Ellen Byron

Booktopia – the ALA National Conference

The American Library Association – or as I now like to call it, the Amazing Library Association – hosted its national conference in New Orleans last weekend. Because Sisters in Crime partners with the ALA sub-group, United for Libraries, SinC was offered a seat on the mystery panel.  When SinC asked if I wanted to be put on the list of potential panelists, I jumped at the chance. Spend a day surrounded by books and book lovers? In my favorite city?  Hell to the yeah! The Writing and Reading Gods smiled upon me: I was chosen, and happily winged my way south.

First up was a rendezvous with roomie Shari Randall, SinC’s intrepid librarian liaison. Our rendezvous focused on Pimm’s Cups at the Napoleon House, one of my favorite NOLA watering holes. The second pic is my view of our hotel room post-Napoleon House.

I managed to pull myself together for Saturday’ “It’s a Mystery to Me” panel, where I joined fellow scribes Robert Olen Butler, Jude Deveraux, Deborah LaBlanc, and Amy Stewart in front of a packed house. I take no credit for the crowd. The panelists are all popular authors, and Jude is a rock star. I loved her. A hugely successful romance writer, she’s now penning mysteries too. She signed up for Bouchercon, so if you see her there, give her a big, mystery community welcome.

My  publisher, Crooked Lane, arranged a signing of Mardi Gras Murder ARCs for me, but I had a few pre-signing hours to wander. I discovered books, books, and oh heavenly day, more books…

But I also discovered that the ALA conference is about so much more than books. Every angle of every type of library is represented, from shelving to seating, from file systems to a friendly robot. (I never did find out what Oscar was pitching.)

They were even giving away a car!IMG_0902

When I returned to the CLB booth, I got to see the fantabulous Sarah Poppe and Ashley DiDio in action. Let me tell you, those gals worked hard, chatting up attendees while handing out swag and ARCs of upcoming releases. (That poster came home with me, along with two oyster po’boys from Harbor Seafood in Kenner, one of my go-to local seafood joints.)

There are times in your life when an opportunity presents itself that you never knew existed. For me, attending the ALA National Conference was one of those times. Libraries have been a huge part of my life since I was a kid.  I remember seven-year-old me proudly turning in my completed summer reading list to the librarian at our local branch in Queens. When I was a teenager, I had a part-time job shelving books at the Scarsdale Public Library. (To be honest, I only lasted two days. I was terrible at it.)

Some people question whether libraries should even exist in this day and age. They dismiss them as archaic, a holdover from a dying culture. This breaks my heart. Libraries offer a timeless refuge for all citizens, a dam of intelligence holding back a flood of ignorance. If every naysayer had a chance to attend the ALA National Conference, I think they’d come away with this thought emblazoned in their hearts and minds…

IMG_0931I know I do. And I always will.

Readers, do you have a memorable library experience?

27 thoughts on “Booktopia – the ALA National Conference

  1. I have been going to the library since I was 4 years old and visit our local library probably once a week as well as adding to my library list on the website. For many of us in small towns the library is the community center! The librarians are terrific and the programs are for varied age groups. I would be at a loss if our library closed…luckily the people in my town feel the same way.

    Liked by 4 people

    • That’s so true about the library being the center of a community. I think even in big cities, libraries are the hub of the smaller internal commmunities. I know that’s true in Studio City, where I live, which is part of L.A.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. It was at my branch library when I was eleven that I discovered Agatha Christie — and proceeded to burn through their collection of Miss Marple’s. Game changer! Ellen, looks like you rocked New Orleans, how fun!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I loved going to the library as a kid. And I still use my library – mainly for audiobooks and movies I want to watch without buying since I don’t have any of the streaming services. Very useful to this day.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great post, Ellen! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us–we were all so jealous! I’m on my way to our town library right now…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. LOVE ALA! The mid-winter meeting was here in Denver and although I’d only signed up for one shift at the Sisters in Crime-CO booth on Friday, I went back every single day because: magical! So glad you had a great time.

    Liked by 3 people

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