Monday, July 25, 2016

Orlando Adventures and #ALAAC (2/3)

ALA '16 was a very important conference for me.

Not only was it my first ALA annual conference, it was also where I would be part of my first panel called "No Room at the Library: The Ethics of  Diversity"

The key-note speaker was Loida Garcia-Febo, and my fellow panelists were Anastasia Chiu and Jeff Sowder. After Loida gave her speech, there were 3 skits each followed with discussion between the panel and those sitting in the audience.

The first skit targeted Islamophobia in the library.
The second skit targeted the LGBTQ community in the library.
The third skit targeted Race in the library.

(The three skits can be found here under the attachment in the middle of the page)

 I have to admit. I was EXTREMELY nervous going in. Public speaking is NOT my forte and is something I normally avoid at all cost. So how did I find myself on a panel in the middle of a library conference with over a 100 people in attendance?

A couple of months before the conference, I was approached by a fellow library colleague I met on Facebook. She asked if I would be willing to look over/add to a anti-Islamophobia Resolution that her and other members of the ALA Council were looking to propose at mid-winter (this was also my first time seeing a resolution being done). I happily partook in this opportunity.

I was contacted sometime after to see if I would like to be part of something another group was putting together for Annual. Jumping at another opportunity, I said yes, and did not realize until much later that it would involve me speaking in front of a large group of people. By that point I was so far in that I really WANTED to be a part of it and needed to work to keep my nerves at bay.

(seeing my name up there quenched my nerves for 2 minutes)

While I felt that the panel went extremely well because of the amount of discussion that went on. I also felt a little lacking on my end. I was so nervous that I did not speak as much as I would have liked. I went in with all these great ideas and things to say in my head and yet found myself freezing. Other times I would force my mouth to start moving because that was the only way to get through my fear.

(the room was packed, all seats were filled, and there will people standing/sitting in the aisles and along the back, it was amazing)

Some of the points that were made and discussed:
  • As long as you are being respectful and depending on the vibes of the person in front of you, it is okay to ask Muslim people questions about their religion.
  • People will have issues with Muslim Librarians and Muslim patrons, knowledge is power, please share books and other materials to educate people.
  • Please do not make assumptions about a persons' gender.
  • People will have issues with members of the LGBTQ community especially in the debate about bathrooms, listen to their concerns as politely as possible, it might be time to take a look at your policy and make some changes in favor of including everyone.
  • A Black Lives Matter group and a White Supremacist group are NOT the same thing.
  • Be aware of what is happening in your library, what flyers are going up, be prepared for backlash, on popular topics of discussion. Be prepared to handle it.
  • There is a 75% chance (I just made that number up) that someone will have a problem with how things are run at your library especially if it is made to include EVERYONE. Especially if it is something they do not understand. Work with your staff/coworkers, be united, be patient, be educated, and find help when needed. You are not alone

This entire experience held so many firsts for me. First time seeing how a resolution was formed. Attending an Annual conference. Meeting so many new people. Visiting Florida. Being on a Panel. Talking in front of what I would consider, a large group of people.

Yet somehow, I managed to do it, and I was/am VERY proud of myself. I learned so much and it opened my eyes to the world of possibilities one can do being part of a library.

I graduated with my MSLIS 11 months ago. While I have been part of my current library for 10+ years, there is so much to learn. So much difference that can and will be made if we all stick together and move as one.

Dont get me started on the exhibits and the authors. Every book lovers' dream. I met so many amazing authors including some of my favorites and obtained such a haul that I had a bit of difficulty getting my luggage across at the airport.

My favorite though, was meeting Gayle Foreman for the second time and Laurie Halse Anderson for the first time. I completely teared up when I met Laurie, she was SO sweet (we even semi match(!), it was meant to be). Her book "The Impossible Knife of Memory" has left the biggest impression on me and I recommend it to everyone who asks for a book recommendation.

(can you tell how excited I am?)

I was also VERY excited for the children books I got. Some of them were absolutely beautiful in illustration and some really filled me with joy. 

One of my favorites was "Beautiful" by Stacy McAnulty. It gives such a POSITIVE and EMPOWERING lesson to little girls that I believe every little girl and grown woman should have one. 

I read the story to my niece who turns 3 on Halloween and she LOVED it. She would NOT let go of the book. She kept saying "Sara, she's dootyful" (beautiful) and would point at a girl covered in mud, then she would point at herself and say "I'm dootyful!" She then took the book, placed in her tote, and said "mine" and so it was.

(The cover, as found on Google)

All in all, I had such an amazing time in Florida and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity. I truly hope that there are many conferences in my future. 

(I'll leave you with a picture of my haul after sorting it when I got home. Not everything is pictured since I found another tote filled with things after taking this one)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Review - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling

When this book came out 3 years ago, I intended to read it. Even though I was a bit disappointed (okay, very disappointed) by The Casual Vacancy. It was J. K. Rowling, and no matter what, I would always read (or should I say, attempt to read) all of her books.

However, as weeks turned into months into years after the release followed by two other releases, I still had not read it. Until we decided at my 20 something book group that it was time.

Some complained that the book started off slow, not realizing that was J. K. Rowlings writing style. She starts off by building the setting, the plot, the introduction of the characters before finally taking off and you find yourself soaring across her words. Her sentences playing in your head filled with images like a movie.

Whenever I stepped away from the book and found myself thinking about it, it was always in the image of a screen playing in my head. The characters were alive, filled with detail and color. I could see them in my minds eye.

I found myself racing to finish the book making guesses of who the murderer was. And of course by the end of the novel I saw how very wrong I was throughout the novel.

If you are looking for a high speed, detail oriented, murder mystery novel. Pick this up, but do it when you have time, because its going to be so hard for you to put it back down!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Orlando adventures and #ALAAC16 (1/3)

Two weeks later and I am finally writing about my Orlando experience. I have so many stories to share that I am pretty sure that they will not all fit in one post. So I will probably be breaking it down.

To be honest, after the #Orlando hate shooting at the #Pulse nightclub a week and half before the conference, going to a place where the grief was fresh left me a bit apprehensive. My FB feed was filled with stories shared of Muslims being targeted throughout the U.S. outside of Mosques (Muslim place of worship), in stores, and for no reason whatsoever. Being an obvious Muslim covered in Hijab, I wondered how I would be perceived. 

Words cannot express how grateful and humbled I am by the people there. Filled with smiles, kind words, and jokes. They were able to distinguish between two people who had nothing to do with each other, a lesson that so many Americans need to learn. 

A close friend and fellow book addict joined me on this trip. Leaving every moment of every day one for the books. To be repeated as stories to our families, friends, coworkers and especially to each other. 


Our first day upon arrival was spent having a quick lunch at Cracker Barrel, we then headed out and toured Chocolate Kingdom where we each designed our own chocolate bar. Mine was milk chocolate with rice krispies, m&m's and cashews. SO GOOD!

(chocolate shoes!)

Shortly after we found a Groupon for World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe, so we headed there and tasted some amazingly flavored chocolates. We also had the best caramel hot chocolate in 98 degree whether with 90% humidity that was worth EVERY sip. (I highly recommend this place)

(solid chocolate sculpture of the Taj Mahal)

I highly recommend searching through Groupon for things to do and places to eat when going somewhere new!

We then headed over to the WonderWorks Museum (the upside down museum) and had an absolute BLAST. If you havent been, GO! So much fun and just a way to de-stress after a long day.

(look how awesome it looks)

To wind down, we decided that it was time for dinner and headed over to CiCi's Pizza after seeing coupons for them all over place. I HIGHLY recommend that you NEVER set foot into this pizzeria styled buffet. The food was absolutely DISGUSTING. Truly the worst food, the place looked gross. We spent 20 bucks and walked out hungry because we were too grossed out to eat anything.


The memory I have been waiting to create for YEARS finally happened. And by years, I mean since 2007 when my brother promised to take me to Harry Potter world for my high school graduation present when it first opened and didnt. Nine years later I went with a fellow obsessive Potter Head and it was the experience of a lifetime. The entire time I was there I felt like I was in a trance. It felt both surreal and exhilarating. I was on cloud nine. 


I rode roller coasters (well, the indoor ones) even though I am TERRIFIED of heights. By obsession with the Potter World pushed aside that fear as I squeezed the life out of my friends' hand while riding broomsticks at Hogwarts Castle and had fire breathed on us at Gringotts bank. I screamed and laughed hysterically and I am super grateful that she, and others in the line, encouraged me not to chicken out and get on the rides. 

(this was me when I realized I was standing in front of the castle)

I was kept in a trance as I watched a puppet show from the Tales of Beedle the Bard 'the Fountain of Fair Fortune'.  I was filled with joy as I had my butterbeer ice cream and drink. I was overwhelmed with wonder as I walked through shops and made my purchases.

(super excited to be riding the Hogwarts Express)

But nothing, NOTHING stuck with me more than Mr. Ollivanders wand shop. I had heard stories of demonstrations. Lights flickering. Books falling. Mr. Ollivander himself. I was beyond ready to witness the magic. And I did.

After being ushered into the darkened shop, I found my friend and I standing next to a family of 3 adults and 2 children. I found myself enraptured as Mr. Ollivander began talking. He walked up to one of the kids and asked

Mr. Ollivander: How old are you?

Child: 11

Mr. Ollivander: The perfect age for Hogwarts. What house do you hope to get into?

Child: Slytherin

Me: Yessssssssss

Mr. Ollivander turned slowly to look at me and says: Sooo, Slytherin?

Me as my heart rate picked up to an incredible speed: Oh, yes!

Mr. Ollivander continues talking then says it is time for a demonstration. He walks to the front of the room and calls up the little boy. Then he slowly turned to me and goes: you come up as well.

(I can honestly say I almost passed out? Lost it? Was on cloud 9? All of the above?)

Mr. Ollivander: How old are you?

Me: uhh, 26..

Mr. Ollivander: ................ 26? *stares* *continues on with demonstration*

At this point I am making these weird noises and squealing because I am filled with such an intense and overwhelming feeling that I have never felt before. 

Mr Ollivander handed me a wand and told me with a swish and a flick to say lumos. Which I did and promptly started bawling. Big fat tears streaking my face racing to get out of my eyes. I honestly, in that moment, felt like I was truly in Mr. Ollivanders wand shop, that I was honestly on my way to Hogwarts. 

I am part of the Harry Potter generation. I remember buying my first copy from a library book sale for 5 cents at the age of 11. I grew up with the Potter gang. I waited year after year as book after book came out. They were my childhood. So standing there was something that took my breath away. I had also heard stories that Mr. Ollivander only called up children, and I knew I surprised him with my age but I didnt get sent back with the group thank God. Rather, he fed into my excitement, talking with me as Mr. Ollivander talked with Harry. I was then handed a wand that I was told would do great things in which I quickly purchased because I knew that it would forever be a token of my experience. 

To the man who played Mr. Ollivander, thank you for giving 11 year old me what was the most important thing to her at that age. 

(My Potter World loot includes my precious wand, lemon drops and salt water taffy from Honey Dukes, two butter beer mugs and a maraduders map mug)