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Author Archive | Kathy Dempsey

Quite a Zoo on Sunday Night

A big crowd turned out for the Gaming & Gadgets Petting Zoo Sunday evening.

People were playing board games and sharing their tablets and other devices to discover new and interesting technology.

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Gaming and Gadgets Petting Zoo at IL2011

Parting Thoughts, Parting Shots

As near as I can remember, this was my 10th or 11th ALA Annual. It’s been 24 hours since I got home, and I’m still mentally processing it all, but I have come up with a few parting thoughts.

I even wore sneakers to the Ritz and didn't get thrown out. (Judith Gibbons, who wrote my Foreword, wore nicer shoes.)

I even wore sneakers to the Ritz and didn't get thrown out. (Judith Gibbons, who wrote my Foreword, wore nicer shoes.)

First, I must agree with Barbara Brynko’s recent post: Have Comfort, Will Travel. It doesn’t take 10 ALAs to figure out that women should leave their high heels at home. I’m all about foot-friendly shoes, but still, in past years there were times when the final steps of my day were pure agony. Not this time! Since I recently had some foot problems flare up, this year I totally threw fashion to the wind and wore nothing but quality sneakers the entire time. And it was the first year that my feet still feel totally fine after 4 grueling days. Advice for all women: Nobody there cares what your feet look like! Do yourselves a favor and put health before haute. Or put a podiatrist’s kids through college. It’s your call.


On that same note, I want to thank Gale yet again for providing the buses that make our conference lives possible. On  one of my rides, the monitors in the bus were scrolling through Gale ads and info, and one screen shocked me: It said that Gale had been sponsoring these ALA buses since 1965. That’s as long as I’ve been alive! We love you, Gale!!

bus_300x225 As a nice tie-in, Gale also had a drawing for a (very tiny) bus full of prizes. Such a fun treat, and generous too.

I have to say what a thrill it was to launch my book at this conference! And here’s a big shout-out to the Swap & Shop committee, especially chair Sally Lederer who kindly allowed Info Today and I to have my book signing there. As far as we know, it’s the first book launch to ever happen at the Swap. We made history!

This 09 exhibit hall seemed smaller than in previous years. First I thought it was just b/c I wore sneakers, but no — ALA reports that it was smaller. I’m sorry for vendors who missed being there, but I did find it more manageable to cover!

Finally, I love it when ALA is in Chicago. Such a welcoming city, such a beautiful downtown. And such great things to see, if you can carve out an hour to see any of them.

Jenny Levine doing a demo

Jenny Levine doing a demo

BTW, I took many more pictures than I could ever post here. For instance, here’s one of Jenny Levine demonstrating ALA Connect.  If you want to see more, hop over to my Flickr site where I’ll be adding shots for days to come.

Lastly, a quick follow-up on my last post on the Closing General Session. After hearing Steve Lopez tell his story about homeless musical wonder Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, I eagerly dug into my copy of The Soloist. (Thanks again, Penguin publishing.) That was only 3 days ago, and I’ve just finished. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced through a book like this, but it’s a fascinating story and an easy read. I recommend it.

sign-2010_300x400 I hope that all of you enjoyed smooth, safe travels home, and I look forward to seeing you at the next conference!

~Kathy Dempsey

Editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter

Steve Lopez Shares the Story of 'The Soloist' in the Closing General Session

Lopez on the stage at the Closing General Session. (Any guesses as to which publisher sponsored his appearance?)

Lopez on the stage at the Closing General Session. (Guess which publisher sponsored his appearance?)

When my alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. on the last day of the conference, I was sorry that I’d agreed to cover the Closing General Session that started at 8. But when Steve Lopez finished talking shortly after 9, I was sorry that his presentation was over. Wow.

Like many others, I know Steve Lopez’ name as that of a newspaper columnist. Now people are getting familiar with him as author of The Soloist, a book that was recently turned into a movie. It’s the true story of how Lopez stumbled across a homeless man who was playing a grungy violin on the streets of Los Angles – and playing it amazingly well, especially considering it only had 2 of its 4 strings. Intrigued and thinking this might make a good column for the LA Times, he approached the man, which completely startled him. Thus began an uneasy, unconventional relationship that has continued for more than 4 years since. Those who have read the book or seen the movie know the rest of the story. Those who haven’t are really missing something.

Lopez had a easy-going speaking style. He related to librarians by saying that he got married inside the Philadelphia Free Library. He also complimented Philly’s library for its One Book, One City treatment of The Soloist, saying the system organized 120 events around it, some of which he appeared at. He urged others who wanted to know how to do great One Book programs to look to the Free Library as an example.

He also revealed that his son had graduated with an M.L.S. a year ago and was still looking for a job. He threatened the audience that he wouldn’t leave until one member agreed to retire or leave the profession so his son could finally get a job and get off his father’s payroll. After these laugh lines, Lopez got down to the business of telling a very serious story.

Ever the journalist, Lopez explained that it was often hard finding fodder for columns on a continuous basis. He likened being a columnist to “having a pet monster that’s always hungry.” Hence, when he first saw the downtrodden violinist playing on the street, he wanted to find an angle to write about. He soon realized that this man, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, had a lot inside of him but that he wouldn’t let it out easily (if ever) because he was mentally ill. But he was also an outstanding, classically trained musician. The intrigue, as well as the hunger for a great story, kept Lopez coming back to help Ayers “get back on track,” as Ayers called it. It took a couple of months before the writer had learned and substantiated enough to get his first column out of the story, but people connected with it immediately. Lopez went on to write more over the years and to use Ayers’ plight to bring the problems of the homeless and the mentally ill to light, asking people at City Hall, “How can you let this go on just a few blocks away?”

A long line of librarians wound around the hallway waiting for Lopez to sign copies of 'The Soloist.'

A long line of librarians wound around the hallway waiting for Lopez (far right) to sign copies of 'The Soloist.'

When Lopez finished telling the story that had awed the audience, he took a few questions before making his way into the lobby area to sign copies of The Soloist. His publisher, Penguin, generously gave everyone the copies for free, and it must’ve taken Lopez well over an hour to finish signing for the hundreds of people in the queue. What a perfect example of using a powerful human story to reach people and to make them want to read. I wonder what stories lurk near your own libraries that you could tell to your public?

~Kathy Dempsey, editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter

Orchids and Awards: John Cotton Dana PR Award Gala Takes Place at the Ritz


The John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Awards are the Holy Grail for PR librarians in the U.S. Winning one takes plenty of time, effort, talent, and planning. Some say that completing the award application is an experience unto itself. But it’s also a lesson in the way good public relations should be done.

Every winter, my Marketing Library Services newsletter announces the winners that have been chosen before it covers the summer ceremony. In the March/April 2009 issue’s Special Report on ALA’s Midwinter Meeting, there’s info on all of the winning projects (this article isn’t online), and I’ll name them again here:

  • Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library’s (BCPL) Storyville, a new interactive creative learning center, was designed as a child-size village for preschoolers and their caregivers.
  • Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Library wowed its community with its Oct. 18, 2008, reading festival.
  • Houston Public Library used a 2-year, $17 million renovation as the impetus for a strong public relations campaign centered on a “sense of identity.”
  • The Library Foundation of the Multnomah (Ore.) Public Library developed and sustained an appropriate marketing strategy that conveyed the importance of the library in early childhood literacy.
  • St. Paul (Minn.) Public Library took advantage of 2008 election fever by mounting a timely campaign called “St. Paul-itics.”
  • Ypsilanti (Mich.) District Library scored a huge hit with a program targeting teens and men with a celebration of the area’s musical heritage.

The July 13 awards ceremony was at the Ritz Carlton, and it was as classy as ever. (Is that redundant?) Admist a spread of orchids, candles, and amazing hors d’ouevres, attentive waitstaff fussed over the well-dressed guests who nibbled while they enjoyed live piano music and waited for formal proceedings to begin. H.W. Wilson and its Foundation still sponsor the award, and as President Harry Regan commented when he opened the festivities, “Over the last 63 years, the John Cotton Dana Award has evolved into the one of the most coveted and prestigious awards” in libraryland.

Finally, the Big Moments began. For each of the six honored libraries, Regan read a bit that explained what was special about each project, then the recipients took the stage, got their certificates and $5,000 checks, and smiled for a very nice man with a very large camera lens before making a few brief remarks of their own. One of my favorites came from Sheree Savage of the St. Paul Public Library, who claimed that its “St. Paul-itics” political action campaign turned the library into “the community civic engagement living room.”

People studied the winning JCD notebooks.

People studied the winning JCD notebooks.

This short formal part of the program was followed by more photos, handshakes, and piano music. Some attendees took advantage of the chance to see the notebooks of campaign info that are a big part of each entry. The notebooks are wonderful collections of data and promo material that chronical each project. (You can borrow them too if you’re interested in studying them in preparation for your own entry efforts.)

You can read more about the contest on Wilson’s website.

All in all, it was a grand afternoon at the Ritz, where well-deserved honors were bestowed by a committed corporation that continues to encourage and reward librarians who do the tough but essential work of planning great public relations projects that keep the people of American coming back to rediscover the wonders of their libraries year after year.

~Kathy Dempsey, editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter