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Balloonies in Albuquerque

October 11, 2004

We were “balloonies”–not universally welcomed in Albuquerque from the sound of it. But no loss. The approbation of local radio personalities would pale beside the delight of that Saturday morning a week ago.

We got up at 4:00 a.m. to get everyone and everything loaded, and then drove the couple miles from the motel to Balloon Fiesta Park, where we joined thousands of other cars creeping four lanes wide into the parking lots in the dark.

But we arrived in time to see the first balloons light up in the dark. About a dozen balloons went up–the Dawn Patrol–to catch the first light of dawn.

Next, they started the Mass Ascension. If this sounds spiritual to you, well … it is. The park was a peaceful, reverent place with many thousands of happy people smiling and looking up.

For two and half hours, balloons rose up out of the field in wave after wave. I could have had thoughts of inflation and hot air in this politically charged election year, but it never crossed my mind.

The Mass Ascension was whimsical, ephemeral, dream-like. Hundreds of balloons taking shape with nothing but hot air was uncanny.

Then, on Monday, I had lunch with the Salida Rotary Club and spoke about the library, and I thought more about hot air. The talk was good enough, I suppose, and Rotarians make a respectful audience, but I was not properly prepared.

I had my notes, but I was lulled into complacency by my comfort with this group, and so I did not plan as carefully as I might have. It brought to mind what Walter Cronkite said about Andy Rooney: “We’ve all had the experience of listening to him talk until an idea comes along.”

I found myself considering during my talk what I should have considered beforehand: Is this the most interesting library stuff to talk about?

So when Friday came along–Career Day for the 2nd Grade at Longfellow–I was better prepared. When I was first invited to participate by Jan Cook, she suggested I include some hands-on or visual material, in case student attention flags.

She said, for example, Jeff Schweitzer from Laughing Ladies would be there, and he talks about cooking and whips something up for the class. I said, “Come on. I can’t compete with that.”

(Proof: As I walked by, some kids called me into their room. “Look at the cookie up there!” Stuck on the ceiling beam faraway was a fresh cookie. Good shot, Chef!)

I did come up with a plan. I brought a laptop, digital projector, and a screen, and hooked up to the Internet. Five different classes came through. Near the end of each session, we used the AskColorado online reference service to chat with a live librarian over the Internet.

We would agree on a question based on each class’s recent study and send it to the librarian. For example, we asked about which Indians have lived in the Salida area, which states the Utes have lived in, and for a picture of the Salida depot. The librarians found information online for us and sent it to our screen.

It was a good demonstration of new things that librarians do and of new ways students can use the library. The AskColorado service also has live homework help now.

My thanks to the Rotary Club for helping me prepare for the 2nd Grade.

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