ALA2013: A first-timer’s first impression

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing posts about things I learned during #ALA2013 (formerly #ALA13). I will also set up a book-review tab or a feed from Goodreads (or both), because I SWEAR I will do my best to actually review the free ARCs that I got in the exhibit hall. Except for the books that one publisher practically forced on people because very few actually stopped and lingered to peruse their books, but that’s another story.

So, what was my first impression about ALA2013?

In one word, overwhelming.

I had to set aside my tendency to want to know exactly what to do and where to go and learn to go with the flow. At least for the first day, until I could get oriented, and then I was able to get around more readily after that.

In more words:

  • Getting badges was super easy. So was picking up my pack for the fun run–except for the fact that nobody really knew how we could get to the start point on the Lakefront Trail.
  • It was hard navigating McCormick Place to find the far-flung rooms for the sessions. The numbers aren’t actually that intuitive, and the building layout map was surprisingly deprived of this crucial bit of information.
  • It’s actually not that easy to network unless you are extroverted enough to strike up conversations with strangers sitting next to you. I did make some great connections with people, though, when I got up the courage to strike up conversations.
  • I had just the right balance of go-go-go and resting. Next time, I want to go to more sessions now I know that I can totally shoehorn more information into my brain.
  • Why are all the good sessions scheduled all at the same time? There were two time slots that had about 4-6 different sessions I wanted to go to in different parts of the center. Ack!
  • I need to redesign my business cards to include more WHITE space when I run out of the old ones. I had to use a freebie sticky note pad and stick it on my card for people to scribble on.
  • True to the librarian nature, everyone was helpful if you asked for help. I was able to snag an adorable (and free!) cat tote because I asked a stranger where she got her cat bag. She went right into reference librarian mode.
  • Penguin, Random House, and other major publisher booths are nuts. NUTS. No matter which way I was going, I always somehow was going against the stream of people. Lines are vague. I accidentally cut a couple of lines because I had no idea what was going on. They need to set up some rope.
  • The booklet of coupons that you’re supposed to fill out and drop off with booths are mostly worthless. They just scan your exhibit pass. A few accepted the coupons, but most didn’t.
  • Exhibitors of services and equipment tend to ignore you if you don’t have your place of employment on your badge (as I accidentally didn’t.) They loved my husband who showed up in a suit one day, though. He got a ton more free stuff  and had better conversations with them than I did because of that. Memo to self: wear a suit at the next conference.
  • Even if you don’t make purchasing decisions at your library, even if you are still low on the totem pole, go see the services/equipment exhibitors. You can learn quite a bit from them, actually. I even learned how to properly mend a book from one–and I was so glad I wasn’t the only one making the mending mistakes that I had.
  • Why does Scientology have a booth there? I was half tempted to see if I can get myself considered a Suppressive person just for kicks.
  • I still haven’t figured out the magic of getting oh so many ARCs that people keep talking about. I got quite a few, but then I realized how pitiful my stack of books were compared to people who actually had two tote bags full of books. TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.
  • I got to meet up with Naomi House and several other head editors for INALJ–and I am so glad to actually meet them in person. Even if you study or volunteer digitally, take every advantage to meet people in person.
  • Speaking of which, the San Jose State University SLIS reception was fantastic. It wasn’t crowded with people, which actually made it somewhat easier to carry on meaningful conversations with other alums and students–more than just small talk. And did we ever talk–way past the scheduled end time.
  • I need to bring a laptop to future sessions. I took notes, but dang is it hard to write notes by hand during sessions where they have a TON of information to share.
  • I need to ask for an ASL interpreter even though I’m not the most proficient in ASL. I didn’t want to be a burden. But seriously, even though I hear quite well, my weak-ish ASL skills still filled in several gaps where I missed the presenter’s points.
  • I need to try my hand at Battledecks. SO MUCH FUN. I loved it. I also need a real camera, too, for the future…the Flip was a bit shaky. Thank goodness for YouTube’s stabilization tool.

It was a fairly successful convention, if I may say so.


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