I feel the need to post some sort of wrap-up for ALA Annual in Anaheim, though tomorrow marks two weeks since I returned home from the conference. Already? Missed New Orleans but went to D.C. and made it last minute to Anaheim; each time that I attend Annual, I love it and keep learning each year how to get the most out of the conference. So without further ado, here’s the
Top 5 Ways to Get the Most from ALA Annual:
1) Go with a plan of what you want to attend and when. Simple but effective. Annual is overwhelming and even the paper program (who knows how much longer they will actually print those) is a lot to page through itself. Online, ALA had a cool Scheduler for the conference that allowed searching keywords and other things to find just what you are interested in and hone in on what you want to attend. I’m not one to go to the Exhibition Hall. In D.C., I was a grad student who wasn’t SLM or into YA so I perceived the Hall for merely grabbing kids/youth books or talking to vendors to work out deals for your libraries. This year, being from a vendor but attending on my own and not helping with the booth, I still felt the Hall wasn’t for me since I don’t currently work for a library and have buying power, and I still don’t need to pick up kids/youth books or graphic novels for my students/library. But I walked the floor and the author and illustrator signed books literally handed to me, I gave to my School Librarian friend for her library and students. Lastly, looking ahead at what was offered, I paid for the all-day workshop on linked data Friday so when I signed in, I knew at least what I for sure was attending first and it jump started my whole ALA because the workshop immersed me and allowed me to meet so many cool catalogers and coders and make new connections besides learning a lot and hearing about what some believe is the future for cataloging as well as the Internet.
2) Be flexible with your plan. The variety and options conferences offer truly make it a fun time. While you go with an idea of what you want to attend and do each day, allowing for change can give you the best experience. Once at the conference, I went to the first couple of sessions then decided to look through the program to see what else was offered. The workshop and session for linked data was very similar and it hit me that it’d be more valuable for me to attend sessions that would teach me something that I didn’t know and different topics would help with that. If you read my previous posts from ALA, or chose to go back now and read them 🙂 , you’ll see that I switched up my plan and went to a publishing, responsive web design, and learning styles session that each expanded me knowledge in library areas that are not usually my preference. I like seeing the library as a whole and understanding each part and aspect to know how they all work together.
3) Serendipity chooses you but you also choose it. Attended a session and hearing something that clicks an idea into place or gives you inspiration provides one way of looking at serendipity. Sitting next to the right person and being asked to talk to your neighbor to discussion a session topic initiates another side of serendipity (like my experience at the learning styles session). But I learned that serendipity is created as well; especially at a conference, people are chatty! Talk to anyone and everyone because you never know who people are or what they know or if you can help each other out. I met Nancy Pearl just by being friendly and introducing myself. I offered help and encouraged someone to e-mail me after the conference concerning the Safari product that I work on for ProQuest. Also, I met a Safari user, and a volleyball dad their for the tournament, in line at Starbucks and we both learned things from each other about the product and using it–I tweeted on June 24 that I catalog for him because I do think of the end user and what will best help them find this item and know exactly what it’s about. If a conversation is just small talk that’s fine but you never know when you might really help someone out by being open and friendly, such as when I explained cataloging and why MARC records are important to a small publisher who attended ALA and a metadata session to learn more. That was a favorite part of the whole conference for me and made the trip and costs worth it. Make the conference work for you while enjoying the ride as well! For more stories, read my other ALA posts. The point of a conference is to meet people so introduce yourself to others and especially panelists!
4) Take notes and write down what you learned at sessions and every evening. Though tired and wanting to hang out with colleagues, friends, and my librarian husband every night when the conference doors closed for the night, I made sure to post a summary of my day each evening to my blog before bed. It kept me thinking about what I attended and why, and if something didn’t work out well or I didn’t particularly enjoy something as much as I thought I would, it allowed me to be flexible for the next day and spurred me to page through the program to find more sessions that I would enjoy or learn about something that I could apply to my work or career. Writing notes and thoughts during sessions and workshops helps me make connections and remember things better. I hauled my computer along every day and could have just typed but I find that more distracting than just pen and paper, yet it turned useful when some sessions become interactive–such as the responsive web design one, and then it’s nice to pull slides or websites or code up on your computer in tandem.
5) Get involved. ALA is much more than just a professional organization run by a single board. Many committees and subcommittees make up ALA and offer tons of opportunities to get involved if you want. Most of the sessions are put together by these committees and subcommittees and even their meetings can include panels and talks about topics related to the group so it’s worth looking those over and attending them as well; as one person at ALA told me, unless the session/event/meeting is marked “closed”, anyone at ALA can attend it. Besides helping out with ALA itself, there are other ways to get involved such as finding out from editors and library journals if they have publishing opportunities. Also, there are related groups such as Spectrum Scholars and Emerging Leaders, and more. Prior to ALA Anaheim, I responded to a call for volunteers for an ALCTS subcommittee and can proudly say that I accepted the two-year position of Co-Vice Chair 2012-2013 followed by Co-Chair 2013-2014 for the Cataloging Norms Interest Group! This means I’m attending Mid-Winter and Annual for the next two years (four conferences!) to serve on the subcommittee and help plan their meetings and conference sessions. I can’t wait to be involved and see where this leads me next!
Finally, take 10 minutes and listen to the super awesome “Live from ALA Annual 2012” LiTTech episode #36 by Learning Technologies Librarian, and grad school friend of mine, Emily Thompson. The brief episode takes live audio clips that Emily got from ALA attendees–including a few famous authors who talk about the importance of libraries and the ALA conference. Definitely worth the listen, and check out the show notes to see who everyone is! I’m in there twice, once talking excitedly about my blog stats during the conference–I tweet and handed out lots of personal business cards with my blog and Twitter handle listed on them–and another time as the person who Addie tells the fire alarm story too–where you around for that? I think I was getting lunch then and missed the exodus of librarians from the conference center; listen to find out what cause it! Also, Emily and Addie have another episode up that’s there wrap-up from ALA, so at least I’m not the only one who’s had a lapse in posting it. I’ll listen to it tomorrow at work, since I have a well-deserved, and needed, day off today. Again, lesson number 4, write notes and blog that same day; this post was supposed to get done on the plane ride back and be up when I got home to my Internet but time can get away especially when you are recovering from at very packed five days of busy conference going, followed by trying to return to your normal work routine while still jazzed from all the cool people, sessions, and ideas from ALA Annual.
Hoped this helped and you picked up some great tips! I’m sure I’ll learn more tips and tricks when I attend Mid-Winter this year while getting involved. I’ve never been to Seattle and cannot wait! See you there? Or find me in Chicago next summer!