Monday, June 4, 2012

Sara's Guide to ALA Annual: Part the First

As one of my duties as your Student to Staff representative at ALA Annual this month, I agreed to blog about my experience here. I had initially thought that wouldn't happen until the conference, but I'm starting to realize just how much conference happens before the conference! Knowing that many of you will be new to attending Annual (and I hope you will plan for it, particularly next year, when it's in Chicago!), I thought I'd start sharing the experience now, as it's happening.

The main thing that I've been noticing in the past week is a sudden flurry of emails (or spam, depending on your perspective) from the big vendors, who must receive access to the full roster of registrant emails as part of the no-doubt-large amount of money they spend to promote themselves at the conference. Oxford Reference, ebrary, EBSCO, Ex Libris, and HarperCollins are the ones I can think off just off the top of my head. And, they're not just contacting to promote their materials but to promote their presence at the conference, which often involves food. I had to pass up hors d'oeuvres with Oxford Reference but am really excited to be signed up to get breakfast and free advance copies of fall release books from Harper Collins. The only downside is that I've been spending time removing myself from the email lists of companies that don't interest me.

Of course, at this point I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to make it to any one particular session. On my first go-round with the online scheduler, I felt like I was ruling out millions of sessions and still ended up adding about a dozen conflicting items in each time slot. This is great, of course, but also overwhelming. ALA does make some effort to ease the confusion of a first conference visit, though. For example, newbies can sign up to be connected with an ALA Ambassador (a more experienced volunteer mentor), and various divisions and round tables have introductory sessions scheduled at the beginning of the conference. I expect the one for the New Members Round Table will be especially useful. I will let you know what I learn about these options as we move forward!

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