[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="500" caption="L-R: Toby Harris, Janet Heineck, Susan Dubin, Rita Frischer, and Pat Pawelak-Kort"]
[/caption]Toby Harris is co-chair (with Janet Heineck and Rita Frischer) for the 2010 AJL Convention that will take place in Seattle, WA, July 4-7. She is the president of AJL's Northwest Chapter, and librarian at Temple De Hirsch Sinai.Toby, what are some of the most exciting things planned for the 2010 AJL Convention? Can you give us some highlights?
There are so many sessions I’m excited about! We have a couple of off-site choices which will give some an opportunity to see a bit of Seattle and I’m very excited to show off our city! One is the Seattle Public Library, a mere two blocks from the hotel with quite dramatic architecture and bold ideas. There, we’ll get a tour and get to use their computer lab classroom. The other is a visit to Seattle Hebrew Academy, an incredibly beautiful historic building set in a Northwest forest, with an award winning library.
I am struck by the range of interesting settings our presenters work in. Hearing about challenges for the National Library of Israel and Yad Vashem, the many special collections and resources at Columbia, Yeshiva, Stanford and here at the University of Washington, along with some bookdealer perspectives and those of us building community in our synagogues and day schools. A big focus will be on examining our users, planning and making digitization and technology choices. And of course, those fabulous book critics and Sydney Taylor award-winning authors will be ever present!
Our keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph Janes, Associate Professor in the Information School of the University of Washington is supremely engaging and witty, and he’ll share his passion for reference, innovation and our digital world. He’s the founder of the Internet Public Library and writes the Technology column for American Libraries
Those night owls who want to venture out Sunday night to watch fireworks over urban Lake Union will view a wonderful display of good ole July 4th spectaculars. And those arriving earlier on Sunday get to be there for an afternoon of music, poetry and exhibits in the elegant Spanish foyer of the hotel.Planning the convention must be a huge job. What have been some of your best and worst experiences in getting ready for convention?
Well, it’s not over yet so I’d like to reserve that question! It definitely takes many people to pull together but I can already feel the rewards coming!Studies have shown that Seattle is the most literate city in the nation. What makes Seattle such a great place for reading and libraries?
The gray skies might help a bit. Mainly we’re just a bunch quirky characters who love to learn and escape! We have lots of independent bookstores here which seem to be surviving just fine and we do love our incredible libraries!Can you give us a recommendation for some of your favorite Jewish books?
Two of my favorite Jewish adult books which haven’t yet lost their standing are A Pigeon and a Boy
, by Meir Shalev, and The Book Thief
, by Marcus Zusak. I loved Shalev’s brilliant and meaningful story and need to read more books written by him. And one of my fondest AJL convention memories is when I got to meet charming and handsome Marcus Zusak! Aside from his charms, looks (and accent), what makes Book Thief
so wonderful is its unique perspective and outsider look at the Holocaust. Another book that has stayed with me for several years is Anna in the Afterlif
e, by Merrill Joan Gerber, the last of her Anna Goldman series, and the best in my opinion. I can spend a lot of time gazing at the cover art on this raw and expressive book while thinking about people in my own life. Not recommended for the faint-hearted.The Seattle area is the home of both Amazon and Apple. What’s your preference, Kindle or iPad? What are your feelings on digital books?
I still prefer the feel and look of a real book and all of its details! I do appreciate some of the features and portability of digital books and can see they have their place but I have no interest in acquiring one yet.What Seattle experience should visitors be sure not to miss? And what’s your favorite vendor at Pike Place Market?
Besides the Market, which is a must, the Space Needle allows you to see the whole layout of the city and is quite remarkable. Seattle buses are free downtown which makes it easy to explore that area! The Ballard Locks are very impressive, especially if you like boat watching. And of course, I highly recommend one of the tour options: Seattle’s old Jewish neighborhoods led by Washington State Jewish Historical Society or Seattle’s native trees and plants in the Washington Park Arboretum.Toby, thanks for kicking off the Convention Countdown! We can't wait to visit with you in Seattle!
Enter the Mention Convention weekly drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card by linking back to this interview during the week of May 9-15, 2010 on your blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter (hashtag #AJL10) -- just email firstname.lastname@example.org to show us what you did!