A weekend of firsts / ALA Annual Conference 2010
My first ALA conference, my first national conference… it was a good weekend!
Through the generosity of ALA’s Student-to-Staff program (current library school students really should check it out–it’s a great opportunity!), I was able to attend this year’s Annual Conference without having to pay for much of anything except transportation (which, since it was just up the road in Washington, DC, didn’t cost much at all). In exchange for free registration, housing, and a per-diem for meals, I worked for Cognotes, the official ALA conference newspaper. So, basically I got to go to a conference AND get publication credits for my CV–free!
I’ll post highlights here, and my program notes in another post.
Dinner at Lalibela with fellow Student-to-Staffers. I organized a dinner at a centrally located, highly rated Ethiopian restaurant the night before the conference started so we would have a chance to meet face-to-face, since there was no time set during the conference for us to meet as a group. The turnout was really good–about 30 of the 40 showed up. It was nice to be able to recognize faces later on in the conference, and especially fun to meet up with other current students since I don’t get to see my classmates at all in my online program. There was much library-esque humor, including discussions on creating a Dewey Decimal Dating System and LCSH (Library of Congress Sex Headings) in order to help librarians date.
NMRT Mentoring Social. I signed up for a conference mentor through the New Members Round Table, and met up with her at the social. As a relatively new librarian herself, she had a great perspective on which programs would be most useful to me as a library school student/soon-to-be librarian.
Newbery/Caldecott Award Banquet. Through the generosity of publisher Marshall Cavendish, I was able to attend this big-ticket (close to $100) event. I’ve never seen so many dressed-up librarians in one place! It was held in the Hilton, too, for increased swank factor. While no superstars like Neil Gaiman were crowned with this years Caldecott or Newbery awards, it was unexpectedly moving to hear Jerry Pinckney and Rebecca Stead’s teary, grateful acceptance speeches. As I (and two other ticket winners) attended the event under Marshall Cavendish’s aegis, we got to sit next to the publisher and some of her big-name authors and get introduced to exciting people like the past-president of ASCLA. It was an amazing experience–I left starry-eyed–and definitely encourage you to apply for one of the awards!
Additionally, one of the ticket recipients was a Student-to-Staffer from last year, who also worked for Cognotes AND organized her year’s pre-conference dinner; we took the metro home afterwards and vowed to organize a reunion dinner for past Student-to-Staffers at a future conference. See my write-up for Cognotes here (page 6).
Recommendations for first-time attendees, based on my own experience this weekend:
- Wear comfy shoes. While most of the events/programs I attended were located near each other, I was very grateful for my loafers the couple times I did need to walk a bit!
- Bring an iPod or smartphone if at all possible. I don’t have either and was forced to print off directions to after-hours social locations before I left for the conference, and ended up missing a Vegetarian and Vegan Librarians meetup because I’d copied the wrong address.
- Have a plan B. And C and D. A lot of guides for first-time conference attendees make this suggestion, but I went a little overboard and made note of 3 or 4 different programs during each session slot, and this turned out to be really helpful when I decided I didn’t want to walk a mile in sweltering DC heat and would rather just attend the session across the street.
- Bring business cards. Networking is a dirty word for a lot of people, but I am on the hunt for a job and looking to expand my network of colleagues I can ask questions of or work with on projects in the future, so I gave them to anyone I made a solid connection with (rather than just distributing them willy-nilly).
- Attend vendor breakfasts/luncheons (you may have to sign up for vendor e-mails when you register in order to receive invitations). Even if you aren’t working in a professional capacity yet, it’s helpful to know what’s new in libraryland, the food is usually superb (and free!), and it’s another great place to make contacts as you chitchat with your tablemates over the meal. Plus sometimes they have well-known authors give talks and hand out book freebies; I went to one breakfast where Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!, spoke and got a free copy of the book.
- If you’re at all interested in cooking, visit the Cookbook Pavilion in the Exhibit Hall when cookbook authors are scheduled to give cooking demos. They usually give out free copies of the author’s cookbook at the end of the demo!
- Attend a session outside your comfort zone. I attended a joint PLA/YALSA/Reforma program on reaching Latino teens on assignment for Cognotes, which I otherwise wouldn’t have been interested in, and it was unexpectedly full of great ideas for reaching all kinds of patrons.