The ALA Annual Conference is nearly upon us and that means it’s time to brush up on your networking skills. Whether you’re new to networking and conferencing or this is old hat, I hope there’s something here for everyone.

Keep Calm and Network On

Networking does not have to be forced and it’s often best when it’s not. Annual Conference is particularly easy because everyone is there to learn and to meet new people, so you don’t have to think of a clever opening line. “Hi, I’m _________ and I work at __________. Where are you from?” works perfectly. And sure, you might meet some folks who are really only there to learn and not to meet people, and that’s fine. Just keep meeting people and don’t let it get you down.
Business Cards

Though they’re terribly old technology, business cards are still the default for exchanging contact information. Be sure to keep a ballpoint pen (those inky ones smear) to write on the card how/where you met the person and any other info that might jog your memory. And as soon as you can, connect with that person via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, an email, whatever works for you. As for your own business card, if you want to spend the time and money to come up with something creative, go ahead, but a basic card will do the job. Your time and money is probably better spent perfecting your website, web presence, or blog.

The Buddy System

Even if you’re confident and funny and a whiz at meeting new people and making connections and you never ramble on or talk to much about yourself or – oh who are we kidding? Everyone can use a buddy when networking. Even if it’s someone you’ve just met, working a room with a friend can help to alleviate the stress and make a potentially awkward situation more comfortable. A buddy can brag about your accomplishments and identify the best details to share in a way that won’t sound smug or self-important.

It’s Not All About You

Many people think that networking is all about finding someone who can help you in your career. But here’s a secret: networking actually works best when you can do something for someone else. The more you can do for others, the more others will think about you when opportunities come up. It creates a positive connection in their mind, positions you as a helpful person with resources, and prevents you from being that awkward person who is obviously just looking for a leg up. And don’t worry; you have valuable things to offer! You can introduce a new contact to someone you work with in the same position to discuss issues or trends. You can share an article you read that relates to something you spoke about. You can forward on an invitation to a party or a training opportunity. Just remember, if you say you’re going to do something, follow through!

Opportunities to Network

There’s no better place for someone who works with teens to network than a YALSA ticketed event. Everyone there likes young adult literature, so when all else fails, you can just geek out about what you’re reading. You can add tickets for the events to your registration or get your tickets at the door (note: tickets for Edwards Brunch must be purchased in advance).


Michael J. Printz Award Reception – St. Charles Ballroom, Friday, 6/28, 8 PM – $40 (door)

Come listen to the 2018 Michael L. Printz award-winning author and honor book authors speak about their writing, followed by a reception. New this year – all of the authors will be speaking.


Margaret A. Edwards Brunch – Saturday, 6/23, 11:30 AM-1 PM (tickets available in advance)

Come join us for brunch and listen to the winner of the 2018 Margaret A. Edwards Award speak about their writing. The award honors their significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens.

YALSA Happy Hour – Saturday, 6/23, 5:30-7 PM, location TBD

A great, low-key opportunity to mix and mingle and practice your networking skills. Stay tuned for more details!


YA Author Coffee Klatch – St. Charles Ballroom, Sunday, 6/24, 9 AM – $25 (door)

Enjoy coffee and meet with more than 40 of YALSA’s award winning authors! Librarians will sit at a table and every 3 or 4 minutes, a new author will arrive at your table to talk about their upcoming book!


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