AASL Exploritorium Judith GearyThe American Association of School Librarians met in Charlotte, NC last week. Whether you’re a writer or an avid reader (or both), the idea of spending time in a venue with close to 4,000 others who live for books has an almost mystic appeal. Of course the kickoff speaker was Danah Boyd, “internationally known guru,” speaking on networking social media, not exactly books, but if you’re immune to social media, how are you reading this?

So much about the event, or my participation in it, was serendipitous. Early last spring, I was booksigning at Artwalk in historic downtown Boone when I met two delightful middle school librarians. Actually, every middle school librarian I’ve met has been delightful; there’s some extra spark in people who choose to dedicate their lives to guiding adolescent minds – and being guided by them. One of these women, Ann Marie Pipkin, was the co-chair of the planning committee for the AASL conference, and she encouraged me to apply for a place on the program.

Concurrent sessions are the standard venue at professional conferences, so I was a bit let down when my program wasn’t chosen for one. I’d never heard of an Exploratorium, where it did place, but it turned out to be perfect – a two hour event where the librarians can circulate and talk to the presenters. Ann Marie even made it by to say “hello.”

At the “Pit Stop” booksigning, I was placed at a table with Jackson Pearce, author of a couple of “fantastic” young adult novels from major publishers. When she introduced herself, I blurted out something like, “Oh, I was hoping Jackson Pearce was a hot guy, so I’d get the fallout.” To her credit, she did speak to me after that, and, since she was handing out free ARCs of her latest from Little Brown, Sisters Red, there was plenty of fallout. I snagged one for myself, and read enough before my daughter took it to find it delightful – as was Jackson herself. When they make the movie, they’ll likely characterize the story as a cross between Little Red Riding Hood and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

James Patterson signed books ten feet from the Ingalls Publishing exhibit table. While he was madly signing books, I was madly networking the line – giving out business cards with an admonition on the back to visit my website and sign up for my mailing list and “Free Books.” After all, when the universe hands you a line – hand out information? I shared space at the IPG table with Albert Bell, truly one of the best writers I’ve ever read, and Julia Ebel, whose work fulfills her goal of “keeping” the stories of the Appalachian region.  Getorix by Judith Geary

The last morning of the conference, I set out for the hotel lobby early, scouting for coffee – or at least real cream for the concoction from the in-room coffee maker – and ended up on the elevator with the incoming president of AASL, Nancy Everhardt. My hair was a mess and I had on no makeup (and she looked absolutely polished and glowing), but at least I had the opportunity to say how much I was enjoying the conference. Later, I sat down at the hotel bar for breakfast and spoke to the woman next to me – because she was wearing an AASL name tag. She turned out to be a planner for an event in Fulton County, GA, and I’m hoping to be able to followup on that.

If I tried to recount every wonderful person I talked to, I’d be here next week, and the whole thing would be an homage to the school librarian – as it should be. Doing programs as I do, I meet the absolute cream of the crop of educators – because I meet the ones who go a bit beyond what’s required to give their students the best.

Judith Geary

Scenario Director, NC Affiliate of Future Problem-Solving International

author, GETORIX: The Eagle and The Bull  www.judithgeary.com