My First ALA or There’s a Parade of Bookmobiles?!?

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There were over 15,000 attendees at the ALA Conference in Chicago. Just think about that for a moment.

15,000.

That’s a crazy number of people! That also means a crazy number of sessions, programs, posters, exhibits, committees, round tables, social events … Needless to say, my first ALA was a little bit overwhelming.

That said, I had an awesome weekend at ALA. I learned so much about how to better serve library patrons, how libraries influence others, and, in general, what concerns librarians have in today’s world. Because there was so much happening at this conference, I could pretty much write a book about all the things I learned and experienced. However (you’re welcome), I’m going to refrain from doing that and instead give you a quick and dirty overview of some of my most memorable ALA experiences.

RUSA 101 – This session was a great way to meet other librarians, and because we sat according to the sections of our interests, I got to meet a bunch of other librarians interested in emerging technology and reference. Surprise, surprise, I am now on a list to help out with outreach for that section (MARS). Plus–bonus!–I won the book Canada by Richard Ford.

ACRL 101 – Yeah, another 101 session. Those things were everywhere! Actually, seeing as this was my first ALA conference, introductory info like the stuff presented at this ACRL program was just what I need. I was able to get a sense of ACRL’s values, their future programs (woo-hoo Portland 2014!), and ways I could get involved. Thanks to the program I met representatives from both the University Libraries and Instruction Sections, both of whom I already have contacted about getting involved further. Yay over-commitment!

Exhibit Hall – I think this place will be what heaven is like for librarians. I literally filled two (free) bags with free books. And one of the bags had a cat on it. ‘Nuf said.

Virtual Reference Discussion Forum – This was my first conference discussion forum, and it was really interesting to hear what challenges and successes librarians from all over the country and from all kinds of libraries are experiencing. It turns out that we’re all frustrated by a lot of the same things. It also turns out that librarians are smart, so talking through things as a group helped everyone find new solutions.

Bringing the Immersion Program Back Home – This session really made me want to participate in the Immersion program! It sounds like just the kind of uncomfortable, stressful, life-changing week I need. And all of the presenters seemed like fantastic teachers and librarians! Coincidence? I think not.

Building Your Professional Toolkit – Parts of this session were really relevant to me, and other parts (now that I’m employed) really weren’t. My two favorite speakers talked about emotional intelligence and effective management using the 4 F’s. Look up both concepts–it was really fascinating!

Lessons for the Librarian: 10 Tips for Teaching the One-Shot Instruction Session – This, I think, was my favorite session. Not only was the content fantastic and relevant, but the delivery was extremely entertaining. The session started when one of the speakers started singing “Moon River” into the microphone. And it only got more hilarious from there. Besides being really engaging, the speakers shared some great insights into improving one-shot sessions, such as the importance of enthusiasm, the idea that collaboration with faculty is key, and how helpful planning ahead can be.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): The Future of Learning? – Besides providing a thorough background of MOOCs, this session shared some of the controversial and difficult aspects of MOOCs and how librarians fit in. It was one of the most fascinating sessions I attended and one that I have already talked about at length with librarians back at home.

Alice Walker – This woman just RADIATES wisdom and peace, even as she talks about how horrible and violent the world is. Even though I’m not personally unfairly imprisoning people or causing children to starve, she made me feel a perfect mixture of crushing guilt and the inspiration to make the world a better place.

Worth every penny (and a terrifying ride on the L), my ALA experience was just what I hoped it would be: a chance to learn, make connections, and get lots of swag! Look out for me at ALA 2014 in Las Vegas!

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