Saturday, January 25, 2014

My First American Library Association Conference

Well, technically, it was the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Still, it was the first national library event and ALA meeting that I have ever attended, and I was very excited. 
The Penguin Book Truck parked inside the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Photo taken by the author of this blog.

Part of the reason for my excitement was that the ALA Midwinter Meeting was taking place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a city I've never visited before. So I arrived a couple days early in order to hit up local hotspots and do touristy stuff before attending the annual meeting on Saturday, January 25, 2014.
The Next Page, whose profits benefit the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Photo taken by the author of this blog. 

Of course I went to see the Liberty Bell, but I also checked out the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site and stopped by a few bookstores, including the independent Joseph Fox Bookshop and the Next Page, a bookstore whose funds go toward supporting the Free Library of Philadelphia. I also ate at a few vegan restaurants - Vedge, Soy Cafe, HipCityVeg - where both the food and the service were excellent, and while in the city, I caught the garage rock band The Detroit Cobras at Johnny Brenda's, a live-music venue with a great vibe.
The 2nd Floor of the Philadelphia Convention Center, where sessions took place.
Photo taken by the author of this blog. 

So when my day to attend the ALA Midwinter Meeting arrived, I was a wee bit exhausted. (TIP: Get enough rest the night before a conference.) But slight fatigue did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of a first-time attendee. It helped tremendously that I had planned my schedule for Saturday ahead of time, so I didn't feel too overwhelmed upon entering the Philadelphia Convention Center. From 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., I knew where I wanted to go and what sessions I wanted to attend. I was able to go to most of them. (TIP: Arrive at a conference session early because seating is limited.) It felt like a very productive day.
Many brightly colored exhibitor booths on the convention floor.
Photo taken by the author of this blog.

A bonus of attending a national library event is that publishers who are exhibiting offer a lot of free stuff at their booths (galleys of soon-to-be-published titles, bookmarks and buttons, and sweet things to eat). Or they sell their books at a deeply discounted price to conference-goers. One big-name publisher was selling brand-new paperbacks for $1 each and hardcovers for $5 each. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I ended up buying The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir by Dave Von Ronk and Crochet at Play: Fun Hats, Scarves, Clothes, and Toys for Kids to Enjoy by Kat Goldin. With such great deals on good books, it was tempting to buy more than you should. Indeed, I saw many of my fellow conference-goers sagging under ALA tote bags weighted with books and free goods.
Goodies brought back from the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Philadelphia.
Photo taken by the author of this blog.

I left the Philadelphia Convention Center shortly after the last session, which was the ALA Presidential Candidates Forum in which two candidates for ALA president, Sari Feldman and Mary Farrell, introduced themselves and their viewpoints to the voting ALA membership. I just barely made it to the train station in time due to the long line at the coat and baggage check (despite the two volunteers busting their butts to retrieve people's things) and the long wait for a cab outside the convention center. (TIP: If you have to catch a scheduled flight or train, leave the conference location earlier than you think you need to in order to avoid any additional stress.) Fortunately, however, I did arrive to the station in time but it didn't matter - my train was delayed due to a major snowstorm that had hit the northeastern United States a few days earlier. The whole northeastern corridor was still straightening itself out after having been walloped with the white stuff.

My first American Library Association conference was an eye-opening experience and a positive one. I not only took advantage of the expertise of veterans in the field of librarianship, but I also had the pleasure of making new connections with others like me who are about to enter their last semester of library school or who are newly graduated from library school. I like to think that we can be a source of support - and be a resource - for each other. Another thing I'm glad I did was having business cards made beforehand; being able to exchange cards makes keeping in touch so much easier. I was also made aware of things I need to work on personally: being more comfortable talking about myself and being more at ease with talking before a crowd. I know that both will come with time and practice. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to my next library conference! Still got enough business cards left over...

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