Recently, I attended the 2015 ALA Conference in San Francisco on behalf of my library, and was able to act as a mentor for a co-worker who was attending her first ever library conference.
For anyone attending ALA for the first time, I’ll share the advice I gave to her:
- Don’t feel you have to attend every single session (the ALA scheduler app is awesome in helping plan how you want to spend your time at the conference).
- Give yourself some time to decompress/relax away from the conference.
- Wear comfortable shoes because, more than likely, you’ll be do a lot of walking to the different sessions and the exhibit hall.
- Attend a session outside of your work area (this will give you a chance to learn something new and meet new people).
- Don’t forget to eat and drink (you’re at your best when you’re hydrated and fed)
- Bring business cards to assist when meeting new people at the conference (I’ve made lots of wonderful friends from meeting at the conference as well as meeting online via ALA Think Tank Facebook Page).
Since this was my second time attending the conference, I was able to do things differently than I did last time. Prior to attending, I did research to find vegan restaurants and was happy to find a delicious vegan restaurant at the nearby mall. I am part of a vegan librarian Facebook group (Veggie Librarians) so I was able to meet up with two fellow librarians while at the conference.
Whenever I attend conferences, I always live tweet quotes that stick with me so that others can be informed as well. The first session I attended was “Building the New Nostalgia: Making the Case for Why Libraries Matter”. During this session, the author of “Bibliotech” and a panel of others discussed how libraries can remain relevant in an increasingly digital age. My main take away from that session was that libraries need to move from doing transactions to creating transformations in order to get support from their community.
Another great session I went to that stuck with me was “Girls Like Fart Jokes & Boys Have Feelings: Beyond Gendered Reader’s Advisory” because it address the separation of boys’ books and girls’ books. Since I do book ordering at my library, I was especially interested what the panel would have to say; two take away quotes from this session were “there are no boy books or girl books, only books for people,” and that “reading’s a constellation, not one fixed point in space; saying boy or girl books stunt a child’s ability to read.”
I also enjoy the ALA Conference because of the amount of free stuff you can get, such as advance reader copies of books, tote bags, posters, signed copies of books, and t-shirts. I tend to bring back lots of swag from the exhibit hall for my co-workers and I like seeing all of the companies with different resources for libraries. I was also able to meet one of my favorite vegan cookbook authors, Bryant Terry, get a signed copy of his newest book.
I am glad I attended the conference this year on behalf of my library and am grateful for all of the new information I learned and new friends I made. If you have an opportunity to attend the ALA Annual Conference, you should definitely take advantage of it!