At the end of 2010, I was invited to apply for an open position of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. I was delighted when I was accepted. I joined a team of librarians and writers who shared my passion for Jewish children’s books. As a member of the committee, I was expected to attend the annual conference. Here’s my list of seven reasons why you, as a writer, should attend AJL:
- After editors, librarians are your best friends. This is advice I received from a veteran children’s book editor. Once your book gets published, librarians are the ones who order.
- Librarians are inherent problem-solvers. Faced each day with patron questions, librarians have the knowledge and the sources to solve your problems. Here’s an example: I needed to access a memoir written in German. The cost on Germany’s Amazon was close to 600 Euros. So I sent a note to some AJL friends. Not only did I learn where the book was held locally, but this librarian sent me a link to an online copy? I was reading the book that very night. This same librarian rattles sources—books, other libraries, subject matter experts—no matter what my writing project.
- Get the lo-down on the Sydney Taylor Book Award winners. Gain inspiration and expand your network. Meet and hear from members of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee and award winners.
- Meet and hear from Sydney Taylor’s daughter. At last year’s conference in Las Vegas, Jo Taylor showed pictures of her mother and her sisters, the inspiration for All-of-a-Kind Family. Listening to her is like touching history.
- Learn the current state of things. In workshops and sessions, hear what librarians have to say about the market, their patrons, and book content they need. Discover which books spark conversations.
- The book exhibit. This year promises to have a great exhibit presence. In Montreal, I was grateful I had driven, because I had bought so many books.
- Optional side trips. I would not have known about Montreal’s unique Jewish community had I not attended the 2011 conference. This year, the conference takes place in Silver Spring, Maryland, offering trips to important research institutions like the Library of Congress and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
At the 2015 conference, I will be chairing and participating on a panel, “Perspectives on the Holocaust: The Case Study of the MS St. Louis, 1939.” Panel members include Dr. Rafael Medoff of the Dan Wyman Institute, Scott Miller of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and memoirist Martin Goldsmith, whose grandfather and uncle had been aboard the doomed ship. I’ll also be speaking on panels as a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.
My term on the committee is ending, but it’s been a great four years. I’ve come to know so many wonderful authors, illustrators, and editors and will miss immediate access to all the Jewish children’s books published in a given year.
Check out the conference on the AJL website. I hope to see you in Silver Spring!