Greeting after 1 mile of convention centre

Greeting after 1 mile (yes, 1 mile!) of convention centre

Well, it’s been almost a month now since my visit to the ALA Annual 2011 Conference in New Orleans and study visit to Louisiana State University. I know some people were following my tweets (although I expect some people followed my advice to mute them!), and my Tumblr that I used before, during and after the conference. If I’m honest though, the 8am starts and midnight-ish finishes meant I was exhausted so didn’t get to blog as much as I had planned to during the conference. Having said that, I really wanted to take in as much of the sights and experiences of the conference that I possibly could, and I definitely did that.

People I met at #ala11

People I met at #ala11 (click for list)

I have said this to most people I have spoken to since, and I promise not to go on about it too much, but it really is an incredible conference – I mean, 20.000 librarians in one city?! It’s so difficult to comprehend.

But it just works – the organisation is excellent and there is loads of help for newbies like me. I met so many incredible people – some I had hoped to meet after conversing with them on Twitter, others I just happened to meet there. Look at the list of people I met (and these are just the ones I exchanged cards with!)

The evening social gatherings were particularly good for getting to know people better and chatting to them informally. Everywhere you turn there are friendly librarians wanting to talk to you (particularly when you hang out with UK Shambrarian superstar @daveyp!).

Consulting toolkit

Consulting toolkit gift

I really enjoyed my consulting toolkit preconference which was incredibly useful for my day job and allowed me to spend time dedicated to thinking about my consultancy skills and what I would like to do in that area. The other sessions I attended were (mostly) enjoyable too, though it is difficult to choose which ones to go to. But the real highlights for me were learning more about ALA and chatting to people involved in ALA divisions and round tables, discovering some of the cool projects happening in the US, and meeting some of the library superstars and idols I’ve been stalking following the blogs and tweets of for years.

I also really enjoyed my visit to Louisiana State University libraries (my first US academic library visit), and learnt a lot from the librarians I spoke to there. I had a packed day chatting to librarians about instruction, library websites and social media, reference (including SMS and online reference support), scholarly publishing, collection development, and tenure.

I’ve written a couple of summary blog posts of my visit on my Tumblr blog – one on the themes I took away from the visit, and one on the organisational aspects that I hope I can learn from and potentially use in the events I organise.

Louisiana State University - main library

Louisiana State University - main library (apologies for the wonky photo!)

I was so inspired by the visit and the people I spoke to that I ended up signing up to a new ALA division (ASCLA), expressing interest in a committee position, and since returning I have applied for a place on the ALA Emerging Leaders program. I’d really like to help build links between professional organisations (particularly ALA, CILIP, and IFLA – all of which I am members of) and I hope to be able to get involved in ALA to help begin to build those links and encourage sharing of good practice. Fingers crossed I get a place on Emerging Leaders, though I’m aware it is highly competitive so we’ll see.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the CILIP John Campbell Trust for providing a bursary to support my attendance, and to my employer for supplementing this. I would strongly recommend every librarian to experience an international conference such as ALA Annual if you have the opportunity to do so, it really is an excellent way to meet other librarians, learn about innovative projects, and reinvigorate your passion and enthusiasm for the profession!

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  • Hi Jo
    Sounds like you had a fantastic time at ALA.  Fingers crossed you’ll be offered a spot on the Emerging Leaders Program.  :)Just wondering if you had the chance to meet anyone from the New Orleans public library system…or if you heard anyone speak about the value of libraries following the hurricanes of 2005.
    Thanks
    Christine

    • Hi Christine, I’m afraid I didn’t, sorry. There was so much to choose from and I tended to steer towards the academic/research/consultancy sessions rather than the public library sessions.

      ALA was the first major conference at New Orleans following Katrina, and the city is very thankful to the librarians who helped bring in necessary income from tourism during that crucial period. There were some signs in cafes and bars thanking librarians and welcoming them for their return to the city.

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