Kristin Yiotis at ALA, Part II
(The first installment can be read here)
The conference itself took place in the Morial Conference Center as well as in hotels throughout the downtown area of New Orleans. The Morial Center itself is reputed to be one mile long, so you do lots of walking. Free shuttle buses take participants from hotels to the conference center, leaving about every 15 minutes. Social and networking events including meet and greets, receptions, and division social hours, usually take place in hotel events rooms rather than the conference center.
ALA virtually moves its offices into the conference center for the duration. Every form of technology is made use of. An electronic message center enables communication with other conference goers. Cognotes, a daily newspaper that provides the latest conference updates is published on site. Internet Café, a bank of computers linked to the Web, allows for checking email and keeping in touch with home. At Placement Services prospective employers and employees meet for interviews usually arranged in advance. Here too is you can get your resume reviewed as part of the Resume Review Service, organized by NMRT. The ALA store sells ALA publications and promotional items. You can take your children and sign them up for Camp ALA while you attend the conference.
Then there’s The Stacks, a huge emporium of exhibitors and vendors of everything that caters to libraries and conference goers. I came across booths selling glycerin insoles for your aching feet and Navajo silver jewelry, vendors of library furniture, book publishers, computer hardware and software. Famous authors are on site for book signings, lots of promo materials is given away, gimmicks to attract attendees, like espresso coffee service, movie house-style popcorn machines, lots of candy, and the inevitable cloth sacks printed with the company logo. Visit the conference General Information page for more details.
The conference program book, 210 pages of events, session, and programs, is organized in various ways: by program track and subtrack, chronologically by day and time with extended descriptions of each program, and a quick check, daily schedule of events without descriptions. I decided to go for the division President’s Programs, the Speaker Series with featured guests such as Laura Bush, and the Opening and Closing Sessions with big names such as Cokie Roberts and Madeline Albright. Visit the Special Events page for more details.
You try to get to as many events as possible but the biggest problem is logistics. Is it worth it to go from the conference center to a hotel to catch a session if you have to get back to the conference center for the following session? Every morning, I walked the 20 minute hike to the conference center early to beat the heat and to get to the Internet Café for coffee and a chance to check my emails before conference sessions started at 8 am. I stayed all day at the conference center and in the evenings I headed back to the hotels where the socials were held.
As a library student I’m not always sure which program track to choose when planning which sessions to attend. Plus I’m still learning to decode the ALA division acronyms. What did I go to this year? I chose User Services, Reference and Outreach track and the Information Literacy subtrack. Most sessions are two hours. The best feature a panel of presenters, from four to eight people, who speak around a theme such as: Podcasting the Classroom, Doing Information Literacy Differently, Model Programs from the Immersion Experience (an annual information literacy immersion workshop sponsored by ACRL).
The Immersion Experience session focused on assessment tools and brought together the people from Kent State who developed the SAILS and TRAILS information literacy assessment and the people from Educational Testing Service (ETS) who developed the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Literacy Assessment. I was particularly interested in hearing Dr. Lesley Farmer, Cal State Long Beach, who discussed the ICT trial testing taking place throughout CSU system, including San Jose State.
I attended the ACRL’s President Program, a debate on the usefulness of information literacy instruction called: “The emperor has no clothes: Be it resolved that information literacy is a fad and waste of librarians’ time and talent.” The outcome of the debate, in which the audience participated, was decidedly against the motion. Visit the Programs and Sessions page for more details.
Networking is a big part of conference going. I met librarians from all over, met current students and graduates from my own school. I had my resume reviewed and in general attended sessions that were informative and hugely motivational. When you’re sitting in a football stadium-sized hall and it is filled with librarians, you get a sense of the strength and power of ALA! You realize that these people have a voice and are used to using it. We welcomed Madeline Albright, Mayor Radin of New Orleans, the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, First Lady Laura Bush, California Librarian Kevin Starr, news correspondents Cokie Roberts and Andrew Cooper.
This year I registered in advance for the Conference within a Conference called Empowerment 2006: Taking Charge of a Sea of Change, a separate, specially-priced, educational opportunity for library support staff. For a reduced price, library tech people can attend any conference session during the two days of their Conference plus a Saturday Breakfast Kickoff and a Sunday Luncheon. When I registered, I didn’t have to pay anything in addition to the $55 advance student registration fee.
Am I attending ALA Annual Conference 2007, Washington D.C.? Absolutely!!! Hope to see you there.
Kristin is a graduate student in the School of Library and Information Science at