So, I’ve never been to an ALA conference before. The only conference I’ve attended previously was the Massachusetts School Library Association conference in Sturbridge, where I felt pretty out-of-place because I always went by myself and never really knew anybody. I was afraid that since midwinter is all about association meetings, I wouldn’t have much to do…but I was wrong. It turned out to be a very productive weekend. I also have to say that day one of my trip to midwinter was a heck of a lot easier to navigate than attending MSLA. I was awed by the scale of the conference, but not intimidated.
On Friday, I spent the afternoon in meetings with my future employers, but the morning was taken up by the YALSA advocacy institute and lunch, where I was able to catch up with Simmons friends and meet some great librarians. The morning session was useful for me, since I’ll be starting from scratch as a teen librarian in a new library. I loved our table’s discussion of how to get teens involved in a TAG–the best suggestion, I think, was asking them to take over the library’s MySpace page. It seemed like there were a few other new teen librarians (or teen librarians new to their libraries) there. For a nice overview of what was covered throughout the whole institute, check out TRMite’s earlier post.
At lunch, Linda Braun and Elaine Meyers gave us some dynamic, concrete ideas about how to advocate for teens. Linda focused on web 2.0 outreach, covering Twitter, Facebook, and Google Calendar, which I’m not using and totally want to play with now. Elaine blew me away with her presentation, talking about the wonderful teens that visit the Phoenix Library and the ways they’re expressing themselves and contributing to the community. I hope that someday I can feel like I’m making a difference as much as Elaine must. I’ll blog separately about this presentation later.
After lunch, I went into meetings, and wasn’t really a part of the conference anymore. I was supposed to attend the YALSA happy hour, but I crashed and didn’t make it; I didn’t make the gaming extravaganza either (bad Sarah!).
Saturday was totally given over to YALSA. I got to the all-committee meeting after sitting in the convention center for a minute, checking my email and watching people play Guitar Hero 3 in the demonstration booth. The best people to watch were a father and sonâ€”the father groaned at one point about his son making them play along to Kiss.
The all-committee meeting was one of those events that I am not good at being a part of. It felt a little like walking into the high school cafeteria and not knowing anyone. I’d imagined it as an auditorium full of people where we were all listening to speakers; instead, it’s a room full of tables for all the different committees. So, if you’re not on a committee, you’re supposed to sit off to the side and observe. The point is for non-committee members to meet people and learn more about committees. I’m glad I was able to attend this meeting and hear about the internal workings of YALSA and their fundraising efforts, but it was difficult for me, as someone who hasn’t been involved in YALSA before, to sit alone at a side table.
Eventually, Cara Kinsey, a teen librarian from the NYPL, took pity on me and introduced me to both Paula Brehm-Heeger and Sarah Cornish Debraski, who gave me her card so that I could email her regarding committee assignments. And then Linda came along to ask Paula if I could attend the YALSA strategic planning meeting later on that afternoon. So ultimately, the all-committee meeting was a success, even though I’m a giant wimp.
I had a great lunch with friends at a vegetarian Indian restaurant, which is exactly the kind of place I’m missing living in the suburbs. And then it was off to the strategic planning meeting, which was run by a consultant and attended by members of the executive board and other important people in YALSA. I honestly felt pretty honored to be there, as cheesy as that may sound, because I got to meet some pretty cool people. I was nervous about taking part in the breakout sessions where we talked about YALSA’s goals and objectives over the coming years, but I was lucky to be in a group run by Amy Alessio and she really made me feel like a viable contributor to the discussion.
It was really neat to see the leaders of YALSA at work, and to get some insight into their vision for the organization. I was in the group discussing continual learning opportunities, and I’d like to spend some time later on blogging about some of the great opportunities that are out there for teen librarians to keep on top of what’s new in young adult services.
My attendance at this meeting was unexpected, so after all of my nervous anticipation, I never got the time to visit the exhibition hall. It’s probably just as well, since I find the experience terrifying (and so does everyone else I talk to!) and my budget is nearly gone anyway. But I’ll have to force myself into this sometimeâ€”maybe with a friend (read: buffer).
Unfortunately, the threat of looming snow forced me to skip out on Sunday’s activities and head home to Massachusetts. But despite that, I left the conference feeling like I’d accomplished a lot. I got to meet some wonderful people and get my name out there, so that I can become more involved in the organization as time goes by. Up til now, my participation has been limited to reading the listservs…very infrequently. And now I feel prepared to join a committee. It’s a very exciting first step towards becoming a more active member of YALSA. I’m thrilled to have gone to midwinter.