Monday, August 8, 2011

A Reader Goes to ALA

By Molly Weston

Asking me to be part of Sisters in Crime's Summit Team and attend the American Library Association's Summer Conference in New Orleans was a lot like throwing Br'er Rabbit in the Briar Patch! Of course, I'd been to mystery conferences and booksellers' conferences, but never to a library conference. I had everything laid out for the trip a month before I was due to pack.

The excitement began to swell on the plane leaving Charlotte. I watched more and more travelers board carrying tote bags from libraries—and paperbacks in their hands. As I looked around en route, nearly everyone was reading! My seat mate was a librarian from Canada and the kind lady who entertained the child beside her until takeoff explained she was a grandmother. I later found she, too, was a librarian.

When I got into line for the van ride to the hotel, it was jammed with more librarians and their accompanying identifying tote bags. And these weren't the "Ssssh!" types from the 50s. They were all swaying to the sounds of the jazz band playing beside baggage pickup!

Unsurprisingly, our hotel was packed with librarians, too, and every day more tote bags replaced purses and suitcases. By the time the trade show floor opened, the bags were stuffed with books and posters. It was heartening to see the distinctive red Sisters in Crime bags amongst those from publishers and distributors.

[Photo: It wouldn't be New Orleans without beignets for breakfast!]

The SinC bags were an enticement for visiting our library-themed booth, as was the drawing for an iPod Touch. Mary Boone and Doris Ann Norris did a bang-up job making the booth both attractive and accessible. In addition to the SinC banners, they hung poster-sized photos of many of the "We Love Libraries!" winners to ensure that folks asked about entering the contest.

[Photo: Dorris Ann Norris and Mary Boone take a break after setting up the SinC booth.]

The Summit Team members were charged with talking with librarians, distributors, and publishers about how readers find books. We met in focus groups, one-on-one interviews, catch-as-catch-can talks on the trade show floor, and at meals. Everyone we talked with was happy to share ideas with us—frequently they seemed thrilled that someone would ask!

The Summit Report will provide full details about these ideas. Don't miss reading it! All SinC members will receive the report as part of their membership package. If you're reading this as a non-member, consider joining today at This report will be well worth it.

The Saturday "Mystery Day" coordinated by Rosemary Harris brought in so many mystery writers it would be difficult to list them all. It was great fun catching up with old friends and meeting (and making) new ones. I was delighted to meet Julie Smith, whom I've loved reading for more than 20 years (she must have won her Edgar when she was 12!).

Nearly every member of the Summit Team was on a panel on the Pop Top stage. I was delighted to get to moderate "Attention to Detail: How Research Adds to the Mystery," with Frankie Y. Bailey, Rhys Bowen, Jane Cleland, and Carolyn Hart. My trip was made!

Every night I returned to my hotel room totally exhausted, but with my mind overflowing with great ideas and wonderful memories. After all, what could be better than five days with librarians and Sisters in Crime?

[Photo: (front row, from left) Rhys Bowen, Holli Castillo and Libby Fischer Hellmann ready to lend a hand in the SinC booth at ALA.]

New Orleans photos by Molly Weston.

Molly Weston is the editor of inSinC, the Sisters in Crime quarterly news bulletin. She is a book reviewer, media escort, blogger and book club maven — when not pondering the intricacies of keeping the local deer from eating the entire colorful crop at her day lily farm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Molly! I can taste those beignets now.
One of my favorite ALA moments was when Carolyn Hart came over to the booth asking if we had something to help her open the boxes of books she'd be signing after your panel. I pulled a small exacto knife from my trusty red toolbox. Carolyn looked at it. At me. At it. And said quietly, "Why, you could kill someone with this. Thank you." ~Mary Boone.