I don’t yet have the space, mentally, to process ALA Midwinter and summarize it properly. But here are some moments and some impressions:
When I finished my schedule back in Anchorage, I realized how much of my schedule was eaten by Council (three and a half actual Council meetings, two Council Forum meetings, the Orientation, the Executive Board/Membership meeting, the Executive Board Candidates Forum), and I despaired. That was a low point, in part because I had just found out that my workplace is seriously considering taking away travel funding (which is, even now, only awarded on a competitive basis and capped at about the cost of one ALA conference). Watch for this theme—the cost of Council and thoughts about making governance more accessible, not “budget cuts stink”—in another post.
Council Orientation – We met many of the players in the ALA political milieu, got the shortest rundown of the organizational structure ever, and were generally given lots of encouragement and advice. I actually came away from it a bit more intimidated than I was when I went, but that was just because it felt real, at that point. (Also, they didn’t get to the nitty-gritty stuff, like how you vote or where you sit, until after the session was technically over, and I had to dash off and miss most of that part.) I’m glad I went, though!
LibHack — the first hackathon at an ALA conference. This was an amazing, well-run, inclusive event, and I’m glad I had the chance to attend! I do kind of wish I’d had the courage to leave my group, when I realized that the project didn’t split up quite right for the group’s size and skillsets, though; it would have been cool to have contributed to something more concretely. Still, I have the start of a Python-based Twitter bot (since they didn’t need me for their Ruby- and PHP-based one), and that will be a fun project to work on in my spare time. And, just generally, some really cool things got built!
The LITA All-Committees meeting, where I saw so many people I wanted to talk to, but we all had committee work to do. So my committee Skyped with our committee chair (a brand new mom, so she couldn’t attend in person) and made some plans, and it was generally a good meeting. Being surrounded by my community, within ALA, was a good feeling. LITA Happy Hour also gave me that good “community” feeling, though that was somewhat more crowded—and I ended up having to take a seat in the corner, to save my aching feet. I had good company the whole time, though!
The #libtechgender panel, which was better-attended than I think we’d expected—or, at least, than I had. I feel like we barely scratched the surface on any of these issues, but people seemed happy with the discussion, which is continuing on Twitter—and will be followed up by a full day preconference at Code4Lib. (And I should add: the panel was, itself, a continuation of the conversation, after a panel at Internet Librarian.) I had thought a full day at Code4Lib would be overdoing it a bit, but given the line of people whose questions we didn’t get to and the amount we each chose not to say, in respect for time, I’ve changed my mind on that. Overall, I’m pleased at how the panel turned out, as well as the conversation following it; even the [legitimate] critiques of various statements/approaches by the panelists have tended to be polite/civil. I’m proud to be part of this conversation. (And, yes, of course this deserves its own blog post. But I don’t currently have anything in my head that is sufficiently unique from the great posts linked in the hashtag. More will happen, as thoughts coalesce.)
Lucking into sitting in the same section as the Councilors who inspired me to think it was worth running, and who continue to impress me (and keep me sane). It’s funny to tweet to someone in the seat behind/beside yours, but it gave us an outlet to discuss and play with ideas, without disrupting the session by whispering, or having to say everything on our minds at the microphones. I’m especially grateful to the people who answered my tweeted questions!
Lunch with an old friend and his son. It was nice to spend time with them and to be able to bounce back and forth between talking shop and catching up on our lives and the lives of people we know. Sometimes it hurts my heart to live so far away, though, and I felt it then.
Exploring Philadelphia’s answer to Pike Place (or is it the other way around?), sitting around a sports bar, and visiting a hipper-than-we’d-expected restaurant, all with librarian friends, old and new. In fact, let’s broaden that to, just generally, enjoying the company of people I really respect and admire, as well as some people I didn’t know before but am glad to have met. This was a great “people” conference!
Standing up in front of Council (actual Council, not just Council Forum) to speak in favor of an amendment to a resolution. (The amendment ultimately failed, though I thank Alaska Councilor Daniel Cornwall for proposing it!) It took all of my courage to stand up and talk. But I’m ashamed to say my courage failed me when I should have stood up a second time, after the amendment failed (for anyone who followed the discussion, I really should have pointed out that making IT people “excepted” or “essential,” depending whose jargon you use, is likely to have unintended negative consequences, particularly in the case of natural disasters; my husband risks his life on the roads when the local school district closes, because of a similar well-intentioned but misguided rule). The final vote went in favor of the resolution, which I believe is unfortunate, but I like that we were all able to disagree—very strongly, in many cases—and be friendly afterward. I had predicted to Daniel at Council Forum (the night before the vote) that our votes would cancel one another out, on this resolution, and, indeed, they did. I think we can still be friends, though. :)
Sitting in on LITA Board. I’m fairly used to the operation of boards, at this point — though this was one of the most efficiently and kindly run board meetings I’ve ever attended, so props to Cindi Blyberg! — but I’m not used to not being allowed to talk. They encouraged me to tweet, and I will next time; this time, I was worried about saying something that would get the membership riled up, or … I don’t know. I just wasn’t sure it would be appropriate. Now I know it’s encouraged. :) Anyway, it was interesting to have opinions, but no formal position that would allow me to help tackle the issues; it chafed my dual instincts to be helpful and to be opinionated (I like thinking that’s one instinct, but I know better). And LITA’s tackling big issues, now, so it was a really interesting meeting. (Then again, what board isn’t? What professional association is doing unquestionably awesome and clearly can just keep doing what it’s always done, anymore, right?)
Hanging out in a room full of people who are cooler than I am, waiting to get our pictures taken and sound bytes recorded, for… we’re not sure what. I’ll be interested to see what comes of that. I felt tired and ugly, and I hate getting my picture taken, so I didn’t want to go, but I’m glad I stayed brave and showed up. If nothing else, I got to see my EL buddy, Ingrid! We’re in such different areas of librarianship, we can go whole conferences without seeing each other. Wacky. (Ingrid, dahling, I’d vote for you if you ran for Council! :))
And the weird feeling of being in a place in the Lower 48 that’s colder than Anchorage. I was delighted at the one day in the 40s, though!
Just looking at what I’ve written, the themes that stick out to me are courage (or lack thereof) and community and collegiality. That’s a good set of themes for a conference, I think!