Whew! The ALA Annual Conference was an amazing experience! I got home late last night and am still recovering from the time away from home.
I missed most of the programs/sessions that I had planned to attend. On Friday, my husband and I rode the streetcar in the morning — we were at the Holiday Inn French Quarter, so we walked a block away to catch the St. Charles Ave. streetcar. We rode that to the end of the line and back, giving us at least a taste of the Garden District. So I missed the morning sessions, but I think it was worth it!
I made it to the NMRT Conference 101 session, where I found some tweeps (folks I know on twitter, if you’re not familiar with the term). I’ve told many people how awesome twitter has been for my professional development, but that was yet another bonus — as a distance student with little face-to-face connection at my library school program and as a first time ALA attendee, the conference would have been much more overwhelming if I hadn’t had that support network. I enjoyed meeting a lot of new people as well, but having some familiar friendly faces in the crowd really did make a big difference for me!
The Emerging Leaders poster session was pretty impressive — it was the most crowded poster session I’ve seen (my experience is admittedly limited!). And I made it to the two socials that I had planned for Friday evening.
On Saturday, I missed the morning sessions in favor of checking out the exhibits. Holy cow, I barely scratched the surface! That hall was HUGE! The timing worked out, because I was so loaded down with books by the time I needed to go do my shift at the NMRT Resume Review Service welcome desk, I don’t think I could have carried any more swag anyway! I don’t know much about most of the stuff I got, but I’m a finicky reader — I don’t have an easily definable type of book I like, it’s all about the writing style. So I’m hoping I’ll find a couple of new authors to love out of the stack of freebies that I got!
After my time at the RRS desk, I walked the 20 feet (or whatever, I’m terrible with distances!) to the ALA Placement Center workshop room to attend “How to be Successful When Searching for Academic Library Positions – An Insider’s Perspective” . The presenter was from the Human Resources department at the University of Florida. He gave a lot of good advice, but I think the biggest thing I got out of his talk was an appreciation of the competition on the job market. They posted an ad for an Anthropology Librarian in April, which I applied for. They got about 80 applications for that one job. More importantly, though, he gave an example of a recent candidate that had been effectively terminated (denied tenure) yet was able to spin that experience so that it did not disqualify him for a position at UF Libraries. The speaker used a false job title since he was giving relatively specific details about the candidate, but if this is the person who beat me out for an interview for the Anthropology Librarian positions, holy cow! The candidate had been a tenure-track Anthropology professor for a few years, long enough to go up for tenure, but got denied because he hadn’t published enough. Wow!
So, the take-away message for me is that, in this job market, being rejected does not mean you’re not awesome. You’re just swimming in a great big sea of awesomeness! I hope that I get one of the positions I’ve applied for — I’m taking the common advice to do a better job on fewer applications, limiting my search to the jobs I really want and think I would be happy at 10 or even 20 years from now. But, even if I don’t, I can still be confident that I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me… There are just a LOT of really amazing people on the job market right now.
After that talk, I wandered over to a poster session in the exhibition hall, but was just too weighted down with freebies to be good for much. So I headed back to the hotel, then got an early dinner at Acme Oyster House (we got there at 4:30 and didn’t have much of a wait; during the main dinner rush, the line to get a seat gets ridiculous!). I caught a tweet about a Radical Reference meeting at some point that day, so I headed over to check that out after dinner. It sounds cool, and the people were nice, but I haven’t really checked out their website to get more info yet. So perhaps there will be more on that later…
From there I headed over to the tweet-up and met lots of wonderful tweeps in person! I enjoyed connecting with new tweeps, as well. After that, we went with the crowd to the facebook meet-up, where I got derailed talking to a folklorist and a historian instead of librarians… But I had a great time meeting them and talking about the non-touristy Mardi Gras celebrations and other cool stuff! And, well, not to go all “fan girl,” but I was pretty excited that the folklorist also happens to have been a founding member of Gaelic Storm, one of the many Celtic bands that my husband got me hooked on!
That wound up being a late night, so I didn’t make it to the 8am session I wanted to attend. We were due to check out of the hotel by 11 and needed to move the car by 2pm, so we decided to just get on the road headed home. I read tweets about the “Making Information Literacy Instruction Meaningful through Creativity” session that afternoon and really regretted not being able to stay for that. I hope they post an overview and/or slides from that one online!
Overall, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to go and wish I could have stayed longer. Though I didn’t attend as many programs as I wish I had, I learned a lot and met a lot of great people.
When I sat down to write, I meant to spend more time talking about the lessons I learned at this conference. But, before long, I realized that this post would be too long for that, and that I should separate the two topics. So look for another post soon on the lessons I learned through my experience at #ala11!