One of our members, Chayse, went to ALA Midwinter in Boston and kindly wrote about his experiences for us! Read up below and start thinking about attending ALA Annual in Orlando or the next Midwinter in Atlanta (a good reason to get out of MN in January!).
At ALA I attended five sessions mostly pertaining to Youth Services. One of the constant themes that was present in most all panels was the need for students and librarians to be adaptable. What I mean is not just for students applying to jobs to be open to moving, getting a new experience, but also for both groups to be ready for the constant change happening in the library. With how libraries are transforming and how they are serving their users, we must educate ourselves on these changes to match that of the community we will be serving. One of the first panels I attended really surprised me because of the amount of students from other universities who felt their university was not preparing them for the job market or how they felt they did not have a concrete idea of what they wanted to do once graduated.
Besides attending the panels, I met with grad students from Simmons University, connected with members of YALSA, had dinners with publishers, and met some all-time favorite authors and introduced myself to Boston Public Librarians. I felt this was the most exciting portion of my trip because of all the connections I made while there. Yes it was important to attend panels and gain knowledge of various aspects of the field, but I feel it is another thing to actually meet with the professionals in which you can build relations with and form that network of individuals that can become lifelong people all working towards the same thing.
For the expo, that was a whirlwind of thrilling excitement. I was not able to spend a lot of time on the expo floor but from the time I did spend, there was so much free stuff. Books, bookmarks, books, and of course more ways of connecting with people in the field. I would say make sure to plan some expo floor time into your schedule if you decide to attend one of these conferences.
When planning my trip I threw in two extra days in which I could allow myself to see the city. I visited Faneuil Hall Market Place home of the best cupcakes in a jar, the Mary Baker Eddy Library, home of the Maparium (think of a giant globe of hand-painted stainless steel panels), got lost downtown (cell-phone died), visited three parks, saw penguins, sat by the ocean, and ate lots of food. Boston is definitely a place that I would visit again.
Overall there is only really one important thing I can say for fellow students. Make time in your schedule and attend a conference. Now is the time to make connections, visit places, and learn more about the field we are all working towards. When making the hesitant decision of whether I should attend ALA Midwinter looking back I am glad I clicked register.