Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


March 2004

Vol VIII Issue III

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PLA: The Curious, the Unexpected and the Dangerous

By Jenine Lillian (MLIS Day, first year, perky)
Jenine leaning on PLA 2004 signDiary of a conference attendee
Day 1:

I hopped on the bus, armed with water, snacks and notepad (required for all adventures), and headed downtown to attend my first conference. I was eager to find my people: other quirky, unique and passionate Public Librarians who are hell bent on Youth Services. Having never been to the Convention Center, I was surprised to see that every public space was crammed with art—much of it by local artists whose work I recognizelvis impersonator and Jenineed from my museum-hopping in Seattle and Tacoma. At the registration booth, I was greeted by smiling people who set me up with my name badge and vinyl bag, already heavy with conference info, maps and schedules in addition to other library related promotions from sponsors. So, there I was, at the entrance to “Vendor Land” with buttons and notepads and pens (oh, my!). With record attendance of more than 10,000 librarians tooling around, I jumped in the mix, eager to see what there was to see. My first surprise was an Elvis sighting! Checkpoint gets the award for most hilarious vendor booth as Elvis was singing about automated checkout and beeping security gates at your library. He even posed with fans and of course, I got a photo for my album.

While exploring what seemed like miles of vendor booths, I met the guys who write and illustrate the comic Unshelved which, if you haven't yet heard, is THE comic about libraries. The second year of Unshelved was just printed in a collection entitled What Would Dewey Do (Dewey is the main dude) and I was able to chat with Bill and Gene about the comic and its popularity, especially at PLA. Unshelved has done for library reference and circulation desks what Dilbert did for corporate cubicle dwelling. (Yes, you can quote me on that.) And, I am now the proud owner of a half-read copy complete with autographs and a cute little squirrel drawn in on request. Jealous? Check out their webpage at and "Get your nerd on" as Dave Ballantine would say.

Jerene Battisti, Kathleen Baxter,  Angeline BenedettiMy place in the library world is in Youth Services, so I attended two talks that afternoon with a youth theme. There was a panel discussion on creating Teen spaces in libraries and I took notes for the High School library I’m working at now. But, the highlight of the day was a great presentation by three very enthusiastic women—Jerene Battisti: Youth Services, Renton Public Library, Kathleen Baxter: Children's Literature Consultant & Angelina Benedetti: Young Adult Buyer, KCLS. These ladies gave intriguing book reviews for new fiction and non-fiction for grades five and up. There is a trend in new books toward the dark side for Young Adult (Teen) books and it can be seen in non-fiction books for middle schoolers as well (topics such as fugitive slaves, plague and shark attacks). It’s sort of the reality TV of the book world, except the big difference is that usually, it’s based on real issues, events and facts. It was really fun to see Kathleen (waving librarian) pull everyone in the audience to the edge of their seats as she described the gore and grit of the books she reviewed. Who said all youth librarians have to be in their 30s with purple hair?!

*Public service announcement: Couldn't go to every talk you wanted to? Too glazed over to take notes? They ran out of the handouts just before you could wrestle that guy with the glasses for the last one? Never fear, PLA says "Many National Conference program, and some pre-conference, handouts are now available on the PLA web site at:"

Day 2:
PLA: It’s the Nancy Pearl Show! You go, Girl! This gal is a strategic business woman—she’s right up there with Madonna and Oprah and I predict she could very well become the world’s first wealthy librarian! With an action figure and one book selling strong, word has it “Book Lust 2” is on its way. Who knows what she’ll do next! Will there be a movie?!

I felt like I should play roving reporter for those who couldn't attend the conference and I found some opportunities to ask some questions about the job scene. I met a woman who is in her 50s and works as a Young Adult Librarian for Seattle Public Library. There used to be positions for student librarians, but alas, they are no longer. But, she thinks the job market in SPL is better for youth librarians than for adult as so many are intimidated by the kids section or just not interested in working intensively with youth. I also spoke with some folks in the Human Resources department for KCLS and some internship opportunities are going to be posted this spring so we should keep an eye out for those. If you're looking to get into either of these systems, check their websites for employment/internship information on a weekly basis. KCLS updates their job page every Tuesday: and SPL info can be found at: You can submit an application at any time for the librarian pool, but you must have your MLIS Degree before you can be hired. (For us first year students, the advice was to wait until you're in your last term to submit.)

I realized late in the game that PLA was a prime spot to solicit donations for Page Ahead, a literacy organization here in Seattle that gives new books to at risk youth of all ages. I am an "honorary volunteer" for Page Ahead and was able to gather up about 70 pounds of books in my wheeled suitcase after 2 hours of repetitive inquiry at the many book publisher booths. Had I known many vendors were hoping not to ship books back and that the usual protocol of donating to SPL had been called off this time due to the new library construction, I would have orchestrated a massive book rescue party. But, we do what we can when we can. I was happy to see other folks (some from the iSchool) getting books donated for various schools and organizations around town.

Jenine holding oversized space needle“Librarian walks off with Space Needle: news at 11”
So, I’m not known for breaking the law (though it’s true, I did get a ticket for jay-walking in the UDistrict during Fall term), but I had a close call at PLA. It all started with the Space Needle…I met up with a youth librarian I used to work with and as we were resting our weary bones at the close of “Vendor Land,” we saw a guy come around the corner and start taking down the signage and corner displays as this part of PLA was finished. I turned to my colleague and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have one of those Space Needles?” Under the principle of “There’s no harm in asking” I decided I’d ask. And, a few minutes later, I was the proud owner of my very own Space Needle—thereby rescuing it from the dumpster, where it and 7 others were headed. I’d even managed to swing a ride home (for me, my suitcase and my new find) while people from across the country took my picture because they thought it was a funny sight. My pal watched my stuff as I made one final stop before heading home and as I returned to our spot, she was clearly distressed. Apparently, in my absence, some uptight ladies with walkie-talkies accused her and her husband of stealing the Space Needle. Then, when she explained it belonged to a friend who was “in the restroom” (likely story), it didn’t sound very believable. After explaining to the walkie-talkie ladies about being legitimately given the darn thing, and complaining about all of us being wrongly accused, we got some jargon about liability and storage for future PLA use (do let me know when PLA will be in Seattle again—by my calculations, it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2012)…yep, you guessed it—no more Space Needle for me. It’s a shame really, but as my pal said, “It makes for a good story.”

Day 3:
8:30 a.m. on a Saturday and I’m listening to a lecture (yea, send the morning person!). I heard a talk entitled “Building a Cultural Community through Library and Museum Partnerships.” I then went to “How to Be the Nordstrom of Public Libraries” and learned how customer service makes all the difference in retail as well as libraries. But, the best of all was the last.

“Librarians are sex symbols—really!” So says Sherman Alexie, self-proclaimed “poet, writer and sexual harasser of librarians” so it must be true. The closing talk was a touching and humorous account of Alexie’s various idiosyncrasies and various mental states in which he expanded on his attraction to near sighted, obsessive compulsive people like us. He only said one thing that wasn’t funny, but still noteworthy: Alexie is currently teaching at the University of Washington (which is exciting for those of us planning electives). Alexie says, “People are like books: and we want to keep reading the really good ones again and again. I’ve read my wife a hundred times.” I’m sure that all of us who really love books can appreciate the sweetness of this statement. And, for the rest of us, here are his closing words “There are two things I’m really passionate about: Basketball and Books. So, if you love basketball and books, I’m probably sleeping with you.” And, to that, we gave a standing ovation. Speaking only for myself, I can say with absolute certainty that I am not sleeping with Sherman Alexie.

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