The Road to ALA ’11: Our Experiences Thus Far

Typical conference experience - Photo from ALA on Flickr - click for Original

In preparation for ALA 2011 in New Orleans, we wanted to share some experiences we’ve had at previous conferences.  The whole professional development factor is an important one to be involved in early in one’s career, and we all believe that should start in school. To that end, we have compiled some short thoughts below, with links to previous posts discussing our adventures at conferences. Our range of experiences from a national conference, to regional, to sub-fields give a great overview for what one might expect. This will be an on-going post series leading up to ALA Annual, so if you’ve blogged, or plan on blogging, about a conference, let us know. We want to hear your story.

Have you attended a conference yet? What is most exciting or scary about them?

American Library Association’s Annual Conference 2010


Last June I attended the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Washington, DC .  If you have a chance to attend a professional conference, whether during library school or shortly after, I highly recommend it.  It was a fantastic way to not only meet other people in the profession but it also gave me a better sense of how ALA is organized and just how a conference is run.  And it was also not all just library related activites….there was a good amount of time for sight-seeing and overall enjoyment…if you schedule yourself well!  What also made the experience ideal was that through my program at Simmons College we are eligible for professional development reimbursement up to $300 a year, so many of my expenses were paid back to me.  Good deal!  It was also just so nice to meet all of these other people who shared my passion and goals. I mean to have a conversation with a 60 yr old school librarian from Oklahoma about politics to having a chance encounter with the president of the Public Library Association because we happened to have on the same dress! (I contacted her after the conference via email and she totally remembered me!)   The whole weekend just solidified for me that I made the right decision when choosing this new career.

You can find my original blog past at this link.

Library History Seminar XII


I went to Library History Seminar XII in Madison, WI last September, and it was a much different experience than I had at ALA. I love encouraging students to experience a variety of conferences because you get learn so much from each one. LHS was a much smaller conference (maybe a few hundred people), so it felt much more intimate and I was able to network with both new professionals and seasoned researchers. And best of all, because our field is filled with great people, everyone was really open to talking and to sharing ideas–I’ve never felt like I was annoying anyone by asking questions or by going up and talking with them (and I’ve definitely felt that way in other fields).  I had presented at the conference (I was actually the last presenter on the last day), and the people who watched my talk were supportive and attentive and asked some really great questions (I always have really positive experiences presenting research in LIS!) I also found that blogging after I got home really helped enhance my conference experience because it allowed me to draw parallels between the different talks and process everything I learned. It also helped me continue to foster connections with others–my LHS conference post is the most widely-read post I’ve written…ever! I love attending smaller and more focused conferences like LHS because it allows me to learn about a subject in more depth, but I also love larger conferences (and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at ALA this year!)

You can find my original blog post at this link.

Florida Library Association 2010


I first attended FLA in ’09 as part of my work with the Florida Book Awards. Needless to say I was super excited to return in 2010 and attend as a student of LIS, as well as a professional. The experience was really enriched for me because I went with, and spent most of the weekend with, two of my fellow FSU SLIS classmates – Jessica Critten and Lauren Gibaldi. We attended some of the same panels, some different, but had some great conversations about the different aspects of “conference-goings-on.” The whole is idea is pretty weird if you stop to think about it, but once you’re in the midst of the fervor, the nametags, the Tech Petting Zoo, exhibitors and schoomzers all around, it ends up being a really valuable glimpse into mini-worlds of librarianship. There is something to be said for the differences between regional conferences and national ones, which has been written about expertly by Nels P. Highberg over at Profhacker.

Read my original article (which caught the attention of FLA’s president and was requested to be added to the Fl Lib Assoc. blog!) to find out what I loved, loathed and learned at the Florida Library Association 2010 Conference.

iYouth and iConference


I will be attending both the iYouth Conference and part of the iConference in the next month. Why am I attending them? First, they are in Seattle. Second, I am volunteering and will hopefully get in for free!

Lastly, while I don’t plan on being a youth services librarian or working and doing research internationally, I do know it is important to be aware of what else is going on in the LIS field. So, I’m heading to these conferences to challenge myself and also bring my own ideas and knowledge to share with others. Look for a follow-up post from me after these conferences.

ALA Midwinter


I’m quickly becoming a conference junkie!  My most recent experience was at ALA Midwinter, in San Diego.  After the frantic activity of ALA Annual in DC last summer, ALA Midwinter was a good chance for me to focus less on the state of the profession, and to focus more on the state of my profession.  I was recently appointed to a committee in my state library association, the California Library Association (CLA), so I spent some time observing committee procedures, as well as familiarizing myself with the trends in vendors and products on the exhibition floor.  My number one tip for conference going?  Create a file (or a file box!) for all the bibliographies, catalogs, brochures, product sheets and such you will gather at the conference.  I’ve found it makes it much easier to turn to these resources later when you have an assignment or a project for an internship, and that one handout is exactly what you need.

Read about my experience at  ALA Midwinter here, and at ALA Annual here, which I was able to attend through the Student to Staff Internship, expenses paid. Like the other conference posts by hackers above, this post was picked up by the larger organization, which has given me a lot of networking opportunities, including guest blogging for Micah.  So second conference tip?  Share your experience!

9 replies

  1. My first conference was SAA’s annual meeting in DC last August. I attended even before I started library school, so the most exciting part for me was just going to sessions on topics I hadn’t yet explored. The scariest part was definitely all the people — because I didn’t know anyone else! I kept to myself for the most part, but I did meet other students at my school’s mixer, which was great.

    Anyone have tips on the best way to meet new people at conferences? I’ll be attending Computers in Libraries in March and hope to go to a few other conferences this year.


    • I’m not sure about Computers in Libraries but I know for ALA they had a Conference 101 for New Members and that was a great way to meet people as well. And I definitely agree with Micah in that just saying hi absolutely works as well. As daunting as it may seem at first I found that people were so happy to chat with a future librarian!


  2. Even though I’m a paraprofessional, my employer gave me time to go visit the exhibits and wander around ALA ’10 since it was here in DC. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go to sessions since I didn’t yet have a student membership. Still, seeing the exhibits there & at AALL the year before was a fun experience.


  3. Hey Rose! The best way to meet new people at conferences is just to walk up and say hi! Most times people at conferences are there to do the same thing you are – meet others, chat and have a good time – so it really just takes guts to approach someone interesting, and strike up a conversation. That said – building virtual communities is an sneaky and easy way to have friends before you even go. For instance, I’ve never met any of the other HackLibschoolers, but I know when we do meet (at ALA 11!) It’ll be like catching up with old friends.

    Thanks for the comment! Will you be going to SAA this year too?


    • Micah,

      Thanks for the advice! Everyone I’ve met in the profession so far has been overwhelming nice — I just need to work up my courage!

      I am definitely hoping to attend SAA again this year. Since it’s in Chicago, my attendance will be dependent on funding. Also, I submitted a proposal for a graduate poster — so here’s hoping it gets accepted.


  4. My first library conference was FLA’s as well. It was actually quite…inspiring! Not everything was relevant, but I enjoyed the panels I saw. If I was able to afford ALA ’11, I would be there, but I think i’m sticking with FLA again this year. Maybe next year?


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