By Erin Gallagher
Greetings and happy Friday, everyone! Now that I’ve successfully recovered from the chaos of the ALA annual conference, I’d love to hear about your experiences if you attended. Did anyone melt while walking in the 100-degree heat from one conference venue to another? Any memorable dinners or meetups? What were your favorite sessions/exhibits/meetings? Did you bring an extra suitcase for all your exhibit hall swag? Are you jazzed to bring back all you’ve learned to your libraries and institutions? Did anyone else stand in line for 30 minutes in the exhibit hall to get a frozen margarita in a glowing plastic cup? I’m not saying I did…but maybe I did…
ALA can be an overwhelming conference to say the least. We had a couple of staff members who attended for the first time and I tried to drum up sage advice for how to maximize one day at the conference, though most of it boiled down to “plan ahead and don’t try to do everything”.
This year, ALA was in my backyard. Wait, let me specify: ALA was held in Orlando, the city in which I reside, but in a part of the city I rarely ever visit because of the massive tourist influx during the summer. One of the most important takeaways for me this year was that having ALA in your city is not necessarily a benefit. Instead of taking a shuttle or walking a few blocks to a hotel at the end of the day (or when I needed a nap), I drove back and forth on a busy interstate from my home to the conference center. And the parking! Well, let’s just say I won’t complain about flying to Chicago next June.
Here are some of my takeaways that have nothing to do with parking and traffic:
- I’m so proud of how our profession embraced the conference in the wake of the tragedy at Pulse just a couple of weeks before the conference, providing safe spaces, a memorial event, blood donation opportunities, and support for women and minority-owned businesses.
- I attended one of the best preconference sessions in memory on Building a Curriculum on the Intersections of Scholarly Communications and Information Literacy. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept (like I was), start with the whitepaper here. John Watts and Maryam Fakouri led a terrific workshop that included a lot of hands-on brainstorming and curricular planning, and we each came away from it with a solid idea for an educational experience blending scholarly communication and information literacy. I highly recommend taking advantage of preconference sessions whenever possible.
- Libraries are embracing diversity and inclusion like never before. Perhaps it’s because libraries have always been viewed as truly “public” spaces, neutral and knowledgeable, sanctuaries for those who want to learn or who need respite. We mean more to our communities than a place to check out DVDs, and we are working to be the kind of community space where lifelong learning is encouraged, where all voices can be heard and respected, and where the needs and information-seeking behaviors of our diverse user base are celebrated.
And I didn’t even get started on all the new and exciting products and initiatives out there! I hope all attendees had a fruitful conference. And guess what’s just around the corner? Charleston! I’m planning already…