I’ve been pretty swamped lately, and just made my flight arrangements this past weekend. I’ve briefly skimmed the event planner, considered what to ear in the sweltering, muggy, DC heat, and phoned up my oldest friend, whom I’ve know for 25 years. He and his wife live in Dumfries VA, and I’m flying south a whole day early, just to squeeze in a visit with them.

Which brings me to what I’m looking forward to most about ALA: that rather than any ONE event, I look forward at conference the people, whether it’s working together in a committee meeting, rubbing elbows at a reception (w00t! YALSA happy hour!), getting a chance to put together faces with names from blogs and email discussion lists, dropping cards at the vendor booths, trying not to be starstruck over the Printz award-winning authors, or just meeting old friends for dinner, the connections are what makes conference so worthwhile for me.

A few tips to meeting new people:

Don’t Be Shy! Many of us are introverts, but that just means you need more downtime after being “on.” Sure, we all need that me time, but someone you meet on the bus might have a great job lead for you. Start off on the right foot at the airport–you can probably find someone going to a hotel near you who wants to share a cab. Sit next to someone at a meal or on the bus, and make conversation (instead of burying your nose in an advance reading copy – there will be time for that on the plane ride home!) at least once. Trust me–it pays off.

Bring Business Cards. Even if you have to make them yourself. How else are we going to find out about your fabulous blog, awesome podcast, or that you moonlight as a storyteller? Added bonus: You can write “Please send powerpoint!” on the back and give them to presenters, and they often follow through.

Staff the YALSA Booth. It’s a great way to network. Contact Erin Helmrich, who posted a few requests for coverage on YALSA email distribution lists; as of right now, there are a few slots left. I just offered to do a Monday afternoon shift; drop in and say hey.

Leave Your Track. Go to at least one session that has nothing to do with your job. It lends fresh perspective, an appreciation for what your coworkers and colleagues do, and, yep, you’ll meet someone new.

Bring Games. This one I learned from my friend Jami. Librarians congregate in hotel bars between the closing of the exhibit halls and the evening’s events. Tuck a tabletop card game like Man Bites Dog into your conference bag to whip out as a cocktail hour conversation starter. Mad Libs and traditional playing cards are also highly recommended.

Hang Out With New People. Pick at least one night to not hang out with people from your library system or your ALA roommate. It’s good for you! Variety is the spice of life.

That said…

Make Time for Longtime Friends, Too. Make a plan to meet for coffee, stroll the exhibit halls together, or find each other at a publisher party. There are some people I only seem to connect with at the VOYA reception or at All-Committee, once a year. It’s good to catch up, exchange ideas, and touch base.

See you all next Friday!

About Beth Gallaway

Beth Gallaway was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2006 for her work in advocating for videogames in libraries. She is an independent library trainer/consultant specializing in gaming, technology, and youth services, and is a YALSA certified Serving the Underserved (SUS) trainer.

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