1) I don’t know when Chicago built the convention center, but the roadways that take buses from the convention center up to the hotels in the Loop and beyond are just brilliant. Now if they could figure out a way to get taxis to come to the convention center on Sunday nights.
2) Trying to find lunch beyond ice cream and fudge at the convention center smacked of The Hunger Games. Long lines, violent stares, mad dashes for seats at the Hyatt McCormick buffet, strategic alliances with single diners sitting at a table for four…weapons were sheathed, at least until 11:45 a.m.
3) My days were evenly split between committee meetings and general interest sessions. With one exception, I chose to attend sessions outside of the scope of my day-to-day responsibilities. And I had a blast! I only walked out of one session, where the presenters subjected their audience to picture after picture after picture of what they had done in their library. Ugh.
4) I attended a pre-conference on innovative library services and programs in the digital era. I highly recommend that you check out Primeros Libros, a partnership between Mexican, Spanish and U.S. libraries whose mission is to build a digital collection of the first imprints published in the Americas between 1539 and 1601. Also take a look at the Biodiversity Heritage Library. I began my professional life as an archivist, and I am awed at the quality of both collections.
5) There was a perverse dichotomy between ALA and a “performance fitness” conference that was being held in another section of the convention center. It gave a new meaning to “cognitive dissonance.”
6) If the amount of free books, ARCs and swag being given out on the exhibit floor is any indication of the state of the overall economy, then I think the economy is well on its way to better health. A half hour of pillaging on Friday night netted 21 free books; a half hour of pillaging on Saturday morning netted another 25. Forty-six is my personal best for book pillaging at ALA—the kind ladies at the FedEx office became my new best friends.
7) On Sunday, I attended two events that made me feel proud to be a librarian, and gave my sagging spirits a lift. The first was listening to Cory Doctorow speak about the relevance of librarians, library spaces and technology. The second was attending the Carnegie Medal presentation, MC’ed by Nancy Pearl. Both made me squee like a fan girl (Cory Doctorow gave me a high-five! I have a Nancy Pearl doll on my desk!), but more than that was having the opportunity to hear authors I hold in deep respect say how important libraries and librarians were, and are, to their work and to their lives in general. I think it is very rare for those of us in the two-year world to be told by our students that we make a difference in their lives. It has happened to me on occasion, but honestly not enough to outweigh the day-to-day grind. So it was wonderful to hear from Doctorow, and Richard Ford, and Louise Erdrich and the other finalists for the Carnegie Medal just how important we are to them.
8) Next year takes ALA to Las Vegas. It was 117 degrees in Vegas this past weekend…and don’t say it’s a dry heat!