ALTAFF President’s Program Featuring Marilynn Johnson – ALA Annual Conference 2011 Day Four

Monday, the last day (for me, anyway) of ALA Annual Conference, was where I made my first miscalculation in planning. Before I saw the conference schedule, I spent $10 to sign up for a Walking Tour of the French Quarter. I figured as long as I was in New Orleans, I should do some sight-seeing. They told us to meet in front of the cathedral at 8:00 am, and the Walking Tour was to be from 9:00 to 12:00. They mentioned having beignets at Cafe du Monde, so I optimistically thought that the extra hour before 9:00 was to give us time to eat breakfast.

Well, I walked from my hotel to the meeting place. It was HOT. At Jackson Square, in front of the cathedral, there was a group gathered together, with no sign of any tour guide. They were standing in full sun, simply getting hotter.

I knew I needed food and caffeine, so since there was no sign of the tour starting, I walked over to Cafe du Monde and had beignets and coffee. By the time I got there, I actually had sweat dripping from my chin. As I sat and ate my yummy beignet, it occurred to me that being outside for the next three and a half hours would only make me hate New Orleans. I had noticed some sessions that really sounded good in the conference program. They were air conditioned.

That decided it! I will go back to New Orleans some day — in the winter — and do some sight-seeing.

I went back to my hotel, changed out of my thoroughly wet clothes, stood over the air conditioner for about ten minutes, and put on a nice sleeveless dress to wear to the day’s events. I took the air conditioned shuttle bus to the air conditioned convention center. I had missed the 8:00 sessions, but I was actually early for Marilyn Johnson’s program.

Marilyn Johnson made me her complete fan when she first wrote a fantastic book about librarians, and then gave me copies to send to each member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in protest of their cuts to the library budget. So I was excited about hearing her speak.

Her program was the ALTAFF President’s Program, and right away they announced that ALTAFF — Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations — has had its name change to the much much better and more memorable “Citizens for Libraries.”

Here are my notes from her talk:

Marilyn is spearheading an initiative of Authors for Libraries. They are our natural advocates.

She said that Librarians and Writers have a lot in common:
— We both hate to be lumped together.
— We don’t want to be presumed about.
— We want to be free to be creative in our work.
— We believe in the power of the word.
— We share the same workspace.

Librarians provide many things for authors:
— A place to work
— A place to speak
— We buy their books.
— We defend them against censorship.
— We create a congenial space for literacy.

Without librarians, there are no authors. Without authors, there are no librarians.

The relationship between writers and librarians is very personal.

She gave some tips about hosting authors, from her own experiences:
— Staff should be present at author programs.
— Take writers to the back room beforehand and feed them and meet librarians. Make them part of a team.

She took part in an outstanding fundraiser at a library. There were lots of authors, and lots of local restaurants offering samples, and there was a librarian for each author. That personal touch is important!

She talked about the website for Authors for Libraries and the Searchable Data Base of Library Quotes

Remember: Writers, like Librarians, are an endangered species.

Ask authors, “What do you want from us?”

When you connect with an author, get what you can — a quote, a list of what they’re reading now. Writers are perfectly happy to do publicity for us.

Writers don’t bite!

And I enjoyed one last quotation that showed that she understands librarians better than most: “I didn’t appreciate how many kinds of stupid there are until I sat at a reference desk.”

Coming up on my blog tomorrow: More books and authors signing them.

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