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It was a privilege attending AJL conference in Washington DC this past week. Last minute invitation for a road trip from one of my biggest fans- Mrs. RuthE Levy, owner of Oy Toys- she believes in and promotes my Shira’s series with gusto. I accepted the invitation as an adventure… And what an adventure it was; twelve hours on the highways- each way, lodging with RuthE’s family in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, eating vegan foods and visiting the DC sights- just to name a few!

At the Sheraton conference hotel, I was welcomed with curious eyes wondering “who are you and why are you here?”

I started observing my surroundings, taking images in and asked myself: this event represents the Jewish literary world– how are we doing? What is the state of the people of the book?

Three categories came to mind- archaic, nostalgic and forward- looking:

Here are some categorized AJL snapshots:

Nostalgic:

  • Peddler style merchants
  • Rare books collections
  • Sixty – average age of participants

Archaic:

  • Publishers appealing to the lowest common denominator in the name of profit
  • Not really finding any information
  • Socks with sandals
  • “This is how it was always done”

Forward-looking:

  • Librarians collaborating
  • Mention of a growing need of diversity in books
  • Young media specialist ask about Creator Hour
  • #AJLjubilee
  • Self publishing of Jewish books
  • Identifying the need for more Jewish middle-grade books, minor holidays books and biographies
  • Librarians loving Shira’s series

My impression is that the state of the people of the book is stable but in need of a 21st century infusion. More technology, collaboration, inclusion, open mind and acceptance of new, diverse books and methods are crucial, if we want to remain at the forefront of literacy.

To us, the forward-looking People of the book!

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