This week I went to Netspeed, an Alberta library technology conference. I enjoyed myself and it was excellent to see Jessamyn West talk in person. Slidedecks from presentations are supposed to be going up at the librarytoolshed.ca if you’re interested in things more generally.
I think the biggest thing I took away from the experience was actually attending sessions with one of the people I work directly with. Our library is pretty good about not having a rigid distinction between what library assistants do and what librarians do, so having one of our main tech trainers attend was really helpful. After a session on constructivist approaches to maker education we brainstormed a bit about how to use some of those approaches in our much less makery “Getting Started with Android” (or whatever) classes. Doing it right then felt so much more useful than waiting to bring back “news from conference land.” That said, we had too many people from our library in the session on gamifying staff technology training, so I don’t think anyone attended anything else.
I went to the code4libYEG talk about the history of how they’ve set up the leaderless organization. This group was pitched as one of the good things happening in Edmonton before we came here, and now that I’ve been here a year I guess it’s time for me to start helping more instead of being a lurking leech on their good work. (Of course I say that a week before our baby is due when I’ll have tonnes of time to volunteer.)
So yes. Still here and doing things. I’m hoping that when I return to work in January after my parental leave that things will be different somehow. That I’ll be able to try things differently instead of being in the 1st year ropes course learning stage.
You might know about the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) which is a comic con held in the Toronto Reference Library every year. It’s supposed to be great, and I’ve never been. But, this year was the first VanCAF, a smaller indie comics show that I really enjoyed being part of.
One of the things I’ve learned in the process of interviewing librarians about association-work is that conventions and conferences are a lot more interesting if you’re there doing something rather than just attending. I put that to the test and volunteered for VanCAF even though it was free to get into. I wanted to have a little bit of skin in the game, so I could say I helped with the first VanCAF, especially if it becomes more awesome as years go by.
This one was pretty great. I loved the space it was in, the Roundhouse. There was a whole wall of windows and fresh air coming in so it didn’t feel shut away from the world (especially because the weather was so nice this weekend). Some of my volunteering duties took me outside, where I put up posters on Friday (which were gone by Saturday morning because apparently Vancouver has a poster mafia which we were unable to pay off) and handed out flyers at the beginning of the day on Sunday. Japadog was on site and Chris Hastings drew a picture commemorating the good Doctors McNinja’s love of the franchise.
The best part of volunteering was actually covering people’s booths while they went for lunch. I covered for Klara Woldenga and sold an adorable crocheted killoctopus for her, Critical Hit Comics so they could both attend a live podcast, Carina Piccioni, and Ryan Pequin and Emily Partridge. The exhibitors seemed really happy with this arrangement and were really great to the volunteers. It was fun to be on the other side of the table, selling things and chatting with their neighbours (including Doug Savage). I felt involved with the con and had a great time.
Once I was done volunteering I bought some books, including the new Delilah Dirk, the SciFi anthology from Cloudscape, the new edition of Joey Comeau‘s Lockpick Pornography and a comic by Mike Deas, which is interesting because it’s from Orca Books, one of Canada’s big YA publishers that I didn’t know did comics at all. I also got to attend a panel where the panelists (including David Malki ! made a comic live on stage while discussing the art of humour writing. It was chaotic but also kind of awesome.
So yes, VanCAF was a pretty great little indie comics show. It seemed busy both days and I heard many favourable comparisons between it and Stumptown, and also how MoCCA used to be before it got so big. I’m very glad to have been part of VanCAF’s first year.
Andy Mulligan’s Trash is a YA book about three scavenger kids living in a junkyard who find something extremely valuable in the trash that launches a big, but personal mystery. I liked it a lot.
It had shifting viewpoint characters who were expressly telling the reader the story. Usually it stuck with the main three boys, but we also got to see bits of the story from the priest’s perspective and that of the British girl who was volunteering in the unnamed country (while reading I was picturing Mexico, but the afterword indicates it was based on a place in Manila).
Things I really liked about the book: the boys were clever and tough, but didn’t feel superhuman. The authorities also weren’t stupid, which made the boys’ victories against the police well-earned. It was a connect-the-dots kind of mystery plot, but my favourite part of that was a throwaway line about how they never did manage to decipher part of the code. The whole thing felt much more personal than a story about government corruption had any real right to be, so kudos to Mulligan.
The only thing that I wish it had was a stronger female character. The women in the story either get duped or get rescued or get the boys into the whole mess, which is a bit of a shame.
Not woes exactly, just recognitions of some limitations. I run the Teen Book Club and the Teen Manga Club at our branch. Traditionally there’s been a lot of crossover between the two groups, but since I’ve taken over I’ve had total attendance of one person at Manga club over two sessions (it’s probably going to be phased out after I leave this summer). Book Club has had five people in three sessions (including nobody at all this week). Needless to say, it’s not the most wonderful feeling.
The traditional thing to say at our branch is that it’s the area. In suburban wealthy neighbourhoods there’d be more people interested and attendance would be better. More of those kids’d be hustling for scholarships and volunteer hours so Advisory Council volunteering would be more attractive. That’s true to an extent, but there are teens out in our hood that want scholarships. I don’t think our neighbourhood is the sole reason we don’t get people.
The other easy place to lay blame is a lack of promotion. This I’m guilty of. It would be good to market our services more aggressively. I should be better about phoning up our book club members and encouraging them to come to our meetings. But I hate doing that kind of thing. I hate phones in general and the whole, “Please come! It’ll be fun!” kind of spiel sounds so desperate to my ears.
Ideally I’d do stuff that people would be fools not to come to, but I don’t know how to do that. Library school to the rescue? (I don’t think it works that way.)