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Notes from BookExpo: a waist- level view

This week has been complicated by icepacks, crutches, and the need for foot elevation. Fortunately, David met me at Dulles Airport Thursday night, so I have his help on the DC/VA leg of this trip.

The hotel here loaned us a wheelchair and that’s how I went to BookExpo yesterday. I’m learning how much extra time things take when one is disabled. It’s enlightening, as well, about accessibility. In theory, city streets have been made accessible with ramps at corners and lights that beep, but here in DC we’ve found that there are holes, uneven paving slabs, and brick sections with chunks missing or loose. Yesterday David was waiting for me after parking the car, while I had a meeting about GUANXI, our new China newsletter. He parked the wheelchair under a tree and sat in it reading. He said people smiled at him kindly as they walked past, and we agreed that given the dilapidated state of this borrowed chair he should have put a cup out, too.

Library conferences have always seemed to me the least well-organized meetings I’ve ever attended–long lines, an absence of clear signage and other information, confusing layout–and I expected BookExpo to be better, but similar. The first thing that struck me, as we struggled via two separate elevators to get to the exhibits floor, was the number of overweight, badly dressed women struggling in corners with quantities of overloaded bags. They were intent of the job of organizing their possessions, and if we hadn’t been inside the convention center I would have thought they were homeless. But the bags were full of trophies from the aisles of the exhibition.

Who were they? I wondered. I know there’s a feeding frenzy in the exhibits at ALA meetings, people cruising the aisles intent on the booty they can carry off. I just hope those women were not librarians; limited funding or no, that combination of avarice and desperation is very unappealing.

More about BookExpo later; I need to soak my foot again. I have moved on to hot water treatment now, and I’m hoping by the time we get to University of Richmond meeting Tuesday I’ll be walking again.

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