Thursday, January 30, 2014

Midwinter Postmortem

Just wanted to do a little post mortem on the rest of my experience at the Midwinter conference in Philadelphia, which I rather criticized in my last post.  Overall, the experience was very positive and helpful, and again, I don’t blame ALA for the problems I pointed out last time.  LGBTQ literature, while important, is still very niche, and it is up to those of us with a stake in the benefits its existence provides to see that our organizations and publications reflect our need.  Onward!

My experience in Philadelphia was very food oriented and very game oriented.  The food part had little to do with actual conference happenings--it was most thanks to the Reading Terminal Market and the very good taste of my local friend Brendan--but I did attend one of those “What’s Cooking at ALA?” sessions on the exhibit hall floor, goofy as such things are, and had a great time.  The one I hit was pizza-based, hosted by pizza expert, tour guide and box art specialist/record holder Scott Wiener, who was very engaging on the subject for ten o’clock in the morning.  He coached the small but enthusiastic crowd on proper pizza technique (I now know how to avoid tip sag) and cooked us up a pie to sample while waiting for him to sign free copies of his book on pizza boxes for us.  I liked his signature line style--he had a ready stream of questions for each of us that ensured non-awkward interaction and gave the impression  of complete personalization.  Mine was “What’s your least favorite pizza topping?” to which I quickly answered “black olives,” so he drew me a black olive with a no-smoking sign through it.  What  a sweetheart.

A more unfortunate floor experience came when I accidentally got a book signed by Cal Thomas before I realized he was an archaeoconservative homophobe.  I would have felt bad snubbing him, though.  (I have to snicker at “the Queen Latifa” and “Ellen Degenerous” though, but seriously, stop shouting in all-caps, Cal!  We can hear you.)

But games!  You know I love games, dear readers, and their potential for library use and enrichment.  I attended two sessions hosted by the GameRT (Game Round Table--there’s a group for every interest at ALA!) in general, one by the Game-Making Interest Group in particular.  Got some great ideas on how to host a board game program at a library, particularly one focused on introducing seniors to “modern” board games.  There’s research to be done here, folks!  Also a great description of a really fun-sounding murder mystery event out near Seattle.  I would love to hold such a thing.  It all goes to show that there’s a world of possibility for the incorporation of existing games and game-like behavior in libraries, and there’s an audience and a purpose for it.

The game-making event was more generally informational, which was great in its own way.  To my pleasant surprise, the best practices that the facilitator mentioned were provided by Mary Broussard, librarian at my alma mater!  She bases her pointers off the success of her anti-plagiarism game.  Very cool to hear about Lycoming College in a non-alumni setting.  The Game-Making IG is in need of more active members; I don’t know, should I volunteer?  (If you’re interested in the best practices, other game making resources, and coding self-help that was mentioned at this session, dear readers, please let a blogger know; otherwise I shan’t trouble you.)

The president’s program was also a great time, and got me on to a new-ish organization that I hope to involve myself with at some point.  The Harry Potter Alliance aims to use the power of fiction, and the enthusiasm fiction inspires, to tackle real-world problems.  I’m overjoyed, because I’ve long felt that fandom generates a lot of energy that is--well, I won’t say ‘misdirected,’  because a lot of creative stuff comes out of it, and we don’t have to judge people for simply enjoying anything and never taking it further.  But I will say that with all that energy in the world, it’s good to have an alternate outlet for it towards issues of social justice and need.  The organization’s founder gave a very inspirational speech, if annoyingly read directly from paper (he had been sick and had probably not had enough time to prepare; still, the parts where he went off script, either for humorous or passionate effect, were the most worthwhile parts of his two-hour talk).  I encourage all of you involved in fandom of one ilk or another to check out HPA’s website and think about getting involved, especially as their very grassroots campaigns have begun to branch out from strictly Potterverse flavors.  (What kind of social problems could the Game of Thrones fandom address?  Several funny answers spring to mind, but war refugee relief would be a good, serious one.)

There were a few other bits and pieces, but those were the highlights for me.  All in all this was a lonelier experience for me than ALA Annual was, lacking my buddies Esther, Natalie and Bryan (missed you guys!).  But special thanks to the aforementioned Brendan, as well as Natasha and Alicia, for being stalwart dinner companions and makeshift innkeepers, and to librarians Matt and Cheng, friends who I met up with along the way (sometimes unexpectedly) to make the between-session time pass more pleasantly.

Now, on to Vegas!

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