Thursday, July 4, 2013

I survived my first ALA Conference

Was going to post while at ALA, but 1. I didn't bring my computer and 2. though I had access to my iPhone, when I wasn't conferencing I was too busy having fun. I LOVE CHICAGO. It was so nice to be back in the city, a little over a year since my last trip in. I went in prepared to feel a little overwhelmed, which I did, initially--I mean there were about 20,000+ people there!--but, I played it smart and decided to only attend speakers and sessions that were around McCormick Place, choosing to avoid hitting the outlier sessions. Even though I came with a schedule of what I wanted to see and do, I lived in the moment and switched up my schedule if I saw something that caught my eye. I also wasn't sure how much time I would spend in the Exhibitors Hall (7 hours!?) or how tired I would be each day!

Things I learned at my first American Library Association Conference:
  • Wear comfy shoes. I chose Tevas, which actually didn't look as bad as I thought they would with skirts. 
  • Don't feel bad about dressing down: I saw EVERY kind of librarian dress--hipsters with ironic cat sweaters; Abercrombie model malebrarians with Jonas Bros. skinny jeans; sweater and sensible pants older set librarians with glasses and chains; every kind. And lots of people were wearing jeans. I dressed up for the first two days (especially at a session where I had to give a speech and accept an award), but wore jeans the last day. 
  • Talk to people, everybody and anybody, you'll be really surprised at the connections you make!
  • Bring a water bottle you can refill
  • Bring snacks--the Conference Center food was overpriced and terrible so I was starving marvin by the end of each day
  • Hit as many vendors as you can, take their free swag, they want you too!
  • Bring some cash if you want to buy stuff from the Conference's ALA store or to buy books for yourself/your library to have authors sign!
  • Bring a camera or phone with camera capability; be a paparazzi! You won't be disappointed and you might be surprised by the photo ops that arise!
  • When we registered we were given ALA handbags, and many of the vendors give you those too, but with all the other swag and free stuff I accumulated I was really glad I brought a back pack--my arms got really tired of carrying all the swag bags, so I tossed everything in my backpack and kept trooping on.
  • STRETCH! Take time to relax and stretch--my muscles were definitely tight by the end of the day. I found a corner of the Conference Ctr. that wasn't being used and did some downward facing dogs and other yoga stretches--no lie. 
  • Try and go to the free receptions that your vendors offer. I didn't take advantage of this because I was staying with a friend who took me out for dinners, but if I were to go to another conference I would definitely hit these up. Can we say FREE!?
  • Don't be afraid to get up during a session and sneak out so you can try another one if you're not enjoying something
  • Don't feel bad about leaving before the end of the day. No sense falling asleep in a session. Take a break. Go get a beer, catch up with others about their Conference experience thus far, and get rested up and ready for the next day!
  • Bring business cards: I wound up giving more of these to vendors than other librarians, but I was glad I'd brought some.
  • After the Conference follow up with people you met/connected with; you never know who may wind up being a future co-worker or boss
  • Eat local food. I love Chicago dogs and Chicago style pizza, so when Scott asked me where he should take me for dinner, those were the two things I requested; and what better way to eat good local food, than have a local take you out to the good restaurants!
  • Enjoy every minute. Even though it's crazy busy, and you get tired of long bathroom lines, this is definitely a helluva an experience!
Mid-winter Conference is in Philly...fantasizing about going...and what about next summer's conference in Las Vegas...?

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