ALA Part 1: Overview

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend, and hopefully you have a wonderful extra day off to enjoy! I just got back from having a nice dinner with my mom and her boyfriend, and we got a chance to sneak in and see the Lenox Square fireworks (but at a lot further away to avoid the massive crowds).

Anyway, thought I would give the recap of my trip to ALA in Washington, my first national conference.  I was there from Friday (6/25) to Monday 6/28). Overall, it was a great time, although extremely busy because I had a lot jam-packed in the visit. I was not only there for the conference, but was there to visit my dad and two good friends of mine who live in DC. I also attended several sessions.

The Recap

Friday, I attended the LITA Open House, which was a great opportunity to meet current and prospective members.

On Saturday, I went to a session on LibGuides, and two awesome professional development sessions. One was on seeking non-traditional library jobs (i.e. working for vendors, corporations, etc.). But the most useful and informative session was “What Every New Librarian Needs to Know.” Two young librarians  discussed the ins and outs of publishing and research, as well as provided a pep-talk on creating a unique brand for yourself and utilizing networking opportunities.

Sunday, I attended sessions on digital library workflow and designing usable websites. I also met with my mentor, and we were so extremely exhausted after all the stuff we did. I spent Sunday night in my room enjoying my hotel, and took a leisurely walk to Whole Foods to pick up dinner, and watched backlogged episodes of Fringe on my computer.

Travel Arrangements

I had great luck with my flights in and out (flew in to DCA, which I highly recommend flying into over Dulles or BWI). My hotel, on the other hand, was just so-so. For what I paid, the room was sparsely decorated, the TV was not even a flat-screen, and the wireless was free but very spotty. Plus, the hotel was smack in between 2 Metro lines (the closest station being a half-mile walk), so I had to either pay for a cab or hike in the sweltering DC heat (for the record, it was 10 degrees hotter there than in Atlanta). However, the bed was comfortable,  the pool was nice, and they had a real “cheap” breakfast option ($4 for eggs and toast).

The convention

The convention center was quite large, and there were a ton of people there. Thankfully, there were not as many fashion faux pas as is stereotypical of library conventions, but I did see a few interesting personalities. One was one lady who I swear was dressed just like Molly Ringwald in Pretty In Pink.  Honestly, I thought  it was a cute outfit, but pretty retro. Needless to say, I did see more than my fair share of women in maxi skirts and tennis shoes, and men who wore socks with their sandals.

 

Exhibit Hall

 

It was interesting to meet people from all over the county. Lots of people from the North, and I also met several students, alumni, and employees at UNT.

The Exhibit Hall

The exhibit hall was also quite large as well. TONs of vendors. Most of them were book publishers and database vendors.  Some of the integrated library system and next-gen catalogs looked really promising. One particularly impressive one was an automated system from Auto-Graphics, which had this real snazzy Web 2.0 interface, very colorful.

The highlights of the exhibit halls were the poster sessions. Some very interesting and helpful research was being conducted, and I listening to a few presenters (some posters were so crowded with people, I could barely see, especially some of the metadata ones).

Job Placement Center

In my eagerness to get my first professional position, I was hoping the Placement Center would have had more recruiters out there. But while  hiring is getting better, it is still lagging considerably.  As a wise classmate always says, we have to “keep hope alive.”

Strangely, they were giving away badge ribbons stating “Librarians for Hire” and “Librarians Wanted.” While I did see several people (especially recent MLIS grads) walking around with the former ribbon, I don’t think I saw a single person with the latter. Not surprising considering how competitive the librarian job market really is (which is why I got my concentration in digital content management to help give me an edge).

 

Placement center ribbons

 

I considered adding a “Librarian for Hire” ribbon to my badge, but I shied away from it, as I did not want to openly advertise that I was looking (from what I hear from hiring managers, that appears to be a sign of desperation, which can be a turn-off). Besides, I received great job leads just from chatting with people. One gentlemen from a very prestigious university actually informally interviewed me on the spot at one of the sessions I attended. Thankfully, I had my trusty portfolio with me so I could show him my work.  Prayerfully, he will keep me in mind as I send in my application.

Anyway, that is the end of my ALA report. Stay tuned for Part 2: Lessons Learned (aka, my conference faux pas, which can land you in deeper water than wearing ugly shoes 😉 ).

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