Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tales from a First Timer

Both Kirby and Lalitha have written amazing blog posts summarizing their experience at ALA 2011 in New Orleans.  I heartily second their emotions and advice, and as I attended most of the same functions they did I don’t have much new content to contribute.  That being said, I thought I would still post about my experience from the perspective of a first time conference attendee.

I have participated in past ALA’s on a superficial level – mostly just perusing the exhibit halls although at Midwinter 2011 in San Diego I was asked to bring a group of teenagers from my In BeT(w)een Book Club to participate in the Best Fiction for Young Adults session.  It was amazing for my teens to be able to provide feedback on the dozens of books they read in front of an audience of nearly 100 librarians, publishing reps, teachers, and other teens.  Afterwards, I took them through the exhibit hall and literally had to kick them out when the lights shut off.  They were gobsmacked at the number of ARCs they received and the positive attention they were getting from the publishing reps who really wanted to know what the teens thought of their books.

Having recently been appointed to the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee, I am know committed to attending Annual and Midwinter for the next two years. NOLA 2011 was my first experience as a fully registered participant.

-        Meeting so many amazing, friendly, normal, abnormal, down-to-earth, talented authors. Many of whom have been highlighted in Kirby’s earlier blog posts.  I was standing in line waiting for Brian Selznick to sign my copy of Wonder Struck and eavesdropping on the 10-year-old boy standing behind me who was FREAKING OUT and literally pacing back and forth with excitement.  He was the physical embodiment of how I was feeling on the inside.

-        Networking with my amazing librarian peers. At the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award reception I had the honor of meeting about 80 fellow award recipients. It was so motivational chatting with people who are still enthusiastic and passionate about their profession and the potential that they see for positive change. I felt this way over and over again at many of the events, receptions, and shuttle rides. I value the opportunity to put names to faces that I’ve gotten to know online, meet new colleagues who I look forward to working with remotely in the future, and reconnecting with local colleagues that I only get to see once or twice a year.

-        ARCs and Vendors.  I was thrilled to get so many ARCs not only because I want to read them but also because my teens froth at the mouth for them.  I also really enjoyed wandering up and down the aisles and talking to vendors (like Goosebottom Books) that I’d never heard of and getting to talk to an actual person (instead of a machine) from vendors I use on a regular basis. I was also smart enough to think ahead and bring an empty duffle bag folded in the bottom of my checked bag so that I didn’t have to pay to ship home any ARCs. Even exercising constraint in the exhibit hall, I still came home with over 40 lbs of books.  Luckily. Continental Airlines allows you to check two bags under 50 lbs for free.  I’ll definitely remember that when I book my ticket for Dallas!

-        Being overcommitted with meetings and events. I’m thrilled to be a part of the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee and the YALSA Mentoring Task Force, and to have received the Library Journal Movers & Shakers award and wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. However, between my required meetings, events sponsored by publishers that I work closely with, and receptions I wanted to attend in order to meet my favorite authors I really didn’t leave myself any time for sightseeing and escaping the French Quarter.  I also didn’t have much time to attend any of the conference workshops or film screenings, many of which sounded very interesting.

-        The weather!! This was obviously beyond my control and that of the people of New Orleans, but 85 degree weather with 90% humidity and I just don’t get along well.

-        Not trying any of the restaurants I so diligently researched ahead of time. I did a lot of online research prior to leaving for NOLA and because of my over commitments and a general lack of motivation to wander around exploring (due to the weather) I missed out on some of the restaurants that I really wanted to try – many of which I saw through the window of my taxi as I drove to the airport – were literally around the block from my hotel. 

-        Despite every “What to know before you go” blog post I read regarding Annual, I still made the mistake of not bringing the right shoes.  Part of the reason is that I wanted to maintain my sense of adorable style J and not give in to the sensible shoe stereotype that plagues librarians.  The other part was that I have a lot of foot issues (super high arches and a broken left toe) that have made finding comfortable shoes nearly impossible. The pair of sandals that I wear to work on a daily basis got nearly ruined the first night we were in the French Quarter when we got caught in a deluge and they stretched out two sizes.  It’s one thing to be on your feet for 9 hours a day and walk the length of my library 30 times; it’s quite another to walk with intention and have to be on the other side of New Orleans in 30 minutes walking on dirty concrete in the rain. So it is now my mission to find the perfect pair of shoes for walking long distances with intention that can look cute with dresses, and provide enough support without having to be broken in.  If you have recommendations please advise!

-        The reason I’m not posting any adorable pictures is that I wasn’t able to take any. I have an iPhone 3G and every time I open my camera application it freezes my phone and I have to restart it.  I received many a dirty look from publishing reps and librarians alike as I struggled to make my camera work in order to take a picture at a book signing. 

-        Sacrifice cute for comfort when it comes to shoes
-        Make time for sightseeing and just hanging out
-        Exercise self-control in the exhibit hall
-        Consult with my GIS (Geographic Information Systems) librarian colleague to create a map of the restaurants I want to eat at in relation to my hotel. Bring a point and shoot camera or upgrade your phone