ALA Midwinter

Dallas, ALA Midwinter, 2012

Recently I attended the American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference for the first time.  Actually, it was the first time I’ve attended any conference outside of LOEX.  It was in Dallas, which is within driving distance for me.  I was  able to attend for one day (Sunday).

Here’s what I saw:

Exhibition Hall
Some librarians I know went the day before and apparently made out like bandits with library swag.  It was not as crazy as anticipated. I, alas, have a bad back so I didn’t spend much time there.  I made a point to go by Mango’s table to get a smoothie, but that crippling malady known as vendor shyness* overtook me soon after so I bowed out.

Author session: John Green
I hadn’t heard of John Green before Midwinter (I know, I know–I don’t  generally read YA books), but the mention of social media in the session description interested me.  First of all, wow. Not having read any of his books, I was in awe at this energy (especially since he’d gotten little sleep the night before) and level of confidence (maybe because he’s an author, and I thought he’d be more introverted?).  He was humorous and engaging. He’s very comfortable discussing his work and has lots of pretty hilarious YouTube videos.   I am definitely interested in finding out more about his work.

World Book Night 2012 logo

Session: World Book Night
Definitely a worthy cause.  If you haven’t heard about it, World Book Nightwas started in the UK and promotes giving books to “non-readers.” From the website: “We need book-loving volunteers to fan out across America on April 23, 2012! Just take 20 free copies of a book to a location in your community, and you just might change someone’s life. Please sign up by Feb. 6 EST at midnight. The goal is to give books to new readers, to encourage reading, to share your passion for a great book. The entire publishing, bookstore, library, author, printing, and paper community is behind this effort with donated services and time.”

Session: Transforming Librarianship with David Lankes (Day 2)
This was an interesting session.  Seating was in tables, and we had three questions to discuss as a group.  After each question, attendees were asked to switch tables and join an all-new group.

Round 1: Future library services
The first question was,  “Based on our findings from the Saturday session, in this envisioned community of the future what will be different about library service?”  I didn’t attend Saturday’s session, but some of it had been summed up during the introduction.  Some of the ideas kicked around were that library services would be more interactive, mobile, and community-based.  One librarian shared that the urban library she worked at was having trouble attracting patrons from the city’s sizable population of Puerto Ricans.  She later discovered that the “information center” of the community was the local bodega.  This was where people went to exchange information and get the latest news.  She didn’t have time to get into details, but I found the idea of a “bodega library” (my words, not hers) fascinating.

Round 2: Librarians in the Future
After we changed tables for round two, the second question was,  What tools will librarians need for this trip to the future? What will you put in your backpack?
Some of the tools mentioned were IT/technical skills, people skills, and the ability and desire to learn new things.

Round 3: You Know What They Say About Assumptions
The third question was What will need to change about our assumptions about libraries and librarianship? Some of the ideas that came up were: the idea that librarians can remain stagnant in terms of professional development.  As one participant put it (quoting a mentor): “Retrain or retire.”  Easier said than done, I think.  I’ve found in my previous, non-library jobs that these types of individuals are rarely confronted, unless they do something flagrantly unprofessional (which is rare).  Most just endure colleagues like this, and/or learn to “deal with it.”  Other assumptions mentioned included the idea that libraries are people’s first choice for information and/or that people have to come here for their information needs (because library resources are required to complete an assignment, for example).

It was nice to meet new people and to get different perspectives.  I’m definitely glad I attended!

*Vendor shyness: the inability to make eye contact with, or try attempt to swipe swag from, a vendor at an exhibition, out of fear that you’ll be subjected to an endless, droning spiel about a product which you’ll never buy.