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Permit No. 27

ALA Cognotes
2009 ANNUAL CONFERENCE — HIGHLIGHTS

Lopez Speaks of Acceptance, Endurance and Redemption Through Arts at Closing Session

By Frederick J. Augustyn, Jr.
The Library of Congress

Journalist for more that 30 years, author of three novels and of an acclaimed work of non-fiction, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music, recently adapted as a motion picture, Steve Lopez spoke movingly of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a homeless violinist on Los Angeles’s Skid Row who is gradually confronting the challenges of schizophrenia through a dedication to his craft. Lopez was the Closing Session speaker of the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago July 14.

He first noted his own connection to libraries and librarians. “You could not have picked a more appropriate speaker. Can you believe that I was married in a library?” That happy venue was the Free Library of Philadelphia, Logan Circle. “There is no better place to get married, in a beautiful building surrounded by books.”

Lopez teased that he would like “one person here to agree to retire so that my son, who just graduated from McGill University [with a library degree], can get a job.” Seeing no one offering to step aside for his son, who has been on the library job market for about a year, Lopez nevertheless thanked librarians for the roles that they played in getting his book (which has been featured in One Book, One City programs in Philadelphia and Cincinnati) and its message out.

The Soloist encourages its readers to “look past generalizations and stereotypes.” Lopez recounted his search for a story and his initial encounter and later growing friendship with Ayers, a street artist in LA who performed on a two-string violin, not for monetary contributions, but for joy and solace just a few blocks from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Once a brilliant student at the Cleveland Music School Settlement and Julliard, mental illness derailed Ayers’ career. Lopez’s first article in the Los Angeles Times led to a book, and a movie version of this artist’s story of “just trying to get back on track.” Publicity facilitated newspapers readers’ donations of several musical instruments; Ayers’ involvement with the Lamp Community local health care facility; a move into an apartment; and invitations to attend concerts and

» see page 13


The Brain is a Beautiful Thing

by Stacy L. Voeller
Minnesota State University
Moorhead

ALA’s Auditorium Speakers’ Series author, Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained neuro-anatomist, engaged her audience July 13 by relating her own experiences with neuroplasticity. Bolte Taylor has spent her life studying and teaching others about the complex beauty of the human brain.

On the morning of December 10, 1996, her life took an unexpected turn: she experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel broke in the left side of her brain. In her book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Bolte Taylor tells of her unique, and somewhat ironic, journey into and back out of the silent abyss of the wounded brain. The book shares details of her stroke and the eight years it took to completely repair her mind and recalibrate her understanding of the world, according to the insights she gained from her intimate experience with an injured brain.

Bolte Taylor began her talk, excitedly addressing the audience with “I’m thrilled to be here, but more than that I’m thrilled to be here to talk about the brain. Nothing thrills me more than talking about this beautiful organ inside our head. As I lost my left hemisphere, I lost my ability to connect with the outside world in words.” Having

» see page 12

ProQuest CEO Marty Kahn and scholarship recipients kick off the ALA/ProQuest Scholarship Bash, Great Impressions at the Art Institute of Chicago July 11.

Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.