The Emporia State University Student Chapter of the American Library Association offers stipends to help students attend conferences (this is what much of the fundraising we do throughout the year supports). This summer, Cynorra Jackson had the opportunity to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco this past summer. Below, she shares her experiences.
Being somewhat new to the library profession, I have had some experience with conferences. They are local and small. Not that there is anything wrong with that. They are simply different. I have become acquainted with several people because we are always at the same conferences. I cannot say the same for ALA. What can I say except WOW! Never before have I seen so many information professionals gathered in one area. It was an amazing turnout, but I was told that this is normal. When I first arrived at the Moscone Center in San Francisco I was overwhelmed with hundreds of people walking everywhere. (I am originally from Washington DC, so crowds are not normally an issue for me; but on this day, it was a lot to take in.) The conference information is compiled into a catalog. If I had done a better job looking at the website, this book would not have surprised me. After deciding which sessions to attend and seeing the keynote and other introductory speakers to kick off the conference, I waited in the crowd for the door to open for the vendors. This part of the conference was exciting. There we were. The largest group of librarians I had ever been a part of waiting for the door to open to get all of the books and free things the free things they were giving away. What an experience!
There were a plethora of conference session to attend. It did not matter what your concentration was, there seemed to be a session for everyone. A few of my highlights include: books signings from well known authors, Book Buzz, copyright and privacy sessions, comics, professional development, interest groups, and so much more. I cannot begin to name of the resources that were available for us. The problem for me was that if there was a session going on in one building, there was no way to make it to another building in time for a really interesting session. I had to find a session that was close to my current location. One of my favorite sessions was dealing with gaming. I have often thought of gaming as something to pass the time; but in reality those we play games on a consistent basis and use their creativity can come up with some of the most interesting business strategies. The speaker of this particular session used games as an icebreaker right before an important meeting or an orientation. This allowed everyone to get their creative thoughts going, have fun, and get them on the same thinking level prior to the meeting. I thought that was genius. There are games of pieces of games that we can use in different ways to engage our students, employees/coworkers, and patrons. Who says that the rules of a game can’t be bent to inspire some creativity? Let me tell you…it can.
As a first-timer I was overtaken by the amount of information put together for this conference. To top it off, I had never been to the west coast. Talk about being torn between being educated in your profession and taking in the sights! Having a conference in a major city is both a good and bad idea…for me! I was torn between obtaining lots of professional development and sightseeing. The next time I attend the annual ALA conference I will prepare better. The website for the conference is going to be your best friend if you attend. Even if you are a veteran as far as this conference goes, the website if full of information that you will need. Use it! The purpose is to obtain information, network, and have fun. After all we are librarians! Our jobs and trainings are not boring or redundant. There is something fresh to be heard in every session and a new experience to have at every conference. I am thankful that I had this wonderful opportunity to attend ALA.