I had no idea what to expect on my first trip to an American Library Association Annual Conference. Thursday afternoon I sat in the Kansas City International Airport, I noticed a few groups of people holding ALA Annual Conference registration information. I was surprised because I had assumed that I would not see any other librarians or library students until I arrived in New Orleans. During my hour long layover in Houston, I noticed that almost two-thirds of the people waiting at my gate were librarians. Many were talking about their libraries; others were wearing t-shirts or holding bags that identified them as information professionals.
Friday morning, I made the short walk from my hotel to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to register for the conference. There was a steady stream of people walking down the street holding red ALA shopping bags, but still didn’t know exactly how many librarians were at the conference. I entered the north end of the convention center and it seemed odd that there weren’t very many people around. It was noticeably more crowded after I had walked what seemed like a mile through the convention center. I finally realized how many librarians attend ALA Annual Conferences. Even with thousands of librarians milling through the convention center, I managed to run into John Sheridan, dean of the Emporia State University Libraries and Archives, on my way to the registration booth.
I spent Friday afternoon at the Opening General Session. Mayor Mitch Landrieu welcomed us to New Orleans and thanked the American Library Association for being the first conference to be held in New Orleans, in 2006, after Hurricane Katrina. There were a few speeches by ALA members and many librarians were presented with various awards. Dan Savage gave an amazing and emotional speech about the work he has done with the Trevor Project and the It Gets Better Project. He encouraged us all to add the It Gets Better book to our library collections for LGBT youth. After the opening session, I knew had made the right choice in attending the ALA Annual Conference.
The rest of the weekend I spent time exploring New Orleans and attending different sessions on subjects ranging from job hunting, students transitioning into college, and what happens in academic libraries late at night. There were so many different sessions offered I had a difficult time narrowing down those I wanted to attend. I encourage others to plan in advance for ALA conferences, but be flexible. I had several sessions I wanted to attend, but could not because they took place in different conference hotels. I did not have enough time to transfer from the convention center. I also spent a great deal of time going through the exhibition hall. I learned about new library products, shopped at the ALA Store, listened to speakers, and even got to try out a pair of shoe insoles.
I wish I could have spent more time at the conference and attended more sessions, but I know that I will go to more conferences in the future. I hope to see SLIM students and alumni in Anaheim, California at the next American Library Association Annual Conference.