Sunday, July 6, 2014

Once Upon A Time...I Went to ALA (part 1)

Once Upon A Time, I went to my first American Library Association Conference,

And discovered it was amazing.

This year's ALA Annual Conference was held in West Hades, or as it is commonly referred to, Las Vegas. For five days, I was exposed to my field's largest scale, in all of it's overwhelming glory.  While I was nervous and intimidated, I quickly found myself falling into that wonderful comfort that comes from knowing that you have found a place where you belong, and I'll tell you, this revelation was right on time.

For the past few months, I'd been feeling myself fall out of touch with my profession.  The ALA Direct newsletters were beginning to rot in my inbox, and my to-read pile is ridiculously and embarrassingly overflowing on my shelf at work.   So very much of my interactions with teens at work was becoming centered around programming that I can count on my hand the readers' advisory encounters.  In short, I wasn't feeling like a very good librarian.

With those feelings of inadequacy packed in my suitcase, and the stress that could only come with a summer reading program that runs like a bullet train, I made my way to Nevada.  I looked over my schedule repeatedly, hoping that I'd selected sessions that would speak to the areas where I felt I needed the most help.  A session on Teen Read Week, some clarity on teen programming and development, a couple of awards sessions.

I sat down to my first session, a pre-conference workshop on connecting with teens and young adults, however, and was mouth-drop surprised to instantly hear presenters saying that the things I was already doing, were not only right, but encouraged.  From that moment on, I knew that ALA was going to be the best decision I'd made in a long time.  I was totally right.

So here are some of the sessions I sat in on:
Connecting Youth: Key Findings from the Learning Labs in Libraries and Museums Projects
Opening General Session - Featuring: Jane McGonigal
The Michael L. Printz Program and Reception 
Ignite Saturday Session: A New Approach to Summer Reading - Play, Baby, Play 
Auditorium Speaker Series featuring Stan Lee
Teaching Teens How to Fail: Library Spaces and the Maker Movement
Teen Reading Lounge: Engaging Teens Through Interactive humanities Based Programming
The Future of Library Services for and with Teens
Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
A New Vision for Teen Read Week
We F'ed Up, But We Fixed It: Thriving When Things Go Wrong
Deciding What’s Next for YALSA
YALSA's President's Program and Membership Meeting
Closing General Session featuring B.J. Novak

Now, there were a few others that I peeked into, or sat in on, but left them early due to them not really speaking to me, but I didn't include those here.  I'm so glad I read a few great blogs about how to attend your first ALA conference also before going, because they all said not to feel bad about leaving a session, and reworking your schedule.  Sometimes I can be far too nice, and stay in a professional relationship longer than necessary.  LOL  It was nice to get the reminder that hey, I(my library) paid for this, I should get ALL of what I want out of it!

Anyway, since I have to write all these things out for work anyway, I figured I'd recount my Vegas experience here, as a way to organize my thoughts, and also to share some of the great takeaways I gleaned. I hope they encourage you as much as they did me!  Be back in a bit!


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