ALA 2008: Let the Recovery Begin!

July 3, 2008

I returned from Anaheim last night and plan on spending the next four days recovering and digging out from email. This was my first ALA annual conference and it lived up to my expectations of being somewhat chaotic, overwhelming, fun filled, loud and large, and most importantly a great opportunity to meet all sorts of wonderful people.

Like all trips it helps if you have a travel companion who likes to have fun and laugh a lot, Maurice York (get a web presence already!!!!) was mine and he kept me laughing the whole week. The funniest part of the whole trip is now being home seeing people’s pictures from the conference taken at events that we both were at, and only seeing him in them. I have no idea how I did it, but I pretty much avoided all photographic evidence of my existence and attendance. Kinda funny because that never happens to me.

My schedule was sort of all over the place. I didn’t do a lot of pre-planning, I just sort of knew the few places I needed to be and then flew by the seat of my pants. My biggest criticism about the conference itself is the insane overbooking. There were so many concurrent sessions that I wanted to attend and in the end had to make some tough decisions. I wish there was a little less happening at the same time.

A couple of thoughts and observations before I give my blow by blow account:

1. I know everyone who knows me is going to roll their eyes as they read this, but I am really not a great social extrovert when I first meet people or don’t know anyone at all. ALA was a bit intimidating at times because I found myself in social situations where I knew people (through blogs or twitter), but wasn’t entirely sure they knew me and I always feel like such a dork when that happens. There were many people who really went out of their way to make me feel warm and welcomed or took the time to share a lot of laughs (Paul Sharpe and Meredith Farkas I am looking at you). Everyone I met and hung out or chatted with was wonderful. I would go just to hang out with great people.

2. Twitter is where it is at! So much being twittered, so many twitter folk everywhere. Although I was unable to make it to either of the two Tweet-ups, it was so great to put names with faces. Librarians love to Twitter and following the conference happenings via Twitter was great.

3. Web presence in general is important. I witnessed so many “I love what you wrote!” or “I read your blog/twitter feed/live journal, etc…” that it is becoming apparent that a lot of great networking is facilitated through having some sort of online presence.

4. For reasons that I rather not blog about, I paid particularly more attention to my health and wellbeing at this conference. For me that meant going back to my hotel room and crashing as early as 9:30pm if necessary. If I didn’t get the chance to see or hang out with you, I apologize. I was trying to be kind to myself this trip. A first for me.

And now onto the details:

Thursday, June 26:
Arrived in Anaheim at around 11:30am. Checked into hotel, laughed that we were staying in a castle. Went out to look for food. Managed to find food choices and a large number of places to purchase alcohol, including the gift shop of our hotel. Bonus! Met up with friend and had wonderfully delicious dinner at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. Since I don’t eat seafood, I chose the braised short ribs. They were fantastic. Sake was excellent and all tales tell that the seafood was also quite tasty.

Friday, June 27:
I spent all day Friday in the Emerging Leaders pre-conference meeting and poster session. I know a lot of people have been waiting to hear my opinion on the Emerging Leaders program. I loved my project group. They were great to work with, fun to laugh with and had wonderful attitudes and personalities. It was a pleasure working with them this year and I think we really pulled off a great project. As for the program itself, I think it is a really good idea, but it has not found the right implementation. Our group had very minimal interaction with our mentor and our project was sorta undefined. We ended up creating what we thought it should be, and in the end it turned out great and got a good deal of positive feedback, but it was not the experience I expected. If anything, I walked away, particularly after Leslie Burger’s session with the ELs, that the upper echelons of ALA have no clue about the reality of being a new librarian.

After being sprung from the EL all day session, I met up with Maurice and we headed over to the LITA happy hour. It was held at the Hotel Menage- the farthest hotel from the convention center. We were troopers and hoofed it although I was fairly certain a tragedy was going to occur when trying to cross the freeway on-ramp. Once there I met up with a bunch of awesome folks and had a few drinks before finding Maurice again and heading out to dinner at Mccormicks. Then walked back to hotel and passed out.

Saturday, June 28:
I love committee meetings at 8am. It is the best part of the conference. I drug myself out of bed to make it to several committee meetings. I ran into my boss by the convention center and chatted with him for awhile, texted Maurice to let him know that I was still alive after narrowly avoiding a large disaster, and then made my way to some sessions. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about RFID in large libraries. I filed all of that info away in the hopes that when I need to think about it in the next year it will magically reappear.

I then attended what I thought was the best session I went to all conference, “Stretching Existing Staff: New Service Delivery Models.” This was a panel presentation featuring librarians from the San Jose PL, Queens PL, Richland County (SC) PL, and the Atlanta-Fulton PL. The topic was delivering library services and rethinking service delivery models without an increase in staff. This was so great and so on my mind lately. The level of enthusiasm from the speakers was palpable and they are all doing such wonderful things in their organizations. It was just the kind of shot in the arm that I needed to hear. I tip my hat to all of them.

After breaking for lunch I attended a session on library space design and redesign. It was a bit dry, but very informative. Lots to think about and keep in the back of my head for the coming building project we are currently in at MPOW.

After that session I headed back to my hotel for a nap before dinner. I wasn’t feeling so great and the quick nap helped. I went out to dinner with a former colleague and an eclectic group of librarians, OCLC folk and a vendor or two. It was this total hole in the wall Mexican restaurant and the only thing more eclectic than the guest list at dinner was the menu at the restaurant – beef stroganoff? chicken teriyaki? Need I say more?????? The food was excellent and the 8 pitchers (you read that right) were delicious. Fortunately our hotel was right next door so no long walking involved in order to get back to the room and sleep.

Sunday, June 29:
Made it to my committee meeting and then met up with Maurice at convention center. This would be the moment in my conference experience where I would begin to refer to myself as “Maurice’s Bag Bitch.” Because when you travel with three laptops, someone has to keep an eye on them all and that is what I did for the rest of the trip. I watched him prep for the Top Tech Trends panel while sitting in the back of the room chatting with Meredith and Adam and then stayed for the presentation. This was my first TTT and I enjoyed it. It was interesting to hear what everyone had to say, and I liked watching the activity in the chatroom and reading comments on twitter. I did feel that the chatroom was a bit distracting from time to time, but it worked. Maurice did an excellent job as moderator (he got the biggest laughs of the afternoon). My only criticism was that I would have liked to see a bit more enthusiasm and sense of humor from the panel. I tend to really enjoy sessions where I feel the presenters love what they are doing and talking about. That was lacking a bit for me, but overall I think it was a success.

I then hung out in the room, being the best Bag Bitch ever, until the LITA President’s Program with Joe Janes began. He was excellent. A very dynamic speaker. Very optimistic and positive. He was able to chide just a little bit without being painful. His take home message was dead-on: we need to do better in the online environment. Lots of great thoughts and ideas to think about as we go into our building process. I am so glad I attended this session.

I followed that up with a trip upstairs to the OCLC Blogger’s Salon where I met up with lots of names I recognized from the blogosphere and Twitter. It was great to put names to faces and have some laughs and good conversation. We then made the greatest escape ever with some pals and had dinner at the Marriott.

Monday, June 30:
I needed to catch up on my sleep, so I slept in a bit. Headed out for lunch and then visited the exhibit hall. After spending almost two hours in there we hit the mother load for history geeks. A small press, whose name escapes me at the moment and whose receipt I don’t have in front of me, was selling their editions of American historical documents and literature at ridiculously low prices. For example, Maurice purchased the entire US constitution and related documents, a 5 volume set, for $30. I purchased the entire Federalist for $5. We spent about $70 for what was probably well over $350 worth of books. We did exactly what we said we wouldn’t which was buy a ton of books, but at those prices we could not refuse. I also bought the greatest children’s book I have ever seen for $3 from a publisher who sold it to me on the sly. I literally pulled out 3 dollar bills and she was like take it!

Then Maurice went to the UPS store to ship our treasure home and I met up with a director friend of mine for a drink in the Hilton bar. 45 minutes later, Maurice joined us, regaled us with his adventure in the line at the UPS store, and then we went back to the hotel before meeting up with friends for dinner at Buca. Dinner was great, I was exhausted from walking all over the place, so it was back to the hotel and bed for me.

Tuesday, July 1:
We took a little trip out to Cal State Northridge with one of our colleagues to see their ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) and the library. In order to get there we rented a car and ended up with a convertible because that was all that was available. This was my first time in a convertible and unless the next time is in Alaska at night, I will never do it again. The sun and LA traffic do not make for a fun ride in a convertible. The folks at Northridge were very friendly and they have a very nice library. Tons and tons of public computing, very impressive. It took us almost 90 minutes to get back and we needed to get ready for the Inaugural Ball that night. Maurice and I were attending in support of our former colleague, Andrew Pace, becoming the president of LITA. We had a lot of fun. Librarians and dancing is always a treat. The “band shouldn’t play to an empty room” rule was in full effect and we totally closed that party down. It was the most fun I have had in a while and I laughed till I almost passed out. Upon returning to my room after midnight, I quickly did pass out in anticipation of getting picked up by our airport shuttle in 5 hours.

We spent all day Wednesday on planes and in airports. I was pretty much cranky and delirious by the time we were picked up. I plan on using the next couple of days to recover and get back on Eastern standard time (so far it is not working).

This was my first ALA and it was a tremendous amount of fun. I owe Mo a big thanks for being the best partner in crime ever, and I am glad that my Bag Bitch services came in handy. I want to thank everyone I met and talked to. It was great to meet so many wonderful people. It feels so weird being home and not surrounded by hundreds of librarians. Even though I am exhausted, I feel inspired and rather optimistic about the profession and all the good things that are to come. Thanks for being awesome, everyone!

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6 Responses to “ALA 2008: Let the Recovery Begin!”

  1. waltcrawford said

    Great report–but “UC Glen Ridge”? That’s a new one for me, and I’m a native Californian and UC Graduate… Could you elaborate?

  2. Mary Carmen said

    Holy cow did I have the name wrong. This is what happens when I blog on no sleep. Fixed!

  3. waltcrawford said

    I thought about Cal State Northridge, but between the city name and the system name (CSU rather than UC), I couldn’t make the leap. Thanks. I do know about CSU Northridge’s system, although I’ve never seen it in the flesh.

  4. Angela said

    What does ASRS stand for?

  5. Mary Carmen said

    Hi Angela,

    ASRS: Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Sorry for the acronym, will correct in the post.

  6. […] time following them. I’m not the first to write about this (see Robin Hastings‘, Mary Carmen Chimato’s, and Tom Wilson’s blogs for another couple of views, among others), but here’s […]

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