ALA 2009: A Perspective

Hello fair readers!

As promised, I wanted to go over a bit of what my experience at the American Library Association 2009 was like to endure. And yes, I used the word endure.  It actually did remind me somewhat of going to a outdoor festival.  But with less of this

from Pitchfork 2009

from Pitchfork 2009

And more of this…

From ALA 2009...see the difference?

From ALA 2009...similar right?

This being my very first ALA I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.  I had several goals, being:

1) meet folks

2) learn stuff

3) have fun

Seems simple right?  Lets go over these starting with my most successful endeavor…1) meet folks.

here be folks!

here be folks!

This is generally what I’m good at…meeting people. I actually enjoy running around a room and introducing myself to people…hopefully not totally weirding them out in the process.  And I can say, 100%, that networking was hands down the best thing I came away from ALA with.  I figured out how to get my card to people, how to start talking about potential future projects with people and most importantly I meet some really amazing peers that make me proud to be a librarian…

this pic is a link to some really rad librarians that you be emulating!

this pic is a link to some really rad librarians that you should be emulating!

So for this, ALA, I will thank you.  I met many people I probably never would have encountered on my own.  And I thank you for that.

So lets get to pesky #2, as this is where my reality check came in.  My goal to “learn stuff” was modest but in reality I wanted to learn a lot.  But when it came to sitting down in a session and listening to people try to teach me?

Well, lets put it this way…..seriously librarians?

I had sessions where the “presenter” didn’t even bother to freaking show up.  There was a powerpoint presentation with an audio recording over it.  And quite frankly, research methods aren’t going to be too enthralling in the first place.  But if you remove that human interaction, I will almost guarantee a zero learning factor.  I went to one insanely brilliant session with The Shanachies (click on the pic above) and really…that was about it.  I did hear that the Neil Gaiman & Craig Thompson session was amazing.  So I will be fair to that.  And I am sure there were some really amazing sessions that I just didn’t go to…

but I learned the following things at what I stupidly chose to attend:  you can publish the same thing over and over again as long as you change it a little; you can publish research that others have already done, just change it a little; you don’t even need to research things you are genuinely interested in…as long as you get published.

As boring as Circle Cats...

As boring as Circle Cats...

Excuse my language but f*ck that.  My reality check was that I saw the librarian I never want to become.  And quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me.  Next ALA I will have to pay special attention to what sessions I go to because I left on Saturday feeling like I was in the wrong profession.

Thankfully my #3 goal came to rescue at just the right time…

Sunday was the day.  It was the day that I remembered why I wanted to become a librarian in the first place.  I met with like-minded people, heard about brave exciting new services and policies, and interacted with people who get the mind going!! Who are doing new and amazingly beautiful things in the library world.  And this, my fair readers, is insanely fun.

Overall ALA was totally worth it.  Even with the reality check.  In fact I would go so far as to say especially with the reality check.  At several points during the conference I had people tell me that I look like a children’s librarian.  And I never really knew how to respond to this…but now I think I do.  Children’s librarians go at things with spunk, energy and a child like positivity that is not to be matched in the profession.  If I can continue on my path in libraries and stay this way…then I am doing something right.  I am happy I went to ALA.  I am happy I came off as a children’s librarian instead of an academic one.  And I am so blessed and pleased to have met with all of you.

It was a lifechanger.

pretty!

pretty!

Have a lovely week fair readers.  And stay tuned 🙂

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13 responses to “ALA 2009: A Perspective

  1. Did you go to the “difficult patron” themed sessions? Want to talk about librarians you never want to emulate. Never thought public facing professionals could hate the public so much.

  2. Yikes, no I did not. Its a shame really that those turned into what sounds like a big complain fest because dealing w/ problem patrons is a skill that we could all learn more about, you know? I feel like next year I will just have to do way more research about who is speaking. And not be afraid to walk out when a session takes a turn for the worse.

  3. I need to work on follow-through. I get all excited about where the profession is going, hear all these great ideas, and then I go back to work and it’s the same old grind. The DOK librarians are awesome, for example, but how can I relate their experience to my own career? Other than just being jealous and wishing I worked at a kick-ass library in the Netherlands rather than a small library in a depressing suburb, I mean.

  4. Something they didn’t talk about, the DOK librarians, is that their library was almost run under. Not used. Bad funding. About to go away. But then their director, the silly one they interviewed, changed everything apparently. And now look at them! They are a role model library for the world.

    I think what we can take from them is that with the right leadership anything is possible. Erik, one of the librarians, says that a great idea will always find funding. But I believe that a great library needs great leadership for this to be possible. Otherwise your ideas are not even heard.

  5. The reason Sunday was the best day is, obviously, because we hung out that day. I would like to point out that I had one goal for ALA, and I totally failed–I just wanted an ARC of Catching Fire, and Scholastic was out no matter how early I went.

    I think you should write an article about children’s librarians and academic librarians and how they approach things differently. 🙂 (What kind of librarian do I look like?)

  6. I had more or less the same goals. I achieved all of them to one degree or another.

    On the acronym tip, don’t you think that communication of actual ideas would be more fun if we said what we meant? I was overjoyed to learn that the “Arts” section of ACRL was proud not to have one.

  7. love the use of endure!

  8. so many good bits here!

    “Excuse my language but f*ck that. My reality check was that I saw the librarian I never want to become. And quite frankly, it scared the hell out of me. Next ALA I will have to pay special attention to what sessions I go to because I left on Saturday feeling like I was in the wrong profession.”

  9. Thank you so much Lee! 🙂

  10. just finished reading and will be thinking more about this -most likely will be linking to this for a post on bibliodox. Solid, solid insights.

    Thanks for sharing!

    At several points during the conference I had people tell me that I look like a children’s librarian. And I never really knew how to respond to this…but now I think I do. Children’s librarians go at things with spunk, energy and a child like positivity that is not to be matched in the profession. If I can continue on my path in libraries and stay this way…then I am doing something right. I am happy I went to ALA. I am happy I came off as a children’s librarian instead of an academic one. And I am so blessed and pleased to have met with all of you.

    yes!

  11. Opps that should have been in quotes!

    “At several points during the conference I had people tell me that I look like a children’s librarian. And I never really knew how to respond to this…but now I think I do. Children’s librarians go at things with spunk, energy and a child like positivity that is not to be matched in the profession. If I can continue on my path in libraries and stay this way…then I am doing something right. I am happy I went to ALA. I am happy I came off as a children’s librarian instead of an academic one. And I am so blessed and pleased to have met with all of you.”
    -Leah says -not lee but I wish I had.

  12. Pingback: ALA Marginalia » Blog Archive » Summary of Online ALA2009

  13. Leah, I agree completely with your take on ALA. This was first time attending the big one too. My reasons for not attending sooner were frankly, because there are many better library conferences out there. I highly, highly, highly recommend ACRL for better presenters and presentations. I don’t know how much instruction you are doing these days but LOEX is also a not-to-be-missed conference for instruction librarians. And those crazy IL librarians are always doing interesting things that can be applied to other aspects of library services. Plus, who better to present than professional teaching librarians?
    Sadly, in this economy travel budgets have been cut, which is why I attended ALA (here in town) rather than ACRL or LOEX. My institution couldn’t pay for it, and neither could I!
    It is disappointing to feel let down by the conference, but I think the networking and the people parts are the main point of the Annual Conference. Learning something is secondary…

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