Professional Development

Susan at ALA in the Big Easy: Just Getting Started

Sunday, June 26, 2011 1:23 am

It Gets Better Message

Dan Savage: Opening General Session Keynote Speaker

This is my fourth trip to New Orleans, and the first one in the past three where I didn’t arrive by bus! However, it is my first ALA here and that really makes for a different experience. The city is back to bustling, and you add in several thousand librarians loose in the Big Easy…..there’s no telling (What happens in New Orleans stays in New Orleans!)

Seriously, we hit the ground running once we arrived. Within ten minutes of unpacking our suitcases in our hotel, roommate Carolyn McCallum and I met up with Roz Tedford (who had been here vacationing for a few days already), and hopped the shuttle to the Convention Center to catch the opening keynote address by Dan Savage. We had to sit through an hour of intro activities (welcomes, awards, introductions) that included brief speeches by New Orleans mayor MItch Landrieu and Melinda Gates (virtually).

It was worth the wait when Dan finally got on stage. I was not familiar with him, but he talked about his “It Gets Better” project, a YouTube video campaign that solicited videos from GLBT adults so they can talk directly to teenage gays to tell them that things do get better. I have a feeling that you will be hearing more eloquently from Roz about this talk, but it was one of the most powerful ALA general session speeches I have ever heard.

The picture above shows Dan during his presentation, but I included the image for a second reason. I just happened to notice last week on ALA Direct that they were sponsoring an “ALA Photo Scavenger Hunt” throughout the conference. You might not be surprised that this caught my attention. By 8 am each day between last Thursday and next Tuesday, a list of items to be photographed is posted on ALA Connect. Each image is assigned a different point value, depending on how much ALA wants to showcase it. The items are a variety of places, people and events. Contestants post the images on their Flickr accounts and then add them to the ALA Annual 11 Flickr group. I’ve found they put many more items on the list than it would be feasible to find each day, and the assortment is varied. The benefit for ALA is that they increase their chances of getting images on their ALA Flickr group that highlight the events they want. The outcome for me (besides the fun of taking the shot) is that it has facilitated my exploration of areas of the conference which I would have never done under my own steam. I talked with comic book artists, the membership pavilion ALA staff, and vendors, as well as visited the cooking demo area, the copyright help desk and made a contribution to the Spectrum Scholar program! It is actually very energizing to expand my conference experience using a tool that I love. The picture of Dan was my entry for the item on Friday’s list: “Make your own “It Gets Better” message photo.”

Friday evenings are always the beginning of the networking portion of the conference. As usual, I attended the LITA Happy Hour. Now that I’m on two LITA committees, I enjoy getting the opportunity to touch base with all the people I’ve been working with virtually during the previous half year.

I finished the first day off over dinner with my ZSR Library colleagues (Roz, Mary Beth, Ellen, Steve, and Roz’s sister) at a very good restaurant (there are tons of excellent restaurants in NO), the Palace Cafe. I behaved myself, but several of our group gave in to temptation and had a New Orleans specialty, bananas foster.

Making Bananas Foster at the Palace Cafe

2 Responses to “Susan at ALA in the Big Easy: Just Getting Started”

  1. Looking forward to your photos!

  2. Dan Savage is a very powerful speaker. I have followed him on and off from the early stages of the “It Gets Better Profect” thru Facebook and YouTube. Some of the videos are the most emotional and powerful you will ever see.


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