Neeper signs copies of ‘The Webs of Varok’ at the ALA Conference. Courtesy photo


About 26,000 people attended the June 28-July 1 American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

At this huge gathering of librarians and teachers, book publishers and authors saw many roller carts filled with books pack the checkout stand near the front entrance of McCormick Place before the weekend came to a close. Some were giveaways, some half price and most probably destined for community and school libraries.

Out of hundreds of sessions, many of them committee meetings and technical workshops for librarians, my daughter and I picked a talk given by ebsco.com about how to stock a library with e-books. Libraries can purchase books outright from 430,000 titles or subscribe at a small percent of the purchase price.

A flexible list of options includes customized collections for limited or unlimited numbers of users. A third option is called Patron Driven Purchase, which can be short-term loans or loans-to-own. Some loans are triggered only when the book is “used”—actively read for 10 minutes or 10 pages turned—the user activity reported electronically.

We attended two sessions in which a panel of authors described their books, focusing on plot and genre. The experience was an interesting contrast to sessions at writers’ conferences. Those are focused on writing techniques, the story arc and developing characters as they move from the required crisis rock to a harder place.

The most intense and interesting session was called “Digital content—What’s Next?” As you might guess, the major problem for library’s with e-books is permanence. With formats continually changing, what will last for all time? All six major publishers now do e-books, and some independent or self-publishers’ e-books cannot be obtained in print at any cost. Of more importance, many licensing agreements terminate after 26 or so checkouts, then the library loses the book from its collection. Another question is what libraries should archive: videos, sound recordings, everything on You Tube or Web apps for iphones? Should libraries do digital publishing?

The highlights of the expo were the talks by autistic expert Temple Grandin and Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker. Grandin gave a clear, impassioned plea for treating autistic people with specific directions, understanding them as unique individuals with specialized talents or problems. Autism as a behavioral condition is a continuum.

She emphasized the importance of focusing, not on dysfunction, but on an individual’s strengths. Once a nonverbal child is diagnosed, spend 20-30 hours a week one-on-one with them to be sure they attain language and sensory training. Then they must be taught to develop responsibility and job skills. Grandin’s latest book is The Autistic Brain. http://bit.ly/12kq8Di

Alice Walker read from her latest book, Now Is The Time To Open Your Heart. She quietly expressed her love of libraries as “a place to dream and to travel” and her passion for fairness, with a “hope [that] the need for knowledge won’t be compromised.” http://amzn.to/18Ls2FD

We enjoyed standing in a very long line, chatting with librarians, to obtain signed books from Mo Willems, author of the Elephant and Piggie and Pigeon children’s books. http://pigeonpresent.com

Then it was time to set up our poster and tell passing librarians and teachers about our book, The Webs of Varok. We had some nice responses to the idea of an alternate 21st century solar system looking for long-term answers with friendly fun-loving aliens. My publisher, Shawne, and I rented a spot at the Independent Book Publishers Association booth and spent a pleasant hour handing out copies. Even more fun was the enthusiasm for the book covers, including the painting of the cover for The Webs’ sequel, recently re-painted and finished under the tutelage of Jerry Yarnell, the PBS “Paint This” instructor. http://www.yarnellschool.com


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