On ALA Midwinter

Posted by lynn on Feb 1, 2007 in News |

I have to admit: half the reason I went was because it was in Seattle, and I love Seattle. I also have a friend there who has been expecting me to visit for some time now. That being said, even if you are one of those “Oh, the ALA doesn’t mean or do much anymore” type folks, Midwinter was worth the trip.

Now, Midwinter is mostly committee and roundtable meetings. I didn’t attend any of those because a) I’m not a member of any special committee and I’m not looking to be a member until I graduate and have time, and b) I really only had one full day to dedicate to the conference. I went really to just get the feel for what the ALA was really all about and maybe do some job scouting. So I went to the exhibits and to the President’s Program. I also visited the Seattle Public Library which is beyond words. It’s. Just. Awesome. Definitely worth the visit, folks. Not only is it visually stunning, but it’s so beautifully organized and geared towards a diverse, urban public. It’s everything I would imagine a modern, public library to be.

First of all, Midwinter is HUGE! 12,000 librarians and paraprofessionals descended on Seattle for this thing, and this is the “smaller” of the two annual conferences. It’s just sorta inspiring to walk into the massive Washington Convention Center and see librarians everywhere. Heck, they were all over Seattle too. Even the fish-throwing-dudes at the Public Market were like, “Sssssh…librarians are everywhere this week.”

The exhibits were pretty cool. Sure there was swag to be had – we shipped home two boxes of free books – but more than anything, it was great to see the new products that were coming out and hear what librarians were saying about them. It gave me some additional perspective on what it’s like to be a librarian outside of graduate school. The exhibits and demos also bolstered my confidence a bit. I forced Sarah (who came along for the ride) to sit through a metadata lecture at the Library of Congress booth, only to find that I already knew everything that the lecturer was talking about. I had similar experiences at other booths and demos.

The President’s Program was on the FISH philosophy on working. I had heard about this at other conferences I’ve been too, so I decided to sit in. The basic idea is to have fun while working and to provide excellent service to your customers. Not really new ideas, but they were presented in an entertaining way. Didn’t change my life though.

The other positive thing that happened was that I got my job offer while I was at the conference. Now, as I’ve previously blogged, it’s not a traditional library-type job, so I was rather worried about taking it. However I ran into a librarian that used to work at USC, and she encouraged me to go for it. Her perspective was that having corporate experience would be a benefit on my resume, not a detraction. So I decided to take the job – but I’ll post on that later.

All in all, for me Midwinter was almost like a booster shot. I do know what’s going on. Librarianship is a powerful, active and important profession. We do have some clout. It’s okay that I won’t be working in a library post-graduation.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go to Annual in DC this year, but I know this won’t be my last ALA conference.

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