Last month, I went to my first ALA Annual Convention. As a MMLIS graduate student at the University of Southern California, attending ALA Annual in New Orleans was an opportunity to meet fellow students, network with current librarians and library staff, and to learn more about how I can participate as a new member of ALA in the various divisions, roundtables, and chapters.
The ALA Annual Convention is a wonderful experience where you meet people with the same interest and same enthusiasm for books, advocacy, learning, and desire to help. The conference ran from June 21, 2018 through June 26, 2018, with the official opening general session on Friday, June 22nd. The Opening General Session speaker was Former First Lady Michelle Obama! The line to be able to attend Mrs. Obama’s talk, led by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, started at 7:30am that morning though Mrs. Obama would not speak until 4:00pm that afternoon. As a first-time attendee, I will admit to being daunted by the impressive line that formed, but ALA had it all under control. They had more than enough room to accommodate everyone. What a way to kick off the convention! Listening to Michelle Obama and Carla Hayden in conversation was a memorable experience. Not to mention listening to Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews perform with talented students from the Trombone Shorty Foundation beforehand.
Saturday through Tuesday was filled with many discussions, panels, speakers, and meetings to choose from. The sheer number of things to do and attend can be overwhelming, especially to a first-time attendee trying to plan and experience it all. My advice…be flexible!! Don’t feel the need to see everything and don’t kick yourself if you missed something you really wanted to go to. A great thing that the ALA New Members Round Table (NMRT) mentioned during their NMRT Orientation (which I highly recommend for first-time attendees) is that if you pick a session or panel to go to, but it doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to walk out and pick another. No one will be offended. YALSA also offered an orientation session for new and prospective members, “Young Adult Library Services 101” (ALA Annual 2018), which informed attendees about everything YALSA had to offer and tips on make the most out of your time at the conference.
Throughout the convention, there were programs focused on Young Adult Library Services including “Understanding Teens 101: Stereotypes, Biology and Why You Should Bother”, “Escape the Library: Escape Room Design Workshop”, and “Something for EVERYONE: 15 Years of Teens’ Top Ten”, as well as annual conference sessions like “2018 Alex Awards”, “Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session” and the “YA Author Coffee Klatch”, which was a ticketed event hosted by YALSA (ALA Annual 2018).
Besides the many sessions, speakers, and meetings that you can attend and learn from, there was also the exhibit hall that attendees can go to as well. As a first-time attendee, and someone who has never gone to a convention of this size before, when I walked into the exhibit hall the first thought in my head was that, “This is what San Diego Comic Con must feel like…but for librarians!” There were rows upon rows of vendors ranging from those showcasing technology, games, furniture, the ALA JobList Placement and Career Development Center, bookish vendors, colleges and universities promoting their degree programs, the Library of Congress, NASA, and the ever-popular- publishers with their displays of books. Books were all over the exhibit hall: displayed, for purchase, and for giveaway to attendees to find the next book they’d want to purchase for their library, school, book club, or themselves.
During the weekend, not only did I have the opportunity to volunteer at my graduate program’s booth in the exhibit hall to help inform attendees about the MMLIS program and graduate certificate program, but I also had the opportunity to participate at ALA as a speaker at an ignite session. An ignite session is a 5-minute presentation, where a speaker will be able to speak on a topic while a slideshow of twenty slides will advance automatically on the screen. I would highly recommend this for anyone who wants to gain experience in public speaking and presenting at conferences or in general. This is a great opportunity to get your feet wet if you have not presented in front of an audience before.
Overall, the ALA Annual Convention is wonderful opportunity for attendees to network, learn, and discuss the future of librarianship. It brings people of like-minds to come together to grow, innovate, and bring back new ideas to share to their own institutions or fellow librarians, colleagues, or peers.
ALA 2018 Annual Conference and Exhibit. (n.d.) All Sessions. Retrieved from https://www.eventscribe.com/2018/ALA-Annual/agenda.asp?h=All%20Sessions&BCFO=S
ALA 2018 Annual Conference and Exhibit. (n.d.) ALA 2018 Annual Logo. Retrieved from https://2018.alaannual.org/.
Ballard, T. (2018). ALA opening ceremony with Michelle Obama and Carla Hayden. Retrieved from https://flic.kr/p/28C7DrM made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license