OLA Super Conference 2014 review

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Since I had such a great time at the OLA Super Conference 2013 last year, I really wanted to attend the 2014 conference this year. It’s a great opportunity to see old classmates and people I’ve worked with, learn about new trends in librarianship, see what the publishers are releasing, and of course network since I’m still job hunting. (Is there anything more soul-destroying than job hunting? Because it terrifies me that there might be.) The theme this year was A Universe of Possibilities, based around science fiction and science and technology, with the final speaker at Saturday’s closing luncheon being Chris Hadfield, the former commander of the International Space Station who captured Canada’s attention last year with his tweets and pictures from space and his generous interaction with students around the world. I actually proposed the theme An Out of This World Library Experience at last year’s conference to the 2013 OLA president, so I suppose they liked it?

Tuesday

Tuesday was my assigned volunteer shift, which I spent stuffing the bags given to the attendees. Fairly peaceful, other than the cold from hell that I’ve been suffering from for the past two weeks. 😦 (Don’t worry, I promise I sanitized my hands before touching the bags.) The pile of bags and programs and flyers from sponsors seemed never ending, but it needed to be done.

Wednesday

I skipped the pre-conference workshops since they were an additional fee, though they did look interesting. My conference began Wednesday night with the networking lecture, It’s a Small World After All: An Introduction to Library Culture, where Amanda French (Mississauga Public Library), Tanis Fink (Seneca College), Lita Barrie (Hamilton Public Library), Mindy Thura (University of Toronto), Jennifer Robinson (Huron University College), and John Dupuis (York University) gave short talks on subjects like working in a library environment, what to do and not to do in library school, getting involved with professional associations, workplace conflict, and vendor relations. I enjoyed this one, though I think some of it may have been more relevant if I had heard it while I was still attending library school. Networking is a bit of a weakness for me, so I felt it was important to go to the networking lecture and the opening party later this night.

The opening plenary speaker was Nina Simon from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, with a lecture titled How to Talk to Strangers. She was lively, fascinating, and inspirational. Some of the exhibits that her museum has done in the last couple of years are so simple, but engage the imagination and community interest so well. The idea of transforming a museum from an elitist curator of dusty displays that few people care about and fewer touch or interact with into a community center that invites people to create and share is absolutely where public libraries need to go, and have been trying to move in that direction for the last several years. I really liked the Pocket Museum idea, and the Advice Booth, and the Memory Jars, and the Glow Festival, and their work on Evergreen Cemetery. Though seeing all her pictures, I had a vision of someone going to Staples and buying a flatbed of Post-Its, since so many of the projects involve them. Still, it’s simple, cheap, and lets people participate, so I’m still calling it brilliant.

After Nina Simon’s talk was the welcome party. I spoke to a few people, but I’m not really a party with strangers kind of girl, and the terrible cough really didn’t help (I hate being sick). Still, it was a good start to the conference.

Thursday

Thursday I had to be at the MTCC ridiculously early for the Forest of Reading breakfast (of course, too early to me is defined as before noon, but this was really very early considering I had an hour’s commute). I learned about the Forest of Reading at last year’s conference and then I participated in the Festival of Trees last May, and it’s really a great program, so when the call went out for volunteers last fall I signed up (possibly for too much). I’m on the Silver Birch Express steering committee for the 2013/14 awards, and on two different selection committees for the 2014/15 awards (not telling which ones of those, since we’re sworn to secrecy). The breakfast was for the winning authors and illustrators of the 2012/13 program, the nominated authors and illustrators from the 2013/14 program, and the selection and steering committee members for the 2013/14 and 2014/15 programs. The food was a pretty standard buffet (hooray for bacon! and tea, caffeine is good), but it was nice to put some faces to the names I’ve been emailing about the Forest.

OLASC2014, me & Rebecca UpjohnI’m in the middle, and Rebecca Upjohn, author of the SIlver Birch Express nominated book The Secret of the Village Fool, is on the right. (I didn’t get the name of the lady on the left, but it was her camera and she was nice enough to forward the picture along to Rebecca.) EDIT: Per Marsha Skrypuch, the lovely lady on the left is Jennifer Lanthier, author of The Stamp Collector, also nominated for the Silver Birch Express.

After the breakfast I attended the Forest of Reading Winners Showcase, where last year’s winners gave short talks about their books, what inspired them to write, and the process of being nominated and winning. For the record, the 2012/13 winners were:

Blue Spruce Kate and Pippin by Martin Springett

Silver Birch Fiction Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Silver Birch Express Margaret and the Moth Tree by Brit & Kari Trogen

Silver Birch NonFiction No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs by Rob Laidlaw

Red Maple Fiction The Vindico by Wesley King

Red Maple NonFiction Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death by Bill Swan

White Pine Fiction Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

They were all fantastic speakers, but I think I really want to track down a copy of The Vindico now, because it sounded right up my alley…

After that I attended The Experience of Reading, presented by some of my former professors from Western: Paulette Rothbauer, Lucia Cedeira Serantes, Lynne McKechnie, and Pam McKenzie. They shared some of their recent research and plans for future research. They all research reader’s advisory and different ways that people experience reading for pleasure and finding things to read. Paulette talked about the Reading Worlds of Older Adults, how seniors tend to be treated like a common age group just like teenagers, and not a terribly respected or well-researched age group. Lucia talked about Comics Reading and Readers, the stereotypes of who reads comics, why librarians recommend comics, and how people actually read comics. Lynne’s talk was on Spiderman is Not for Babies: The Boys and Reading Problem from the Perspectives of the Boys Themselves, about how there is a perception that boys don’t read because either they don’t like to or they aren’t encouraged to, but that they do read, just not things that are usually counted as ‘reading’ for pleasure. Boys as a group may not read fiction, but they read nonfiction, game manuals that contain narrative, and like information and popular culture books. Pam’s talk was about Re-reading Everyday Documents, about how grocery lists and calendars and to-do lists are a form of reading that isn’t often researched or considered since it is so common. She was right- when I think about what I’ve read I think about books and magazines and newspapers and fanfiction, I don’t think about the planner that I carry in my purse everyday or the to-do list sitting on the desk beside my computer, or the (very long) to-review list sitting beside that. But I wrote them all, and I review them constantly, to remind myself what I’ve done in the past and what I still need to accomplish in the future.

I spent my lunch hour on the floor of the trade show (on both days, actually). I ended up with a bag full of literature from various publishers, wholesalers, technology companies, Dewey Divas and Dudes lists, library furniture makers, and other companies that I need to go through in more depth one day. I also ended up with a pile of books to add to my to-read mountain:

  • The Secret of the Village Fool by Rebecca Upjohn and illustrated by Renne Benoit, who are nominated for the Silver Birch Express this year and for whom I am the liaison. Rebecca was doing a signing, so I got my new copy of it signed. This one was published by the Second Story Press and I got it at their booth. It’s a children’s book about a man who protected some Jewish families in Poland during the Nazi invasion.
  • Our Rights: How Kids are Changing the World written and illustrated by Janet Wilson, also published by Second Story Press,  and also signed. It’s about child activists around the world and the problems facing children.
  • Two Women by Christene A. Browne, also Second Story Press and signed (they had a lot of signings while I was free). This is a fiction novel about a mother who tells her daughters stories about the new neighbours who share a soul.
  • Until Today by Pam Fluttert, Second Story Press and signed. This is a YA novel about a girl suffering sexual abuse from a family friend, and then the diary where she’s written everything down goes missing.
  • September 17 by Amanda West Lewis, Red Deer Press and signed. This is a novel based on true events, about a ship of British child refugees being attacked by a German U-boat during World War 2.
  • Real Mermaids Don’t Sell Seashells by Helene Boudreau, published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and signed. This is the fourth books in the series, about a water-phobic mermaid, her friends and boyfriend, and a mysterious death aboard a cruise ship.
  • Viminy Crowe’s Comic Book, written  by Marthe Jocelyn and Richard Scrimger and with comics by Claudia Davila, published by Tundra Books and signed by the two authors. This one is an advanced reader copy, due to be released in May 2014. It’s about two kids who enter a bathroom and end up in a comic book world. The comics are a steampunk adventure, and it looks really good.
  • Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide, Second Edition by Laura J. Murray and Samuel E. Trosow. This is published by Between the Lines and signed by Professor Trosow, who is a member of the Law Faculty at Western, but lectures the MLIS students regularly on copyright issues since he is an acknowledged expert. I did attend one of his lectures while I was at Western, and it was fascinating, so I was glad I could get a copy of this book.
  • Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica, published by Tom Doherty Associates and signed. This is a fantasy novel about a woman discovering the magic that lurks beneath the house she just inherited, and the dangers it represents to herself and her best friend.
  • Dinosaur School: Big and Small by Joyce Jeffries, published by Gareth Stevens Publishing. This is a picture book where dinosaurs teach you about opposites. It was a door prize from CrossCan, who were a sponsor of the conference and had flyers in the conference bags.
  • Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know by Shari Graydon and illustrated by Michelle Lamoreaux, published by Annick Press. This was a prize from a trivia game where you had to answer elementary-school level questions, from categories like science, animals, gardening, cooking, etc. I can’t remember what company runs this game, though I remember they did the same thing last year- was it the Saunders Book Company? Anyway, this is a children’s book about the history, techniques, and legality of advertising.
  • The ACB with Honora Lee, written by Kate de Goldi and with drawings by Gregory O’Brien, and published by Tundra Books. This is also an advanced reader’s copy, to be released April 2014. This is a children’s book about a girl named Perry who is making an alphabet of everyone and everything in Santa Lucia.
  • The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen, by Susin Nielsen and published by Tundra Books. This book is nominated for this year’s Red Maple award, and I won it at the Battle of the Books (see Saturday for details). It’s about a boy’s struggle to rebuild his life after his brother shoots the boy bullying him and himself.
  • Burning from the Inside by Christine Walde, published by Dancing Cat Books, and signed. Christine was actually one of my classmates at Western, and she came from B.C. for the Super Conference. It was nice to see her again, and she brought copies of her latest books, so I asked her for one to review. It’s about a young graffiti artist forced to infiltrate a graffiti crew and report on them to the police.

I do not have a book problem, I have a lack of reading time problem…

In the afternoon I attended a talk on Graphic Novels: Today & Tomorrow by Douglas Davey (Halton Hills Public Library) and Cecilia Vespa (Burlington Public Library). This one was a lot of fun–they talked about digital comics and how the internet has changed traditional comics, platforms for libraries to offer digital comics, and recommended a lot of titles, both print and webcomics. I’m going to have to check some of these out.

Then in the evening I attended the Western University Alumni Reception at the Lone Star Texas Grill. The space was extremely crowded and it was hard for the wait staff to bring out the food and drinks, but I got fed eventually so it was all good (I mentioned I didn’t have lunch, right?). I found some classmates and we eventually managed to snag a free booth so we could sit and catch up.

Friday

Friday was another fairly early morning, since I had volunteered to be a convenor and my session was at 9:05 am. Convenors introduce speakers to the audience, count how many people attend, keep track of time so the speakers don’t have to, and before the conference communicate any special a/v requests the speakers have. The session I picked to convene was The Tween Scene: A Year of Programming for Ages 10-14, conducted by Tiffany Balducci and Brianne Wilkins-Bester from Oshawa Public LIbrary. I wanted to attend this one anyways, since I’ve been a member of the programming committee for Polaris/ Reversed Polarity/ Polar Chill for the last three years and for Reversed Polarity I ran all of the children’s programming, so it was a particular interest of mine. Tiffany and Brianne talked about the tween demographic and what Oshawa Public Library has been doing for the last few years, and they described twelve themed programs that they’ve run, with activities, crafts, games, and book connections. They had some amazing ideas that looked like a lot of fun, and based on their numbers the programs have been very popular at their library. They mentioned in their bios that they’ve written a book together called The VOYA Tween Scene: A Year of Programs for 10-14 Year Olds that’s due out later this year, and I think I’m going to keep an eye out for that one.

After that I had to run to my mock interview. The OLA sets up a career centre for mock interviews, resume critiquing, speed networking, job postings, and to meet employers–the services always in high demand, and you have to sign up months in advance. I was sent a fake job posting in advance of the conference, to which I had to create a cover letter and resume, and then you go through the interview and the interviewers give you feedback. I’ll admit, it wasn’t my best effort- I felt absolutely dreadful due to this bloody cold, and the fake job posting wasn’t something that I would be qualified for in real life, so some of the questions were very difficult for me to answer. Still, I think any experience is valuable, and I did get some good tips on how to improve my answers.

Then I went back to the trade show. It’s so big, that you really need to go through it a couple of times to see everything. One thing that I had wanted to get to was Evan Munday drawing goth portraits at the Canadian Manda Group booth. I’ve mentioned that I met him at the Festival of Trees last year when he was nominated for the Silver Birch award for The Dead Kid Detective Agency, which I purchased at the Word on the Street Festival and recently reviewed. However, I missed Evan at the Word on the Street Festival and I wanted to get him to sign my copy, so I hurried after my mock interview and fortunately he was still drawing. So I got my autograph. And a goth portrait, because they were really pretty cool.

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In the afternoon I went to Booktalking 3.0: Engaging & Inspiring Readers Online, which was a talk about book blogging given by Valerie Medzalabanleth and Melissa Tomecz from Cote Saint-Luc Public Library. I got some amazing ideas from them for this blog, and they use WordPress too so it was nice to hear their opinions and experiences of using it and how readers behave online. Expect some new things in the future…

After that I went to Embedded in the Community MPL Style, where Jennifer Dias-Stevenson, Ange Friesen, Agnieszka Gorgon, and Cheryl Marcus from Markham Public Library talked about the role of the community librarian and how they’ve been reaching out to different groups and forming partnerships to offer new services to the Markham community. They just created the roles in 2012, so they talked about the process of deciding what community librarians would do and how they divided responsibilities, and what they’ve learned. It was interesting, but I think everyone’s energy was flagging at this point.

Afterwards, I attended the volunteer networking party, where the volunteers gathered together to talk and play some getting-to-know-you games. Then it was time for the Party at the End of the Universe, which was a blast! The food was great (and very welcome, since I had skipped lunch again for the trade show). There was a Wii set up in the corner, a DeLorean that you could get your picture taken with, and an oxygen bar that was pretty cool.

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Guess I’m a Space Librarian. Or a possibly a Martian, not that that’s a surprise.

Saturday

I went straight to the career centre this morning, since I’d been on the wait list for job coaching even though I emailed them the first day it was possible (I mentioned that it’s a very popular service). Someone hadn’t shown up for their appointment, so I snagged it and got Elizabeth Strange, a Strategic Life Coach from Soulful Living, to look over my cover letter and resume, since I had an extra copy from the mock interview the day before handy. Again, she had some interesting ideas for me to change things. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had people go over my cover letter and resume in the last few years, and everyone has different opinions. Some I’ve found work for me, and some don’t really, but often it gives me good ideas for how I can change things for the next one, so it’s always valuable. There were also a few booths set up from different employers, so I talked to them all. My classmate Pam Saliba was there with Markham Public Library, so it was nice having a chat with her and listening to what they’re up to at Markham. I also spoke with Amanda French (from the Wednesday night lecture) and Diana Krawczyk from Mississauga Public Library, since I did a quick volunteer project for MPL last summer reorganizing their list of periodicals and it turned out that Amanda was the one using the spreadsheet I’d made.

After that I attended Battle fo the Books: It Begins with Co-Operation & Ends with Competition, presented by Vicki Miller from the Peel District School Board. I was curious because Oakville Public Library used to run a program called Battle of the Books, where one day teams from all of the local elementary schools would go to the Central branch and compete in a children’s book trivia tournament. I was on the team every year, and I loved it. Vicki’s version is based on the Silver Birch books, and only between students at her school, but it looked like a lot of fun. She talked about how she organizes and runs the Battle, and then asked for volunteers to play a round of Book Jeopardy. I had to play! Some of the questions were pretty tricky (though I managed to get some laughs with my answers, when she asked what a person who sleeps with books is called and I said a book lover), and she had a set of Red Maple books to give to the participants. Though I’d like to know who had the most points (I doubt it was me). She had a set of buzzers from Scholastic that might be really useful for the next Geek-Off…

And finally it was time for the closing gala luncheon, featuring Colonel Chris Hadfield as the guest speaker. He was amazing, his enthusiasm for space and education and sharing knowledge…You could tell how strongly he felt about sharing the wonders of the universe with people, and how hard he worked to get to the places he’s been. He brought some of his photographs, to show us just how beautiful the world is, and talked about what his life has been like since returning to Earth after commanding the International Space Station.  He even told us the real story about getting kicked out of a showing of the movie Gravity (he wasn’t, but he saw the premiere and the director asked him what he thought–gulp!). He did a signing after his talk. I had purchased a ticket to the luncheon and a copy of his book for a Christmas/birthday present for my father, but I really regret not buying a copy of his book for myself to get him to sign. Oh well–I’ll have to borrow Dad’s copy to read. I did shake his hand, though. I may be a Star Trek fan, but he’s been there…IMG-20140201-00605(Sorry about the crappy quality–the camera on my Blackberry kinda sucks).

And then, it was over.

So, final thoughts (yes, finally, I’m almost done). I really enjoyed attending the Super Conference again this year. I learned a lot, some of which I still need to process. I met some really interesting people, and saw some old friends and professors. I got a new pile of books to read and review. I got some great tips to improve my blog. I got some advice on cover letters, resumes and interviewing, and some job ads to apply to. I got a little high on cough drops (three bags in five days, argh). Similarly to last year, the conference was very well-run and well-organized, and I didn’t spot any problems (not easy for a large event–trust me on that, I conrun). My only complaints would be the same as last year’s–that I can’t be in multiple places at once, because there were too many things going on that I wanted to do. I didn’t manage to see any of the poster presentations, and there were twenty other sessions that I would have liked to have attended–I really had to pick and choose the ones that I was most interested in, and I’m pretty happy with what I chose to attend. I ended last year’s review by saying that I wanted to come back this year, and hopefully as an employed librarian. I managed the first, but not the second. Maybe the third time will be the charm? See you next year OLA Super Conference!

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Today I Read…The Dead Kid Detective Agency

Dead Kid Detective AgencyToday I read The Dead Kid Detective Agency, written and illustrated by Evan Munday, the first book in th e Dead Kid Detective Agency series.

October Schwartz hasn’t been having the best luck lately. Her depressed dad has moved them to the tiny town of Stickville, where he’s a teacher at her new high school, only she’s younger than everybody else. She met a really cool girl, who immediately gets the whole school to call her “Zombie Tramp”. Oh, and there are a bunch of dead kids hanging out in the cemetery behind her house, and only October can see them. How’s a girl to write the greatest horror story ever (Two Knives, One Thousand Demons) under these conditions?

Then October’s favourite teacher dies under suspicious circumstances, and no one is willing to listen to October when she says Mr. O’Shea didn’t kill himself. No one, that is, except the dead kids: Cyril, Morna, Tabetha, Kirby, and Derek, children from different times who have one thing in common–none of them know how they died. Together October and the ghosts form the Dead Kid Detective Agency to investigate Mr. O’Shea’s death, and his life. After all, who would want to kill a French teacher? Their investigation leads them all the way back to 1960s Quebec and the Front de liberation du Quebec, and the secrets of the teachers of Stickville.

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I met Evan Munday at last year’s OLA Festival of Trees, where I helped him with his workshop. He was a lively presenter and he made his book sound really interesting, so I picked it up at the Word on the Street Festival and it finally made it to the top of my to-read pile (and by pile I mean mountain range). I’m glad I bought it- Munday tells an entertaining tale that sets the stage well for the following books (the second book Dial M for Morna has been released). Munday also drew the cartoons scattered throughout the book.

The book is set in modern times, but there are pieces of Canadian history throughout the book, since each of the dead kids is from a different era, and Mr. O’Shea’s death is connected to the FLQ. It’s worked in in an interesting way, and adds some humour when the kid from the 1700s tries to drive a car. The point of view switches between October and an omniscient narrator, which can be a bit much when it switches mid-chapter, but it usually adds to the humour. The mystery is well-built and the characters are lively and interesting, especially the dead ones. The living ones include the loyal friends, the mean girls, the good and bad teachers, and the distant relatives required of a young adult novel, but the familiar archetypes never feel stale. (Though just what is Stacey’s last name?)

At 300 pages this isn’t a terribly quick read, but it’s a fun one, even when Munday is sneakily trying to make you learn things–I mean, knowledge of A-ha is important to musical history, so he can probably be forgiven for the other history bits. (Whaddaya mean, who’s A-ha? Kids, sheesh.) A good read for anyone who likes their protagonist to be pop-culture saavy and quick with a quip (Buffy Summers, how I miss you!), as well as those who like their characters to not understand how the metal cart moves without a horse.

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October Schwartz is not dead.

Now, there are plenty of dead folks in this book (you read the title before starting the book, right?), it’s just that October Schwartz does not happen to be one of them. That said, it was her first day at Sticksville Central High School, and she sort of wished she were dead.

October had moved to Sticksville only a month earlier, and she didn’t know anyone yet, unless you counted her dad and maybe the Korean lady who sold her gum at the convenience store. She’d spent the month of August reading in the cemetery behind their house and working on writing her own book. So her first day of high school was even more nerve-wracking than it was for most of the students at Sticksville Central. The way she figured it, everybody was going to hate her. They certainly had in her old town. Why should this one be any different?

There were plenty of reasons for the average high school student to hate her: she wasn’t chubby, but she wasn’t not chubby, which, to those naturally inclined to be unpleasant people, meant she was fat. Also, she wore more black eyeliner than most — barring only silent film actresses, really. Add to that the natural black hair she’d inherited from her mom and her affinity for black clothing, and she was like a walking teen vampire joke waiting to happen.

Word on the Street Toronto 2013 review

Last weekend I volunteered at the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto. I’ve heard about the festival before, but I was never able to attend, so I was glad to have the chance to go this year. Word on the Street is an annual free community celebration of the written word, with exhibitors including authors, publishers, libraries, and literacy groups. It was held at Queen’s Park Crescent on Sunday.

Saturday was the set-up day, and of course the day that it rained. Heavily. One of the organizers even ran out at lunch to the dollar store to buy us all ponchos, but it was raining so much that they didn’t really help. Oh well, after this summer we should all be used to the rain. And kudos to Boston Pizza for donating lunch to the volunteers!

We spent the day setting up the tables and chairs for the exhibitor booths and the various stages, organizing the supplies for the information booths and stages, and trying to make sure that things were ready for the morning. You know, you go to events like this and you never think about the amount of work it takes, not just arranging for permits and exhibitors and media relations, but tent and table and chair rentals and setting up signs and making sure everything is ready for the event to actually start.

Sunday began dark and cold and way too early, but clear. I was there before 7 am to finish setting up the tables and chairs that we hadn’t gotten to the night before and as an exhibitor liaison when they started rolling in around 9. My partner and I introduced ourselves to the exhibitors in our zone, made sure that they had all of the tables and chairs that they had requested, made sure that the signs for each booth that the festival had provided were correct, and in general handled any problems and passed on complaints. There really weren’t many- the most common request was for coffee. And why doesn’t Tim Horton’s have a delivery service? Really, you’d think it would be a goldmine. And there were comments about how cold it was, but unfortunately the warm weather has been on backorder all summer. I was on shift until 1:30, and then I went off to explore my first WotS festival.

The crowds rushed in as soon as the festival officially opened, and it stayed busy all day long. I didn’t really have a chance to see any of the authors’ presentations, since I only had a few hours and the festival was pretty big- I wanted to see everything, and of course book lovers like to browse.

The Toronto Public Library Workers’s booth was fun- they had a red carpet and took pictures of people with fake librarian glasses. Here I am with my friend Hailey.

WotS TPLW

There was also a booth doing pictures promoting the next Hobbit movie, Fangirls will watch anything with Benedict Cumberbatch… I mean The Desolation of Smaug. (See my comments about the first movie.) These ones didn’t turn out as well-too much light in the booth. And I found the Polkaroo at the TVOKids booth!

Polkaroo headI also grabbed a few good finds. The Doctor Who graphic novels Through Time and Space and The Only Good Dalek by Justin Richards and Mike Collins; The Dead Kid Detective Agency by Evan Munday, who I met at the OLA Festival of Trees, though I didn’t manage to get him to sign it even though he was at WotS; and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: Short Stories 01 by Naoko Takeuchi (only copy left! Score!). I even found a couple of Christmas presents for the little niece (though I may have to keep her from trying to eat them for a while since they’re not board books): Girls A to Z, written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Suzanne Bloom, which shows different girls with a different hobby for each letter of the alphabet; and Nightgown Countdown written by Frank B. Edwards and illustrated by John Bianchi, who also signed it, where farm animals go to bed one by one.

It was a long and cold day (sorry to keep mentioning it, but I was up to 5 shirts and it was still freezing!), but I had a really good time. Next year’s festival is definitely going on the calendar!

OLA Festival of Trees 2013 review

*UPDATE*: Pictures of the Festival are finally up here and here.

So last week I volunteered at the Ontario Library Association’s Festival of Trees in Toronto, and I had a blast!

The Festival of Trees is a two-day event to celebrate the Forest of Reading program, which aims:

  • To encourage the children, young people and adults of Ontario to enjoy reading
  • To develop recognition for Canadian authors and Canadian books
  • To contribute to the financial stability of the Canadian publishing industry
  • To provide teacher-librarians, librarians, library staff and parent volunteers with a meaningful tool for improving literacy in schools and libraries
  • To respond to community interest and needs

(from About the Forest)

The program is divided into different categories:

For School-Aged Readers

  • Blue Spruce™Awards (primary – Grade 2 picture books)
  • Silver Birch® Awards (Grades 3-6 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Silver Birch Express™ Awards (Grades 3-4 fiction, non-fiction)
  • Red Maple™ Awards (Grades 7-8 fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • White Pine™ Awards (high school fiction, non-fiction every other year)
  • Le Prix Peuplier (picture books, less text, simpler subject matters, beautiful picture books perfect for read alouds)
  • Le Prix Tamarac (chapter books from 100 to 250 pages, smaller text with little or no illustrations, more complicated verb tenses and vocabulary)
  • Le Prix Tamarac Express (shorter chapter books maximum 100 pages or more mature picture books, larger text with pictures, simpler vocabulary and verb tenses)

For each program, readers are encouraged to read all or a selection of the books, and then vote on their favourite. For the school-aged programs the readers must read a minimum of 5 books to be eligible to vote.

For Adults

  •  Golden Oak™ Awards (adults learning to read, ESL, fiction)
  • Evergreen™ Award (adults of any age, fiction, non-fiction)

(ibid)

So, my days.

Wednesday

We had to be there waytoobloodyearly (defined as before noon, but more specifically about 8 am) for the volunteer orientation. Toronto rush-hour traffic and construction season, oy. I’ve never been to the Harbourfront Centre before, but it was a nice venue. It was raining when I arrived, but someone bribed the weather gods and it stopped right when we were supposed to open, so both of the days the weather was just beautiful–sunny, not too hot, and not too windy even though we were right on the water.

There was a lot of different activities going on–author and illustrator signings, all kids of workshops, games, the various awards ceremonies, a hula hoop tent, a book trading zone, a book store, booths from OWL magazine and the Toronto Zoo, the Story Wall where students could create a story together, each person writing the next line, the Graffiti Trees where students could write comments on Post-Its for the authors, a craft tent, face painting, a clown making balloon animals, a paddle boat ride…

Wednesday morning I was assigned to the tattoo station (yes, they were temporary tattoos), and I was really glad that there wasn’t much wind–I didn’t want to go running after the papers!  Then in the afternoon I was on the ring toss game. The kids had to throw a frisbee onto a pylon–it was actually pretty hard, especially with the wind off the lake! If they managed to get one on, they won a free book, so the game was pretty popular.

OLA Festival of Trees May 15, 2013

Yes, I wore that tattoo on my face all day long, including when I walked around Toronto and when I went to the theatre later.

(Then I saw the new Star Trek movie Into Darkness with some friends, which despite starting late and the IMAX not working, was terrific, but not the point of this post. Still, new Trek, geeker joy! And with added lovely Benedict Cumberbatch goodness!)

Thursday

Thursday was busy, since we were short-handed, and had even more people. There were 6,000 tickets sold for the 2 days–2,000 people attended Wednesday, and 4,000 people attended Thursday. Fortunately the kids were all really well-behaved, enthusiastic about everything and ready to have fun (and not be in school for a day)!

We started with another volunteer meeting, since several people were new to the event–I don’t think that many people were able to volunteer both days. Then I was on bus duty, making sure that the school buses dropped the kids off in the right place and directing everyone to the right door to get in. There was a ton of construction right in front of the Harbourfront Centre, as well as the Centre’s maintenance people with vehicles and big recycling bins and so on right at the entrance, but even though the kids were excited they were pretty good about listening when we told them to hold up and wait for the road to be clear.

Then I went back to the ring toss, which was even busier than the day before. I was asked at the last minute to go to the hula hoop station because they needed someone to help supervise the area–make sure the kids stayed on the grass and didn’t wander into the walking paths with the hoops, make sure they didn’t stand on the hoops and break them, no throwing the hoops, watch out for other people, that kind of thing. Luckily I didn’t actually have to teach them to use the hula hoops–I’m terrible at it! Instead there was a girl, Isabella Hoops, who taught them all kinds of neat tricks.

For the afternoon I was asked to be the workshop volunteer for Evan Munday, the author of the nominated book The Dead Kid Detective Agency. (You can find his blog post about the Festival and the workshop here.) I introduced him to the audience, counted the attendees, made sure he had everything he needed to present, and watched the workshop to make sure it went smoothly (and to see what happened).

He set up a mystery using characters from his book, and the kids had to ask questions and figure out who the culprit was from among the suspects. It was all I could do to keep my hand down and let the kids ask the questions. (Ok, I did raise it once, when he was asking them what are the parts of a mystery story–with the age range attending, no one knew what a red herring was). It was a great workshop, everyone had a lot of fun guessing whodunnit, and Evan Munday was a lively and interesting presenter. It was the last event of the day, so he agreed to stick around for a few minutes afterwards and sign books. Then we had to clean everything up quickly and let the Centre people have their building back, and we were free.

It was a wonderful experience, and I’m so glad I went and volunteered. I wish it had been around when I was in public school! Honestly, the sole problem that I had was that there was so much going on and I was so busy working that I wasn’t able to see much. I did walk around on my breaks and look at things, but I missed all of the awards presentations. I would like to say congratulations to all of the winners and nominees, and thank you to everyone who attended–the kids loved meeting them and getting their books signed and the chance to ask questions and participate in the workshops. And a big thank you to all of the organizers and volunteers–I’ve worked a lot of events, and this one went incredibly smoothly. I didn’t notice any serious problems, even though we were short-staffed on Thursday. Everyone jumped right in and did whatever needed doing.

I’m definitely going to keep an eye out to help with next year’s festival.

PS. I will add links to pictures from the festival as soon as they pop up on the Forest of Reading website.

PPS. LOOK WHAT I FOUND ON THE GRAFFITI WALL! AND THERE WAS A BLONDE IN A UNION JACK RUNNING AROUND THE NEXT DAY!