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Conference Envy PDF Print E-mail

By Doc Roth
Reprinted with permission Originally appeared in Knowledge Quest May 2007

    Amelia saw Horace when he returned to Boston from ALA Midwinter in Seattle.  “How’d it go?”  She asked him.


    “No, really.  I want the details.”

    “You’re a glutton for boredom, Amelia,” he said, “or you’re looking to go for a drink.”

    Before one could say “Chardonnay,” school was out and Horace and Amelia, joined by Parquet and Desmond, were ordering snacks and drinks at Doyle’s Café.  “I really blew it,” said Amelia.  “If I’d known, I’d be a librarian and romp to conferences while someone else tries to instill a sense of history in high school students.”

    “It’s not all glamour,” Horace said.  “I walk more at conferences than on the Walk for Hunger.  I pack different clothes for daytime and evening.  And some librarians, I’m sure, change more often than that for different events or for comfort.”

    “Sounds glamorous to me.  Bring on the wardrobe.”  Amelia said.

     “Yes,” added Parquet.  “And far better than staying here to explain the use of a participle to an English language learner still struggling with adjectives and adverbs.”

    “A conference in Seattle isn’t all glory,” Horace said.  “For one thing, the city is built on a hill, nearly a mountain.  To go from one event to another, you need to be in shape for the Appalachian Trail.”

    “You get no sympathy here, Horace,” Desmond chimed in.  “I heard you mailed back three boxes of free books and other goodies from publishers.  The exhibit hall must have been massive.”

    “Sure, it was great.”  Horace countered, “If walking through acres of sales reps and commercial displays is your idea of a good time.”

    “Sounds like shopping--with free samples all over the place,” Amelia observed.  “Like I said, I chose the wrong part of the teaching profession.”

    “There’s responsibility, too.”  Horace said.

    “As if you find that any kind of hardship.”  Amelia replied.

    “The responsibility defense, forget it.”  Added Desmond.

    “Give it up,” said Parquet.  “You had a great time, admit it.”

    “Did you enjoy college?”  Horace asked.

    “No concerns except learning, socializing and athletic training, a group of friends studying the same things I am, and the feeling that I can accomplish anything if I just go for it,” Parquet responded.  “Those were the best years of my life.”

    “I totally agree.”  Amelia agreed.

    “All right, so you might like ALA conferences,” Horace conceded.  “But there are responsibilities for running the organization as well as continuing education workshops and lectures to attend.”

    “So you have to learn about the best new books for teens, poor baby!” Said Amelia who had looked through the conference program Horace left on his desk.

    “And you get to work on teaching and learning committees or book award committees or with the latest legislative initiatives about copyright or library funding.”  Parquet, too, had seen Horace’s conference program.

    “Don’t think you can get out of this by telling us to bring our classes to the library where you’ll collaborate and share what you learned.”  Desmond cut off that defense.  “The best thing you could do now is call the waitress over and buy us a second round.”

    “Audrey, one more round, this one on me.”  Then Horace turned to the three teachers and said, “You can still do it.  This is Boston after all.  You can get a library master degree in this town without missing a day in your classroom.”

    “With temptation like that,” Parquet said, “You must be hiding your tail and your horns.”

    “The ironic thing,” said Horace, “Is that you are classroom teachers and you see the value of library conferences.  You would go if you could.  Yet many library teachers who could attend blow it off completely.  The AASL, the American Association of School Librarians, is one of the largest divisions of the ALA and yet it has a relatively small turnout at conferences -- and less than twenty five percent voter turnout in ALA elections.”

    “I told you I picked the wrong profession.”  Amelia said.  “I could be a real leader among school librarians.”

    “We need everyone, leaders and followers.  With more participation, school librarians would have a stronger voice in ALA.  We need more involvement throughout our ranks.”  Horace said.

    “Pick a city with fewer hills,” said Desmond, “and you might get a better turnout.”

    “Anyway, come by the library tomorrow, Parquet.  In Seattle a publisher gave me a complimentary copy of the Teacher’s Edition of Bridge to Terabithia.  It should be ready to go on the shelf tomorrow.”

    “English teachers get all the goodies.”  Said Amelia.

     “How about books on the environment and alternative sources of energy that combine high school interest level with a lower reading level?  This should be right for many of your students, Amelia.”

     “So everyone’s going to the library tomorrow,” Desmond said.  “At least I don’t have to give things away to have friends.”

    “I do not give away library books,” Horace said.  “I lend them.  And now I suddenly understand why your books are so overdue.”

    Parquet put her arm around Desmond’s shoulders.  “That’s okay, Desmond.  Return your books and for your fine buy the first round at our next gathering.”

    “It’s good to be back,” Horace said.

    “Sure,” said Amelia.  “But I bet you already know when the next conference will be.”

    “June 22nd to June 26th the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC.”

Everyone laughed.  “From the Seattle hills to Capitol Hill.”  Parquet said.

    “Say ‘Hi’ to Ted Kennedy for me.”  Desmond said.

     “I just might.  I’ll be lobbying Congress with the ALA on the twenty-sixth.  The odds that I talk to our Senior Senator are better than the odds I hit the jackpot in Reno.”

    “I’m afraid to ask,” said Parquet.  “But here goes, how does Reno come into this?”

    “The AASL biannual conference will be in Reno for five days this October.  It is different from the ALA conferences.  AASL has no meetings, nothing about running the organization.  We take care of that at ALA.  AASL is all school library programs, school library exhibits and school librarian parties – ahh, that is, events.  Many children’s book and young adult book authors attend and join in.”

    Parquet glared.  Amelia’s mouth flew open.  Desmond started banging his head on the table in a graphic display of the ‘physicalization of meaning’ concept that he taught to his acting class students.

     “Reno has 300 sunny days each year,” Horace continued.  Desmond stopped his assault on the table and looked up.  “Kayaking on the Truckee River right through the middle of town.  Enough shows . . .”

    Desmond started attacking the table again with his forehead.

    “You break this table, Desmond, and you own it.”  Parquet said.  “Then you can take it home and start a collection of Doyle’s furniture in your den.  Call it torment motif.  It’s sure to be a twenty-first century classic.”

    “I’m okay,” Desmond said lifting his head from the table.  “In October I’ll be enjoying my annual new theatre season weekend in New York -- three Broadway shows in two days.”

    “That’s great.”  Said Amelia, “But all of us can do that.  Can you skip school for Reno like Horace?”

    “Heading the table didn’t help,” added Parquet.  “There’s no way you can hide the envy in your eyes.”

    “There might be one way,” Amelia amended.  “What do you think, Desmond -- can I help with your library school application?”


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