Libraries and Food: A Natural Relationship

So you don’t need me to tell you that ALA’s youth media awards came out yesterday. But just in case you didn’t know that, then here’s the link to it.

It was my first ALA Midwinter conference and it was just friggin awesome. I had some of the most interesting and entertaining conversations of my life, and I have come back to Queens invigorated and excited about being a librarian again – which is good because I was really in a place where I wasn’t so sure about working in a library anymore. Now I’m ready to kick some ass…in a good way, of course.

If anyone reading this is a librarian who has had their degree for less than 5 years OR is younger than 35, I highly encourage you to apply for the 2009 ALA Emerging Leaders program. It’s really a fantastic program that made me feel empowered and inspired. If you have any questions about it, feel free to ask me (via comments or email me personally). I definitely think Leslie Burger was on to something when she created this program – it’s a wonderful way to include up-and-coming librarians in the process and to elicit their ideas about the direction of ALA and the profession as a whole.

I even managed to fit in my love of all things food-related: Harcourt invited me to a dinner at Fork, a swoon-worthy restaurant on Market and 3rd. Fantastic food. For an appetizer I had the flatbread with sautéed calamari, parmesan cheese, and white beans. A little on the dry side, but the calamari was really flavorful. For my entrée, I got the hangar steak with frites and it rocked. I asked for it rare and they actually gave it to me RARE! It’s an anomaly in the restaurant world – you folks who like your meat rare will know what I mean. For dessert, I had the dark chocolate mousse with cognac, which was very light and flavorful…but I don’t know if I made the right choice. Ellen Greene, Harcourt’s library marketing guru, ordered the ricotta cheesecake and I’ve never tasted anything like it in my life. I normally don’t go for cheesecake because it’s so dense but, lordy, that’s because I’ve never tried Fork’s cheesecake. Light as friggin air. Amazing. And of course, there was wine. See, I prove again how books, wine, and food are so completely interrelated. This whole meal – and Harcourt’s generosity in hosting it – will continue to be the major highlight of the conference for me.

But enough of that, let’s talk about the BOOKS! I still can’t believe it was just yesterday morning that I was sitting in that enormous ballroom, listening to the book award winners announced right before my eyes. As the Batchelder and Schneider Family awards were being announced, I felt all tingly and thrilled and excited. Then…as the moment of truth arrived…I felt all tense. Why? I realized that I was nervous because WHAT IF I HADN’T ORDERED THE RIGHT BOOKS ALL YEAR?! What if I had NONE of the major award winners in ANY of the libraries?!?!?! Luckily, though, I was golden. Granted, not every single library had a copy of every single book but at least we had some libraries holding all of some of the books. You know? Phew! I do have to say – and no description will truly capture it unless you were there – but listening to that enormous audible gasp when Hugo Cabret was announced was awesome, and the wild applause afterward was a thrill. And can I even tell you how pleased I am that Let It Shine got the CSK Award? Well-deserved. Overall, I’m enormously pleased with the award recipients, though there are a few question marks: Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County? Jabberwocky? Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian? And I sure was hoping that Jonathan Bean would get some well-deserved love but, alas, it wasn’t his year. Not to worry because I know his time is coming any year now.

All my gushing aside, it’s damn good to be home and make myself a home-cooked meal for the first time in five days. Even if it was as simple as a salad and a melty camembert grilled cheese sandwich. And pinot noir, of course.

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