Doing the Super ALA Shuffle

Tomorrow evening, I’ll board a train to Chicago and the American Library Association Annual Conference.

Despite being an ALA member for most of the years I’ve been a professional librarian, I’ve only attended one other annual conference, also in Chicago. Annual always seems too big with too many people, too many exhibits, and….well, just too much everything!

Now that I’m on some committees, I have to be there. A few weeks ago, as I started getting my stuff together, I was feeling trepidation because of all the above reasons. At some point, that changed. As I started looking at the conference schedule, spent some time reading other people’s thoughts about how to “do” annual, and chatting online with people about different events and sessions, I started to get excited.

Conferences are great places to combat professional fatigue, isolation (I’m at least 40 miles away from another academic librarian), and general malaise. But, I needed to formulate a good plan of exactly what I wanted to achieve and do while I’m in Chicago. Otherwise, annual is overwhelming.

Here’s my list:

  • Professional Service – I was so excited when I was appointed to my first ALA committee. They are a pleasure to work with and I think we are making a difference in the organization. I’ve been helped along in my career and it’s important for me to pay that forward. If you haven’t become involved yet, I’d recommend going to one of those all committee meetings and volunteering for something that interests you.
  • Networking – At a conference this large, this can be a tough one. But, it’s possible if you can find your niche. I’m a knitter and will be spending some time at CraftCon in the Networking Uncommons. It’s easier for me to network when it’s a laid back atmosphere. I also plan to step way outside my comfort zone and approach presenters of particularly inspiring/interesting sessions. Those are people I want to know and most librarians are friendly when you approach them with a compliment or question.
  • Learning – Yes, this is an obvious. Conferences are for learning. If you’ve looked at the program, there are so many different ways of learning. So, I’ve targeted the types of sessions that work best for me. I like discussion groups, roundtables, and panel sessions. More interactive formats work better than being talked at for an hour. Figure out what works best for you and what your specific interests are when you look at that massive conference scheduler.
  • Fun – Depending on how you are financing your time there, this can be a little trickier. I’m paying my own way this time and I’m familiar with Chicago. So, I plan to do some non-conference related things, like a yarn shop trip and an evening at the theater. But, even if your college is paying your way, you can still have fun. There are so many social events, particularly in the evenings, that you should be able to find something to suit you. I’d highly recommend stopping in at Battledecks if you want to keep your fun “professional.”

If you want to know more about how to prepare yourself for ALA, take a look at these blog posts:

Updated ALA Survival Tips and Packing Suggestions for #ALA2013

ALA Conference Survival Tips – 35 Conferences Later

Maximizing the Conference Experience – 11 Tips for Smart Attendees

Getting the Most From a Conference: 10 Networking Tips

An Introvert’s Guide to Getting the Most from a Conference

Top 10 Ways to Get the Most out of a Conference


3 thoughts on “Doing the Super ALA Shuffle

  1. Jill, I’m a knitter too! I hadn’t even thought of making a yarn shop visit, but it’s on my agenda now!
    Thank you for posting this. This will be my first ALA conference, and my first national-level conference of any kind and I’m both nervous and excited. I will be co-chairing an interest group meeting, but other than that I’m not sure what to do. These links will help.


  2. Enjoy! I love ALA and hate to miss it this year. But the library remodel takes a front seat to my time. Remember to pace yourself and take downtime – even if it is in the lobby. Enjoy those busrides. Great for networking.


  3. What great tips! I will not be in Chicago this year, but this will definitely be of use for future conferences. I wish I had read something like this before heading to Midwinter in Seattle 🙂


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