Yesterday I took the day off from work to spend all day at the joint conference of the Oregon Library Association and the Washington Library Association. Highlights: Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter With Kansas, was the speaker for the all conference breakfast; great story time techniques for the infant-thru-6 year old crowd; open source software developed by Oregon State University; and cool ideas for Summer Reading programs in both states.

Thomas Frank: As expected, Frank gave a very funny and insightful speech on the influence of the Conservative movement on contemporary politics. Much of the material drew from his research for his recently complete book, The Wrecking Crew, due later this Summer. If you are unfamiliar with Frank, then I should note that his speech was not “Bush-bashing” at all, because if anything, that would be myopic. Frank is an historian by training, so he takes the long view, incorporating the development of modern Conservative ideology, its hostility to government and how that hostility creates corrupt and incompetent government once the ideologues come to power. In his view, the BushAdmin and Jack Abramoff are not “aberrations” or examples of the “corrupting influence of Washington” (a piece of magical thinking Frank eloquently and hilariously ridiculed), but as par for the course of a movement that mocks the idea of public service and trumpets the alchemy of market forces and big business. I look forward to reading his new book.

Story Time Techniques: Steve Ingelfried of Multnomah County Library (MCL) gave a brief demonstration on the effective use of a silent puppet to engage a young audience. Brianne Williams of MCL showed how songs can encourage child participation while re-enforcing print and phonological awareness. (She has a nice voice, too, with more range than my own Lou Reed-like level.) Susan Anderson-Newham from Pierce County Libraries gave a really entertaining performance on poetry and the alphabet incorporating an apron with pockets, a flannel board, a variety of finger puppets and her own incredible energy. Speaking of energy, Jane Corry of MCL (and my mentor) showed us how to use fun forms of exercise in story times; gets the young bodies moving and stretching, the blood flowing, and works off some of that crazy energy kids are full of, allowing them to become more receptive and involved.

ICAP: The acronym stands for Interactive Course Assignment Pages, an open source publishing system developed by Oregon State University librarians. After focus groups and usability tests showed them that students don’t want subject guides and prefer pages that are specifically made for their courses, OSU librarians set out to develop software with two main goals in mind: create interactive pages that students will use, and make it easy for librarians to create pages without requiring a lot of technical knowledge. The result is a very promising tool that incorporates the kind of modules and widgets that you find in WordPress CMS applications.

Collaborative Summer Reading Extravaganza: OLA and WLA librarians presented a lot of energetic and creative ideas for getting children and teens involved with Summer Reading. The crafts, books, and presentation ideas revolved around the “Catch the Reading Bug” and “Metamorphosis” themes many Oregon and Washington libraries are using this Summer. So there were a lot of insects, with an emphasis on the gross and uncanny. Right up my alley! BJ Quinlan has posted some great craft ideas at NW Central.

I am still processing all this information with the help of my morning coffee. They will no doubt play a big part in my own presentations as I interview for a youth librarian job in the next couple weeks. So thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences, knowledge and ideas. This is what is great about this profession – standing on the shoulders of your colleagues!

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