Why I Heart ALA
My fiance cannot comprehend ALA. He’s a math professor and goes to lots of math conferences every year, but even the largest of them can’t hold a candle to ALA Annual. To give you some perspective, the biggest math conference of the year can fit in New Orleans at the same time two other academic disciplines (political science and religious studies) are holding their conferences in the city!
And then there’s ALA. We’re so big that there are only a few cities in the country that can hold us–20-28 thousand strong. (You can see past conference attendance figures here.) Local businesses put out welcome signs for us. You might not think it, but even without our conference badges on, we stand out. You put that many librarians together in one place, and there are going to be a lot of parties; my fiance still finds this hard to believe, but librarians are some pretty hard partyers. Even at my relatively smallish state conference, folks stay up until the wee hours of the morning at the one conference-sponsored social. You put this many people together who only get to talk in person once or twice a year and there’s bound to be some late nights. One conference guide I read actually recommends taking hydration tablets for when you’ve been up till 2 but have a meeting at 8am! And guess who’s taking him up on that?
What does all this mean? So many interesting sessions happening concurrently that my planned conference schedule usually has about 4 programs for every time slot. Free books. LOTS of free books. Vendors giving out booze and snacks in the Exhibit Hall (the fact that the Exhibit Hall alone takes 4-5 hours to get through is also a source of amazement).
And, oh yeah, the most important part: the sheer energizing giddiness of spending 4 straight days with people who are just as excited and passionate about the profession as you. Going to ALA is my absolute favorite part of being a librarian: it affirms all the reasons I became one, inspires me with ideas on how to become a better one, and going has always led to so many opportunities to get involved and connections that have turned into longstanding professional ties. And it’s just so much fun, even for an introvert like me–the book signings, the cooking stage, hearing literary heroes and professional crushes speak (I was in the front row for Neil Gaiman’s talk with Nancy Pearl last year!), all the amazing things other people are doing in their libraries.
I get on the plane to Anaheim tomorrow. I can’t wait!
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