Austin Public Library Bibliophiles

I’m back from ALA, and I have to go back to work today. But before I do I wanted to post a few more quotes from the ALA conference. And I also wanted to give a cheer for our book cart drill team – the Austin Public Library Bibliofiles – which won the silver at the Book Cart Drill Team Championships on Sunday. (That’s them on the left.) They won a Demco book cart (yeah, that’s it in the picture) that was painted silver, with a little plaque on one end.

The Championship was MC’d by the comedy duo of John Scieszka and Mo Willems, who hammed it up shamelessly and had us all chanting “DEM-co!” (Demco sponsors the Championship) throughout. It was great to watch our homies place as we cheered them on. (Those book headdresses spin, by the way.)

I saw that Alan Sitomer, Los Angeles media specialist and YA author, was giving a program on encouraging boys to read, so of course I was there. He works in an inner-city high school with kids that are almost entirely Latino and Black, and they’re kids who many adults consider not worth spending much time or effort on. These kids are often mouthy or unmotivated. But Sitomer, who could be one of the dictionary definitions of the word “enthusiastic” (he was named California Teacher of the Year, and you can tell he really enjoys public speaking), told us, “You have to believe that kids are reachable. If you don’t, nothing will reach them.”

He uses computer time, Web resources, and any technology he can to get the young men he works with to read. But he also uses something as simple as handing out jokes, printed on paper. He said that when the more motivated students start laughing, the less motivated will read them, too. (Warning – the following jokes are boy jokes):

Q. Why do gorillas have big nostrils?

A. Because they have big fingers.

Q. What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup?

A. Anyone can roast beef.

Q. What do you call a hunk of cheddar that doesn’t belong to you?

A. Nacho cheese.

Sitomer says that for this group, many of whom are one bad grade or boring class from dropping out, he doesn’t try to tell them what they must do. “I let them tell me what they like,” he says, “and then I build bridges for them from their outside interests to what’s in the media center.”

I also went to hear T. Berry Brazelton, the Grand Poo-Bah of Pediatricians, who spoke Monday morning. He sat thoughout his talk, and seemed a little hard of hearing – but that wasn’t unexpected after he told us that he had just turned 90. (He said that members of Congress held a celebration for him in Washington, and “they asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I asked for $2 billion for children and their parents.” Ah, we wish.)

Brazelton said that the most important role for the public library should be to help parents understand child development. Anything librarians can supply and market to parents – books, videos, and programs – that will help them comprehend the ages and stages their children are passing through will help them feel more in control of what can be a stressful and confusing process.

He showed us a wonderful film clip of a 12-month-old boy who was passing through a phase Brazelton called “storage.” Brazelton kept handing the boy small toy figures, and after he filled his hands with them, he took them into his mouth, and then looked at his mother as if to say, “Aren’t I so great?” It was a lot of fun.

If you’ve never been to an ALA conference, go when you can. It’s a wonderful way to expand your “box.” (You know, the one they’re always telling you to think out of.)