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ALA Midwinter 2013

I’m combining my obligatory “lessons learned” post (past ones: here… and the others all got left in draft format) with my “how’d conference go?” post. I didn’t learn that many lessons—not enough for a full blog post—and, spoiler, I had a great conference.

Quickly, my lessons:

  • Get a prescription for sleeping pills before conference. Because, seriously, I laid in bed for hours before sleeping, each night, and it wasn’t even an uncomfortable bed. Sounds crazy, but here’s my theory: I squash down my inner introvert all day, at conference, and I act totally extrovert-like. But, as social as I enjoy being, I still need lots of alone time to process everything that has happened. I don’t know what it will do to my retention, to force myself to sleep, instead of taking the time to process, but there’s a possibility it will help, since I need more than 4 hours of sleep a night to function, anyway.
  • Carry cash. I’ve already learned this lesson, but I learned it again. Cabs hate credit cards. And it’s easier to pay as you go at the bar than to wait to get your credit card back. Especially if you never have more than two drinks. (Don’t tell anyone that’s all I ever drank. But it was.)
  • Consider going back to calendar events, instead of the scheduler, for keeping track of sessions. It took a long time to pull up the scheduler app and get it pointing to the right day, each time I wanted to look up an event. Then again, there were room changes, and it was useful to be able to look at the most up to date version of the rooms. So this one’s hanging out there for me to think about more.

I’d like more lessons learned. If you’re reading this, and you went to Library Camp, please leave a comment or email me (coral at sheldon-hess dot org) to tell me what you think went well and what you think would be more effective, next time! I’ll share comments with Jenny Levine and with this year’s co-host, Rachel Fryd, and I can keep them anonymous, if you prefer.

The brightest, shiniest moment of conference, for me, was right after the NMRT Membership Meeting. A new librarian came up and said (paraphrasing, here) “I wanted to introduce myself. When I was thinking about going to library school I asked about it online. You wrote a comment that was helpful, and I went, and now I’m tenure-track. Thanks.” I was totally taken aback, because I think sometimes we forget that the conversations we have online matter to people. It’s possible to make a difference. All of this online jabbering I do (and that’s often how I think about it, seriously) is not for naught!

The second shiniest moment was the ACRL New Members Discussion Group panel, moderated by the inimitable Tyler Dzuba. I was super nervous about it ahead of time (first-ever ALA panel!), but I think it went well. I didn’t say some of the things I had meant to say, and I said some things I didn’t (nothing I look back on with regret, happily), but I feel like the people in the room mostly got their questions answered. Although everone else on the panel was either further along in their career or at a more prestigious institution (or both), I still feel like I was able to contribute and to provide helpful advice for some of the folks in attendance. I really hope everyone felt like their questions were answered!

Obviously, the best formal educational event, for me, was the preconference on web analytics. Nina McHale and Tabby Farney are, like, my web analytics heroes! Now I have analytics plans. (Some of them are devious plans, even!) But I learned a lot, informally, as well—since Midwinter is mostly discussions, “informally” is pretty much the only way to learn. I got the lowdown on the one or two Springshare products we don’t have at my library, yet. I talked to a bunch of folks about how they staff their reference desks and their reference IM service. I know that’s not something I have any say in (at least not the desk part), but it got me thinking about my library. Maybe in a slow moment I can share a little of what I learned. I also went to a session on User Experience, given by Heidi Steiner and hosted by RUSA MARS, and I watched the traditional “the website is for students”/”the website is for public service librarians” argument play out; actually, I took part, in an indirect way (OK, not that indirect, but it was very indirect when compared to the guy who said “that’s why we have intranets,” to quiet cheering from most of the rest of the room), and it gave me an idea for a session proposal.

A group of us are hoping that we can create a LITA interest group around user experience and combine forces with the RUSA MARS group. (LITA and ALCTS co-own the Code Year IG, so it’s been done before.)

Conference usually has themes, for me. (And for others—someone told me this whole conference was about Big Data, for them, which I think is delightful; I didn’t go to anything about Big Data. I love that two people can attend the same conference and think it was about different things!) Besides the issue of analyzing website usage and talking to users and getting your library to make good decisions, which is a theme for everything in my whole life, the other major theme this time was “Ask for forgiveness, not permission.” Maybe a better way to phrase that is “lazy consensus.” I have a book I’m supposed to read, about that.

The other theme was “Things are not scary.” (One thing was LITA. The other was ALA in general.) For the first time ever I had a really good time at the LITA Happy Hour (usually I don’t know enough people and feel awkward at least half of the time), and the LITA Town Hall actually inspired me to apply to join a LITA committee. So that’s good. And I not only went to Council Forum, but I actually said something. I didn’t say half of what I wanted to; I just asked a clarifying question. (By the way, if the membership approves the dues proposal on the upcoming ballot, then Executive Council will be able to raise dues a small amount per year. That’s fine. Although I think we need to make ALA’s value more obvious/tangible for its less-active members before we raise dues, I still more or less support that part of the proposal. BUT if Executive Council votes to raise membership dues for personal members, then they HAVE to increase the students’ dues proportionally. That really upsets me. “Making money” is not the primary goal of having student members—it should be nowhere on the goals matrix, actually—and I think they should get an exemption from any further dues increases. So I don’t know how I’m going to vote on this.) The folks at Council were fairly welcoming, and although I am still a little intimidated by that particular body, I think I can get over it.

I came into conference a little low-energy, and it’s really nice to leave with much higher energy! I got to see so many people—though there are a few I didn’t see and wish I could have—and I got to work though a lot of ideas. It was a great experience! Although Chicago has been my least favorite conference city so far, I am planning to give it a second chance, and I am looking forward to continuing the conversations we started at Midwinter.

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  1. Christie

    Sounds like you had a good time! FLIP is inviting ALA midwinter attendees to come give overviews of their conference experiences at the March 8th meeting. We’d love it if you could come.

    Also, do you mind if I link to this blog post on the FLIP blog?

  2. Hi, Christie!

    I’ve put FLIP on my calendar for March 8th. Thanks for the invite! :)

    And I definitely don’t mind if you want to link to this post. (Thanks for thinking it’s worth linking to!)

  3. Janel

    Nice post! It sounds like you had a good conference and made some great connections!

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