Posts Tagged 'American Library Association'

Love your library, love your librarians

Reports of libraries' demise have been greatly exaggerated (that's Chicago's Harold Washington Library, a few blocks from my home)

And now, some updates on librarians I admire who are marking the end of “Love Your Library” month by making big transitions.

  • Karen Keninger. Karen is my fellow Seeing Eye graduate who is leaving her position as director of the Iowa Department for the Blind to become Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Karen is moving away from her familiar farm home in Iowa to take the new job. She is deciding between settling in a quiet place on the Metro line far enough away to escape busy DC, or embracing the urban environment and renting an apartment near her office. I have moved many times since losing my sight, but always under the guiding eyes of my husband Mike Knezovich. Karen is moving alone. Well, not completely alone – she’ll have her new Seeing Eye dog Jimi at her side. She wrote to say she’d be staying with friends in a Virginia suburb for a few weeks. “That way I can get my feet under me and figure out where I want to rent at first.” New job. New home. New town. New dog. New environment. New responsibilities. I admire Karen’s courage, and her dedication to the library service she loves.
  • Mary Dempsey. With the city of Chicago’s entire public library system in transition, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is replacing longtime Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey with a technology-focused administrator from the San Francisco library system. Mary Dempsey holds a Master’s degree in library and Information Science from my alma mater, the University of Illinois, and it was a boost to my journalism confidence when editors at the Illinois alumni magazine asked me to interview her for a profile in 2001. Mary Dempsey oversaw the construction of dozens of new libraries during her tenure, but the Chicago Sun times reports that the 37-year-old technology guru who is replaicing her says it’s time to “re-envision what libraries look like, both in the physical space as well as in the digital space.”
  • Stephanie Burke Bellucci. My young New Jersey friend Steph left her job as Library Director at the North Arlington Free Public Library this month to accept a position as Library Director at the Cliffside Park Free Public Library. Stephanie went to high school in Cliffside Park and is delighted to have the opportunity to
    Work for a library that has the familiarity of home.

When I told Stephanie I planned on publishing a post about Mary Dempsey being replaced by a technology guru, she told me that friends used to ask her if being a library director meant she got to read all day long. “Now they’re asking something even sillier,” she said. “They want to know if we still really need libraries.” Stephanie is not even 30 years old yet, and a lot of her personal philosophy about her vocation has to do with staying up to date with the most current technologies. She feels even more strongly about the importance of libraries as the cultural and social centers of their communities. “Just think about it,” she said. “Libraries offer help to job seekers, free internet access, story times, book clubs, discussion groups, author visits, free lectures and on and on. Libraries are much, much more than the books on their shelves.”

The American Library Association reports that library usage is up in the United States. “So how do I answer that silly question about whether or not we still need libraries?” Stephanie says. “With a resounding YES!”

Next stop, New Jersey

Some people dismiss national conventions as silly schmoozefests, but I gotta say: I’ve met some pretty darned cool people at the ones I’ve gone to. Guess it never hurts to show up with a cute dog at my side, huh?

Signing books at the ALA convention.

Signing books at the ASPCA booth during the American Library Association convention.

It was a very proud – and lucky – moment for us when the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) selected Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound as a Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award winner. Our luck didn’t end there, though. At the award ceremony (held during the American Library Association convention) Hanni and I were also lucky enough to meet Stephanie Burke and her aunt. Stephanie is the director of the library in North Arlington, NJ and her aunt teaches at an elementary school in Fairview, NJ. We hit it off right away. Before we left, I thrust promotional postcards and flyers into their hands. “Hanni and I would love to come visit!”

Two years later, we’re off to New Jersey! Turns out Stephanie’s mom works at a school in Fairview, too, so the triumvirate arranged it so Hanni and I will have not just one, not two but three different gigs while we’re there: one at Stephanie’s library, one at her aunt’s school, and one at her mom’s school. Sweet!

After those presentations were booked, ahem, I contacted Mendham Books in Mendham, NJ. I’d met the store owners on a bus ride between our hotel and Book Expo America in New York back in 2007. They remembered Hanni and me, and said they’d love to have us.

And so, thanks to two very fun conventions, a New Jersey book tour is born. Hanni and I fly to Newark this Saturday, and librarian Stephanie Burke has generously offered to pick us up at the airport and drive us to our hotel. She’ll chauffeur us to the bookstore event Sunday, then cart us around to our library and school visits on Monday and Tuesday. She’s even offered to take Hanni for walks. Pick up after her, too. Now that’s a true friend!

The school visits are only for staff, students and parents, but the library visit and the bookstore appearance are open to all. Mendham is very close to Morristown, NJ, so we’re hoping to meet up with some old friends from the Seeing Eye School at the bookstore appearance Sunday.

May 23 (Sunday), 1 p.m.
Mendham Books
84 East Main Street
Mendham, NJ 07945

And we’re looking forward to meeting a lot of new friends at the library appearance on Monday:

May 24 (Monday), 4:30 p.m.
North Arlington Library
210 Ridge Road
North Arlington, NJ 07031

I’ll be signing books in print and in Braille at both events, and of course Hanni’s paw print will be rubberstamped into every book purchased as well. If you know anyone in New Jersey, please let them know about these two events. And if you live in New Jersey…come!

You Can’t Judge a Librarian by Her (or His) Cover

Hanni and I are signing copies of Safe & Sound at the American Library (ALA) convention in Chicago this week. I swim at a lap pool in a Chicago hotel, and when I went to swim laps today I figured my eavesdropping along the way would tell me that the librarians had arrived. No talk in the lobby about which bobbie pins were best at holding hair back in buns, though. And nothing said in the elevator about which rubber stamp vendor to go to for stamping books at the check-out line. The people in the elevators didn’t all sound old and mousy –- a lot of them were young, and hey –- some of them were men!

From the conversations I heard, there could easily be a technology conference in town this week. Or a business convention. An academic conference. An arts convention. Because, if you think of it, libraries can be all of these things — a place to go for technology, a place of business, somewhere to find books, videos, music. And the professionals who work at these places? They’re as diverse as the libraries, all dedicated to providing information for others.

This is the second ALA convention Hanni and I are privileged enough to attend. Last year my sisters Marilee and Cheryl joined me at the ALA convention in Anaheim. Every day we went to author presentations, visited the exhibit hall, signed up for contests, picked up free pencils, post-it notes, books and catalogs. Book CoverWe made sure Safe & Sound was displayed front and center at any booth that carried this award-winning book. We knew librarians would love our book if they noticed it among the thousands of others featured at the convention! Cheryl couldn’t make it to the convention this year, but Marilee is coming in from Orlando — she’ll be with Hanni and me at our signings, making sure the lines flow quickly and I remember to include author visit descriptions and bookmarks with each book. We’ll be signing at three different locations Sunday, Monday and Tuesday:

  • Sunday, July 12, 11 am to noon at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) booth in McCormick Place.
  • Monday, July 13, 5:30 to 7:30, ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award Ceremony in the St. Gallen Room at the Swissotel on E. Wacker Drive in Chicago. This one is a cocktail reception, and it’s free and open to the public.
  • Tuesday, July 14, 11 am to 1 pm, in booth #1626,the Illinois Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators booth, sandwiched right between Scholastic and Charlesbridge – they get lots of traffic, so it’s a great location!

For more details on these signings, check out the schedule on my Web site. Hope to see (okay, hear) you at the convention!

Martha Speaks, Hanni Listens

That's Hanni and me at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst, NY.

That's Hanni and me at Daniel Street School in Lindenhurst, NY.

Is it March 31 already!? Seems like an April Fool’s joke! This sure has been a busy – and rewarding — month for Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound. In one month, Hanni and I visited five elementary schools, two libraries, one health education center, one teacher education center, and appeared at one author-illustrator night. We traveled by planes, trains and automobiles to New York, Michigan and various Illinois locations. Somehow, we always managed to make it home, you guessed it: safe & sound! While Hanni and I were traveling around talking to folks aboutSafe & Sound, experts behind the scenes were giving our book some attention, too. This month Hanni and Beth: Safe & sound was included on a new American Library Association list of about 25 or so “outstanding books that portray emotional, mental, or physical disability experiences.” It’s a thrill to have our book listed with all those other sensational titles. But the thrill doesn’t end there: in this same month of March, my publisher at Blue Marlin Publications got a message from the kids TV show Martha Speaks at WGBH in Boston. If you’ve never seen Martha Speaks on TV, you can link here to watch videos to see what Martha’s show is like. From the Martha Speaks web site:

Martha Speaks is an animated series on PBS KIDS. Aimed at viewers between the ages of four and seven, Martha’s educational goal is to teach kids new words. Based on the children’s book series by Susan Meddaugh and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the series stars Martha, a beloved family dog. She is accidentally fed alphabet soup — this gives her the power of speech and the chance to speak her mind to anyone that will listen.

The educational outreach program folks from Martha Speaks contacted my publisher to order copies of our book for a new program they’re testing out in Boston and New York City. Our book will be given to students in city schools, and if the pilot program works, a national rollout will feature Safe & Sound online activity guides and other online materials in conjunction with a Martha Speaks recommended book list. So if all goes well, more libraries and other organizations across the country will hear about Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound — as they say in TVland…stay tuned!

Practice Run


2007 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award Winners

2007 ASPCA Henry Bergh Award Winners

It’s been a week now since Hanni and I attended the cocktail reception in California to accept our ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award, and we’re both still walking on air. Finally this morning I’m coming down long enough to sit in front of my talking computer and compose a blog post about the big event. Eight writers won the Henry Bergh Award this year, some for fiction, others for non-fiction, poetry, young adult books, and so on. Two illustrators were also recognized with awards.

I was so excited to get to the reception that we arrived early — the room was pretty darn empty when we got there. Our early arrival turned out to be a good thing – it gave Hanni and me a chance to practice getting from our table up to the stage. You know, so we’d be ready when they announced our award! For the first dry run I let go of Hanni’s harness – I held on to her leash as someone guided us and pointed out where the three steps to the stage were. At the foot of the steps, I crouched down next to Hanni and pet her and rubbed her and told her over and over what a good girl she is. When I stood up, I put my foot on the first step. Tapping my foot then, and pointing to the step, I exclaimed, “Good girl, Hanni! Here’s where we want to go. Good girl!” We were led back to our table. I sat down, then helped Hanni situate herself underneath. After that, I pretended our names had just been announced. I pulled out my chair and called Hanni to come out. She did. Standing up, I lined my back against the back of the chair and commanded, “Forward!” Hanni led me right to the stairs. She was perfect.

She is perfect!


Joe Pentangelo, me, and Hanni

Joe Pentangelo, me, and Hanni

We tried it a few more times – the practice was more for me than for Hanni – until I felt fairly sure we’d make it without me falling. Or fainting. My Blue Marlin publisher Francine Rich arrived with her husband Jude around that time – they presented me with lilies. The fragrance was sensational. I felt like a star. The whole event was first class, fancy hors d’oeuvres, fancy drinks, fancy people. I even had a police escort! Joe Pentangelo, Special Agent for Humane Law Enforcement at the ASPCA — and one of the stars of the Animal Precinct TV show on Animal Planet — met Hanni and me at the stage and walked us to the podium to receive our award. Find out if we made it without tripping — or fainting! — by reading my next blog post, called Winners!!!

Lucky Dog

Book CoverHenry Bergh Award stampWow. So many wonderful things happened while Hanni and I were in Anaheim to accept the Henry Bergh children’s book award from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) — it’d take an award-winning writer to sum it up in one blog post. Hey. Wait. I am an award-winning writer now! I oughta be able to condense this great weekend into 500 words, right? Let me give it a try. Sunday morning started with a fundraiser for the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in Downey, CA. We’d do presentations there and sign books. Proceeds would go to the shelter.
The drive there took us speeding down one of those famous California eight-lane freeways. We were close to our destination when our driver (Kristen Limbert, the Coordinator for Humane Education at the ASPCA) saw a dog crossing the road. “I’ve gotta stop,” she said, merging through deadly traffic to pull over to the side, open her window and make kissy noises. The puppy was understandably confused by all the traffic, but somehow needled his way right into Kristen’s arms. Now, that was one lucky dog. What were the odds of an ASPCA van crossing his path, headed directly to the local Animal shelter?! He had no tags, so was dubbed Henry — for the book award, of course! Hanni stayed calm for the entire ordeal, and Kristen vowed that if no one adopts Henry by the end of the week, she’ll take him home.

Beth and her sister Cheryl at the American Library Association conference

My sister Cheryl and I--and Hanni, of course--at the American Library Association conference

After the shelter event Hanni and I joined my sisters Marilee and Cheryl at the American Library Association (ALA) convention center. Marilee had come from Orlando to join me; Cheryl had flown in from Seattle. We visited the Independent Book Publishers Association Booth to make sure the copy of Safe & Sound displayed there was front and center, then did the same at the ASPCA booth. After that, it was time for the ALA World Championship book cart precision drill team competition. From a blog post on LibGig:

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of such a thing? What is a Book Cart Drill Team? Well, you know what a drill team is, right? And you know what a book cart is, right? Well put them together and you get the single most nerdcore sporting event ever. Presiding over the festivities were Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka. They entertained the crowd, conducted interviews and provided color commentary while the judges tallied their scores…

There were pinwheels, there were catch and release routines, carts were spun on one wheel. Librarians surfed on carts, did splits on carts, wore sequins and lab coats, and the singing was amazing!

I was not a judge, but the Bibliofiles book cart drill team from the Austin Public Library was my favorite. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you already know how much Hanni and I love Austin. A lot was made of the drill team’s headgear (books that spun!) and I thought it was cool that the team learned sign language, donned white gloves, and interpreted their soundtrack to us. But what really sold me on the Bibliofiles was their grand finale– they rolled out a big banner of a famous Helen Keller quote: “Literature is my Utopia.” It was written in print, and in Braille. They took silver in the competition, and Marilee found a video on YouTube of their performance –check it out!

On Monday we went to an author presentation, signed up for contests, picked up free pencils, post-it notes, books and catalogs at exhibits, fronted Safe & Sound where necessary, then headed back to the hotel to get ready for the ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award ceremony. I slipped on my Lana Turner dress, Cheryl wore sequins, Marilee fluffed my hair and lent me her jewelry. Hanni stood proud as she guided me into the Anaheim Hilton for the event. True to form – I mean, Flo Finke didn’t raise no fools — we were the first to arrive at the party, and the last to leave. Yikes! I’m over 500 words already! I’m sure you are just on the edge of your seat, though, waiting for details of the award ceremony — guess you’ll just have to stay tuned for my next post!

Pro Wrestlers Don’t Give Pedicures

Pro wrestlers don’t give pedicures.

At least Atlas Horn doesn’t. Atlas (he claims this is his given name!) is a groomer at Doggie Bath House, a new business right down the street from us. I brought Hanni to Doggie Bath House yesterday to get spruced up for our upcoming trip to California. I wanted Hanni to get her nails painted for the big event — we’re accepting our ASPCA/Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award during a cocktail reception at the American Library Association annual conference on Monday.

“We don’t do nails,” “we don’t paint nails,” the owner told me right away. “We only do nails as in nail trims.”
For a short moment I considered going elsewhere. But when the owner introduced us to Atlas, I knew we had to stay. How could I deny Hanni the chance to be bathed by a pro wrestler?

Atlas grew up with dogs, he told me. Dog grooming seemed the perfect way to supplement his pro-wrestling income. “You can make good money wrestling,” he said. “But I have a daughter now.”Atlas is a gentle giant--when it comes to dogs and children.

Does the responsibility of fatherhood make a pro wrestler more careful in the ring, less interesting to the audience? Does the thought of a daughter at home distract him from crushing his opponent? Do you get paid less if you lose? Atlas never explained. What’s more likely, I figure, is that fatherhood forces Atlas to cut down on travel to faraway cities. There are 12 venues for pro-wrestling in Chicago, he said. “But the work is only there on weekends.”
And so, during the week, Atlas grooms dogs.

Hanni tried to be stoic in the pro wrestler’s presence, but truth is: she hates getting soaked. She hardly ever gets bathed, really. Think about it. Guide dogs don’t need baths as often as other dogs. Guide dogs are pretty much always attached to their owners. Unless we go playing in mud puddles, or get caught up with skunks, or tangle ourselves in brambles, our dogs stay pretty clean. The guide dog schools teach us how to brush and comb our dogs, and if we do that every day, baths are unnecessary.

For our special day in Anaheim, though, I wanted Hanni to sparkle. The trip to Doggie Bath House was worth it. Her nails may still be the same black color they were when we entered the place, but now, thanks to Atlas, her fur coat absolutely shines!

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