We Can’t Help But Librarianing Challenge for #ALAM13

I was sitting in a car once with a bunch of great librarian when Toby Greenwalt said, in response to a conversation about librarians that “We can’t help but librarianing.” Well, I just thought about that because right now, I’m sitting in the airport on the way to ALAMW and just helped a lady get on the interwebs on her Lenovo tablet. I’ve been around many other librarians who do a lot of the same thing. For example I’ve been on an airplane when Andrea Davis did the mile high reference desk. And just now, when I got on Facebook, I read that Emily Clasper (that’s Emily FUCKING Clasper to you) left the following status:

“Shared a ride to JFK with a charming 81 year old man… a retired lawyer, library lover, using his iPhone like a boss. I showed him our app, helped him download sone ebooks, and helped him access Library of Congress digitized collections. The 24 year old driver was amazed. He’s stopping at his library this afternoon to get a card and learn this stuff.”

I realized that Toby is absolutely right! We just can’t help ourselves but librarian everywhere we go. I’m sure that there are a whole lot more stories about librarianing from many of the other librarians out there. So I’m setting forth this challenge;

  • 1) Librarian on your way to the conference, while you’re at the conference, and on the ride home. It only counts if you librarian someone who isn’t themselves a librarian.

  • 2) Tell the world about it with the hash tag #librarianing. Bonus points for pictures.

  • Basically, I want to see how many librarians can’t help themselves but librarian while at ALAMW and I want the public to know that we do so much great work off the reference desk and away from the branch. I would love for people to see that librarianing occurs while we’re at conferences, or on a plane, or a train, or wherever we are. So let people know!

    Library advocacy 5

    My Blog Post of Awesome Things for #alamw13

    Its not long before we’re all at ALA Midwinter and Making it Happen and Partying Hard. As usual, I have a long list of meetings to attend all day, every day. I won’t bore you with all the details of my entire schedule, but I will give you some highlights of things that you should know about , that are open to everyone, and that you might want to add to yours. You should know that many of these links are to Facebook Events because that’s the only place they exist but you can find many of them on ALA Conference Scheduler (which is awesome for putting together your conference schedule)

    Think Tank Thursday Night
    For all you folks who Made it Happen and came to ALAMW13 on Thursday night, this event is for you. This is the ALA Think Tank meetup and social event to start out the conference right. Come out to Linda’s Tavern at 7pm and have a drink and meet other folks from the ALA Think Tank live and in person and some of the Seattle Natives at this neighborhood dive bar.

    LITA Happy Hour
    LITA is always one of the best networking opportunities at ALA. It’s happening at the Elephant and Castle from 5:30-7:30. The librarians involved in LITA are doing some of the most exciting and innovative work in library technology. You probably read their blogs or follow them on twitter or you might have read their books! Come out and meet all these fines folks in person.

    Emerging Leaders Social
    This is a great opportunity to join Emerging Leaders past and present at the Emerging Leaders Meetup at the Elephant and Castle from 8-10pm right after the LITA. This is an excellent opportunity to network with other ELers who are emerging, have emerged, or will emerge eventually. If you haven’t been an emerging leader and you’re interested in learning more about this program, or if you want to just come and have some drinks with some excellent librarians, you are also welcome to join us.

    Tumblr Meetup
    What is Tumblr? Do you Tumbl? No, I don’t get on it much neither and I don’t actually know a whole lot about it. I do know that a lot of awesome people are on Tumblr and I want to meet them all. If you want to meet all the Tumblarians IRL then you should come to this event.

    LBB Meeting
    If you are a fan of BoingBoing.net you should come to a meeting that showcases the ALA and Librarianship’s involvement in this great blog. You can meet fellow Happy-Mutants, get involved in building up this group of librarians, and hear about great things in libraries around the world who are doing wonderful things and popular culture-related issues (such as net neutrality, steampunk, etc.), as well as makerspaces and digital learning labs. We guarantee you’ll hear about at least one great project another library is implementing that will inspire you. This meeting happens early on Saturday at 8:30am so get ready!

    This year at Midwinter, the ALA Think Tank is excited to announce the first ever Ignite ALA! It will be held in the Networking Uncommons from 12-1 on Saturday. If you’re not familiar with Ignite, Ignite is a geek event that is being held in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes. Many of these presentations are recorded live and broadcast or archived to be shared around the world. This will be ALA’s first ever attempt to Ignite our passions for our profession!!

    NMRT Social
    If you are a new member to the ALA or this is one of your first conferences, I know it can be overwhelming. The New Member Round Table is here to help you out. This social event at the Dragon Fish Café from 5:30-7:30 will help you find out more about the organization and meet some great people.


    This year’s tweetup will happen directly in-between the NMRT Social at 5:30 and the EveryLibrary/librarianwardrobe.com After-hours party at 10pm at the Baltic Room. Come and hang out with other Twitter folks and have a drink and maybe dance a little.

    ALAMW Afterhours
    This is one of the most entertaining nights of the conference when everyone comes together and has a good time. You have a great opportunity to meet a lot of fun people who are just out to have a good time. This event is brought to you by EveryLibrary and Library Wardobe at 10pm at Linda’s Tavern.

    Young Turks UNITE!
    Young Turks Unite! is an anti-reception for the critical thinkers, the up-and-comers, and the true movers and shakers (LJ ratings do not apply) of the library world at the Diller Room at 9pm on Sunday. If you have a fire in your heart and want to shake up the universe of what we call librarianship, you are invited to join a group of like-minded, passionate professionals for an evening of conversation, provocation, and perhaps even revolution.

    Maker Monday

    Maker Monday is an exciting day filled with all kinds of events and activities to help you get informed and involved in the latest from the makerspace movement in librarianship. It also provides a chance for successful programs to share their stories and for librarians to meet fellow makers.

    Every Library Board Meeting
    As a Board Member of EveryLibrary, I highly encourage you all to attend our first Board Meeting. If you’re not familiar with EveryLibrary, “it is the first and only national organization dedicated exclusively to political action at a local level to create, renew, and protect public funding for libraries of all types. We provide tactical and operational support to local voter awareness campaigns, seed and sustaining monies to local ballot committees and PACs, as well as conduct direct voter advocacy in support of library taxing, bonding, and referendum.” Basically, its the very first library PAC!

    ALA Council

    I do have to plug ALA Council too. Even if you’re not officially on Council, you should remember that ALA is a member driven organization. If you want to see who’s driving, you should come to council and watch how it works. You can see memorial resolutions, dues increases, and a variety of other issues being discussed. I promise that only half of the councilors will try to talk you into running for council.

    ALA Council Forum
    I know that Aaron Dobbs would say that everyone should go to this so I’ll say it too. The Council Forum is the behind the scenes and nitty-gritty of ALA Council. This is where a lot of the real debate and the real compromise happens. If you really want to see what makes ALA Council run, you should check this out. It would be absolutely amazing to not just have ALA councilors here so that they hear some voices of reason! Come in a speak your mind.

    That’s my list of stuff that I’m inviting you to join me at. What are you doing?

    library advocacy 2

    Ignite Sessions at #ALAMW13

    Ignite ALAThis year at Midwinter, the ALA Think Tank is excited to announce the first ever Ignite ALA! If you’re not familiar with Ignite, Ignite is a geek event that is being held in over 100 cities worldwide. At the events Ignite presenters share their personal and professional passions, using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes. Many of these presentations are recorded live and broadcast or archived to be shared around the world. This will be ALA’s first ever attempt to Ignite our passions for our profession!!

    We are looking for around 8-10 presenters on any number of topics. These topics can be library related, or just something that you are passionate about. Maybe you have a presentation that you already gave, one that you are working on, or something that wasn’t accepted for a full ALA Session? This is your shot to debut the most radical or passionate idea you have and Ignite your passion in the rest of our profession!

    If you think you have what it takes, all you need to do is leave a comment below with your name and topic. Then, put together your deck of 20 slides that advance every 15 seconds and start practicing. The Ignite session will be held in the Networking Uncommons on Saturday at Noon at ALA Midwinter.

    For more information about Ignite in general, take a look at their website for more details and to see who else has signed up, take a look at our Facebook event page or the Networking Uncommons page for ALAMW13

    Presenters and Topics (so far)

    JP Porcaro – Something Awesome TBA
    Angie Manfredi – YA Fiction
    Beth Hereford Patin – Libraries: Information’s First Responder
    Kate Kosturski – ALA CraftCon
    Patrick Sweeney – The Story Sailboat
    Tom Bruno – How To Change All The Things: A #MakeItHappen 2012 Retrospective
    K.G Schnieder- Radical Optimsim
    Amy Buckland- Doing Things that Scare You

    If you’re looking for a good explanation of the why and how of giving an Ignite talk, then take a look at this presentation by O’Reilly author Scott Berkun. He does a great job of summarizing what can be achieved in five minutes with twenty slides. Here’s a short video to share:

    Library advocacy 3

    How to be Awesome at Going to Library Conferences

    I’m sitting here at the New Jersey Library Conference (fist pumping) and I was thinking about how much my conference experiences have improved the last couple of years. I also saw a bunch of recent tweets about newbies going to ALA. So, I thought I would share my own experiences about what makes an awesome conference experience. This is going to be ALA heavy since it’s coming up, but everything here can be adapted to your local conferences as well. So, here they are in no particular order-

    Get involved
    This is probably the most important. ALA is all about involvement. The greater part of the organization is run by volunteers. There are a bunch of ways to get involved in it but if it’s your first time to ALA I would recommend going to the ALA Scheduler and taking a look at what isScheduled for New Members at the conference. They can give a bunch of good information about what kinds of things you can do to be involved. There are a bunch of committees, roundtables, interest groups, etc… that are looking for interns or people to just help them out with whatever they might need. The best thing you can ever do is ask “How can I help.”

    Bonus Tip– I also recommend running for ALA Council for the bitching rights but that happens in Midwinter. For Annual you can sit in a Council meeting and see what happens there. I’ll be there so don’t be afraid to come up and say hi!

    Meet Everyone
    My favorite thing to do at ALA is meet people. The people that we work with in the profession are absolutely amazing! There are so many great people doing such fantastic things that I love to talk to as many people as I can about whatever they’re passionate about at the moment. I actually learn far more from these conversations than I do at a lot of the programs and I also have a large network of friends and mentors that I can rely on for whatever questions I might have or inspiration that I might need. The biggest problem is remembering everyone’s name (hi Veronica!) but that’s something that I’m working on.

    Be social
    Just as a step beyond meeting everyone, it’s very important that you practice your social skills at ALA. This was the hardest thing for me to learn because I was a pretty intense introvert for most of my life but it’s something I’ve worked to get over while at conferences especially. Remember, this is the largest gathering of people in your profession in the world and you should be taking advantage. This isn’t the time to hide in your hotel room, eat or drink alone, or otherwise have any kind of anti-social tic whatsoever. So don’t be shy. If you’re eating lunch, ask strangers to join you, if you’re in an elevator talk to the people around you, if you go to a program talk to be people sitting next to you, and if you hear about a meetup or tweetup or dance party then you should go! You can find out about many of these opportunities on Twitter or on the conference scheduler.

    Find a group
    This is probably the hardest part and the one thing that made ALA better for me. When you’re out and about and being social you should try to get in with a group of people that you think you might like. At my first awesome ALA experience I was running around with some great folks from Reforma (I’m not even a member). After that I started meeting more and more people and now I have a really cool groups of folks that started by renting a house together for conferences instead of a hotel by myself.

    Get Free Stuff
    Find a totebag, put stuff in it. You can use the hashtag #alafree if you want to let other people know about it. Besides totebags and more books than you can carry there is always a ton of free food and drinks all over the conference. There is no reason to go hungry or spend money on food or drinks. Once again, you can find out a lot about where and when this happens on Twitter and the Scheduler.

    Dress Casualish

    You will walk. You will walk A WHOLE LOT. Be prepared for that. I see a lot of folks wearing some pretty nice clothes that look like they would be a pain to wear. Wear something comfortable and especially wear comfortable shoes. If you want to get an idea about what to wear to ALA then you should check out the Librarian Wardrobe Tumblr and see what other folks wear to conferences. Bobbi also wrote a great blog post with some tips for packing this stuff too.

    Party hard
    There are so many parties and opportunities to celebrate our profession and get away from all the doom and gloom and end of time prophecies that we keep hearing. You should take advantage of them. We get to work in the best damn job in the world so this is a great opportunity to celebrate that fact. Be positive, enthusiastic, fun, excited, passionate, and everything else that comes with a good party mentality.

    Make It Happen
    You are responsible for your ALA experience. If you think that the conference needs a dance party then make one happen, if you think it needs an unconference then make one happen, if you think it needs a QR code hunt then make one happen. There are so many opportunities to make something happen that you want to see at ALA that it’s ridiculous. So I’m telling you, don’t complain about there not being something that you want there (I won’t listen), you can make that something happen if you really want it.

    Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget for FY 12/13 has no money for public libraries

    Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget for FY 12/13 has no money for public libraries. We’re asking the State Legislature to restore $15.2 million in funding.

    You can help:

  • Register today to receive legislative alerts here
  • Mail or fax letters NOW to the members of the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Education Finance and other key legislators listed here
    A sample letter can be found here
  • Go with other library advocates to visit your state legislators in their district offices during the months of March and April. You will receive another message soon with a link to the CLA member who is CLA’s legislative contact for each legislator responsible for making appointments. You can contact that person to learn the time and place of the appointment. Talking points for those meetings are on the CLA website here
  • Be sure to add what the impact on your community is of losing all state funds for libraries and the double whammy of losing federal funds because of lacking the required matching funds.

    Act today – You can make a Difference and Save State Funding for Public Libraries!

    This Facebook Ad Campaign Might Save Your School Library

    John Chrastka is a BOSS! This is a guest post from him about his campaign to get signatures on the White House Petition on School Libraries

    On Wednesday, January 25th, a call went out for donations to help support a targeted advertisement via Facebook in support of the White House Petition on School Libraries. Quick creative, keywords, and copy were built about the petition and fielded to an initial audience of 3.8 million people. By 10pm that evening, 34 individual donors pledged $1,250 in support of this outreach. The initial ad targeted Facebook users people who have keywords on their profiles indicating that they were supporters of libraries, reading, and books, or were professionally involved in the library field. From 2pm CST on 1/25 through 2pm CST on 1/27, the ad was seen at least once by 255,000 people.

    It quickly became apparent that the funding could be used for more targeted advertising to a wider audience. Within the first 24 hours, ALA’s Office for Library Advocacy created a special post on the I Love Libraries Facebook page to support this project. By Friday at Noon CST, five new ads with extensive, targeted keywords were fielded to the following groups out among the public: Libraries, Books and Writing, Education, Parents, and Friends of I Love Libraries Fans. A 6th group, ‘Civic Minded’, is ready to roll in case we need it. This phase of the campaign has a potential audience of 44 million people and will direct them to the special ILL page. The keywords and creative for this phase are attached and available to you open-source for future use in local, statewide and regional campaigns.

    As the campaign wraps up after February 4th, a full set of statistics about the efficacy of these keywords will be available for you to benchmark your own projects.

    This ad campaign is not the only thing helping this petition along nor is it the only driver. We could have $10k to spend but with our run way we need word of mouth and friends and family to help us deliver as well. We have 7 days (through Feb 4) to make it happen across the library ecosystem as we use our networks to get the word out. Help light a fire yourself by posting and sharing the petition and the I Love Libraries FAQ.

    Thanks to Jaimie Hammond for her social media skills and creativity, Marci Merola at ALA OLA for her leadership on ESEA reauthorization and school libraries, and the ALATT crew for stepping up when it is needed.

    Thanks to PC Sweeney for the guest post. (no John, Thank you!)

    John Chrastka | jchrastka@associadirect.com | facebook.com/chrastka

    The ALA Think Tank’s Partyhard Guide to #alamw12

    Alright team, here it is in all its glory! The ALA Think Tank’s Party Hard Guide to ALA Midwinter 2012. Each of these links to an event in Facebook because they are not all on the official conference scheduler and they are not all Official Conference events. Some of these are just meetups and good times put together by folks who want to meet and network. The events that don’t have a link are only in the conference scheduler and for some reason the links don’t work in the scheduler. But if you want to try, here is a link to take you to all the Official Social Events at ALA.

    I have a strong belief that these social events are becoming more and more important. We trade ideas, talk, celebrate our profession, network and meet people, and freely brainstorm amazing new ideas. I can’t tell you how many things have come to my career by simply talking and interacting with librarians in these social events. I have so many stories about some of the things that have happened through these events that I won’t share the details of them here, but know that most of the things I talk about on this blog were helped in some great way by the people I’ve met. So I’m not asking you, I’m telling you (especially newcomers to the field) take the time to socialize and meet everyone you can! With that in mind, here is my current list of networking and meeting opportunities at ALA Midwinter 2012.

    Pre-ALA EL & Friends Meetup
    Iron Cactus Mexican Grill And Bar

    Lita Happy Hour
    City Tavern 1402 Main Street, Dallas, Texas

    YA Lit Trivia Night FUNdraiser
    Omni Hotel, Dallas Room B

    Emerging Leaders Meetup
    City Tavern 1402 Main Street, Dallas, Texas

    Yalsa Happy Hour
    Iron Cactus

    NMRT Social,
    The City Tavern, in Dallas, TX

    The 5th ALA MW Newbie & Veteran Librarian Tweet-up
    Anvil Pub, 638 Elm St, dallas TX

    ALA MW ’12 After-Hours Social
    10pm-2am (or they kick us out)
    LaGrange 2704 Elm Street, Dallas, Texas

    Hacklibschool / Library Boing Boing Meetup
    Adairs Saloon 2624 Commerce St. dallas TX

    Social (GLBT RT)
    Dallas Public Library, J. Erik Jonsson Central Branch, 1515 Young Street, 4th Floor Gallery.

    Elsevier Desert Reception
    Eddie Deen’s Ranch, 944 S. Lamar St., Dallas TX

    The Amazing Erica Findley even made a map! Check it out.

    I’m sure there are far more being put together that I don’t know about. If you know of one, feel free to leave a comment below, email me, reach me on twitter, or Facebook, and let me know! I’ll add them to the master list.

    Got the MLIS? How do you go from paper to interview?

    I spent some time reviewing some applications with a written question and answer portion for a position in our library system a couple of weeks ago and it got me thinking about all of the times that I have done this as a manager. The most difficult applications to apply to, and for me to review are those with a couple of questions to answer. But then again, those are the best for you to get your foot in the door. If there aren’t any essay questions, there is always the cover letter. In either case, I’m going to give you a list of the things you can do that will put you ahead of the majority of the applications for librarian positions that I have read. I’m partly doing this for you, but also because when a position opens in library land, there are hundreds of applications that the management team and HR have to wade through so I’m writing this, in part, for the sake of their sanity (and mine).

    Be positive
    When you’re answering an essay question or writing a cover letter, this is your first impression to your future employer. I want to hire happy people! Everyone I know wants to hire happy people! I mean, even McDonalds wants to hire happy people! And, because you’re deciding to work in a library, I know that you MUST be a happy person. So, when you write, make sure you use positive language. Don’t speak negatively of previous employers, bash co-workers, or even generally complain about anything. I want to hear about why you are so excited and happy to be applying for this position that you couldn’t possibly even think of anything negative while the option of working here may exist for you. I know we all have bad days, I know you’ve had jobs that were horrible, I know you’ve worked for horrible bosses or with horrible co-workers. But I want to also know that you don’t dwell on those things and won’t bring that into our workplace.

    Be passionate or at least sound excited
    You’re applying for a job! There is actually a job out there in library world for which you are able to apply! You should be excited! You should be thrilled! That should come through in the way that you’re answering the questions and writing your cover letter. You can even mention how excited you are to be applying, or talk about how passionate you are about Anime or Innovative Services to Teens or Database research. Whatever it is, be excited about it! If you’re applying for a library job and you’re not excited about it, I’m begging you, please don’t apply!

    Answer the question
    Ok, listen to me on this one. Listen very closely! Answer the freaking question. No, really… I’m begging you! This alone will put you so far ahead of most of the applicants that it is absolutely ridiculous. Especially if the question is something like “name a time when you had a conflict,” or “or talk about a time you couldn’t answer a question.” The point of questions like these is to see that you critically thought about where you might have failed, where you succeeded, or what you would do given the opportunity to do either. If you said that you did XYZ, but learned that you made a mistake and after thinking about it, researching it, or talking to supervisors or peers, you realized that should have done ABC, and then talk about why, YOU WILL WIN! Or if you did it the right way the first time and then explain why you believe you did the right thing, YOU WILL WIN! Or, if you’ve never had a conflict with a fellow employee or patron, but explain what you would do if you did and show that you are capable conflict resolution (for example), YOU WILL WIN!! Here is an example of what not what to write.

    Question- Name a time when XYZ
    Your answer – I have never had that happen.

    This is a fail. But it is a fail that we see in interviews and in writing all the time. Never answer like this. If you’ve never had that happen, tell me why you think that is, or what you would do if it ever did happen.

    Don’t employ exceedingly grandiose terminology
    I know you’re smart. I’ve seen your resume/application, I know what schools you went to, I should have an idea about your education level. I also have a hundred other applications to get through in the next two hours. If I have to get out the dictionary to get through yours, your application will find the garbage can even quicker. The best thing you can do is answer the questions or write the cover letter efficiently and effectively. I don’t need a lot of frills or language. I need to get a good strong answer that gives me a good picture of what kind of person you are and that you have the ability to give me the information I need. I’m also getting a clear picture of the kind of person you are through your writing, if you write like you have something to prove, then I’m not going to believe that you think you can do the job. Also, because you work with the public, I want to know that you can communicate with the public.

    Have it Reviewed
    This is important too. Mitsakes you make when witing a answer to an question show that you don’t take the care or time to want to make the job. There is no shame in having someone review your answers if you can. Always take that opportunity. I know that I have a large group of peers that I rely heavily on for reviewing what I write when it comes to more professional writing than my blog. There is nothing worse than having to struggle through a poorly written application. I always feel bad for the person. I think, don’t these people have friends? If not, why not? But sometimes its hard to find friends. In which case, get on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or even Myspace and ask around. Someone will most likely help you out. If you are a librarian and have no other friends and need someone to review your application, I might even be able to help (maybe).

    Don’t write too much
    This is simple, please don’t write a long overdrawn essay when a paragraph will do just fine. Unless they are asking for a one page essay, this is a cover letter, or there is only one question to answer, I would always try to keep things to somewhere around ten sentences. Just like in college, you don’t get extra points for writing more than what the professor asked for. If they ask for one page, please only write one page. The extra time I have to spend reading your three page essay, when I still have 100 more essays to read that same day, will make me want to kill kittens with bags full of puppies.

    Don’t write too little
    Don’t write to little.

    Don’t bullshit the answer
    If you don’t have a good answer, don’t lie about it. Typically, it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re telling a BS story or not. The better route, as I talked about in the answering the question part of this blog, is to say what would happen if you did have an answer. So, for example, if you never worked at the reference desk, but the question is about answering reference questions, you can say that you have never done reference work, but if you had a reference question to answer, you would do it through doing the following steps (and then outline the steps to answer a reference question). Or, if there is no question to answer and this is a cover letter for a job you’ve never worked, you can say that if you had the job you would do XYZ as well.

    Here is an extra tip
    All of these tips also work in the interview. Now get out there and Make It Happen.

    ALA Emerging Leaders; Eff the projects it’s about the people

    ALA describes the Emerging Leaders Program as follows;

    “A leadership development program which enables newer library workers from across the country to participate in problem-solving work groups, network with peers, gain an inside look into ALA structure, and have an opportunity to serve the profession in a leadership capacity. It puts participants on the fast track to ALA committee volunteerism as well as other professional library-related organizations.”

    And while I believe it is all of this, there is so much more that it offers. Having gone through the whole program (I emerged in 2008), I’d like to give you my own review of this program.

    EL is NOT about the Projects.
    This is the most important thing you can know about it!  This is also the part of EL that I’ve heard the most complaining about.  I might seem like it is about the project at times and you’ll do a lot of work for it.  But, if you go into this program thinking that the whole thing is about the projects you’re going to be sorely disappointed.  I’ll admit, mine was ok at best, it definitely didn’t give me any new found leadership skills, I didn’t develop or learn anything from the project itself and I didn’t gain some remarkable problem solving skills or anything. My mentors were barely adequate and my project was never used by the sponsoring organization. But, it was very beneficial in that I met and worked with some great librarians on something meaningful and tangible and I did learn a lot about the ALA organization from the project. But EL is not about the projects anyway.

    EL is about the people
    What I did gain from my whole experience is an amazing “tribe” of people who I’ve grown to love and respect in many ways. Many of these people are a large part of my personal life, some are a part of my conference life, and some I only get to see occasionally. When I go to conferences I have a group of people to meet up with and learn from. When I have questions professionally, I have a group of people to ask. When I need some kind of support for a project or idea, I have a group of people to offer it. When I’m sitting around on my butt on a Tuesday night with nothing to do, I have someone to call and chat with for no particular reason.

    EL changed my entire conference and ALA experience!
    Because of the people that I’ve met through the EL program I have been able to run for ALA council, get involved in committees, and put together exciting and fun activities at conferences. Before EL, I was overwhelmed by the whole experience and it was originally through this program that I met JP and Justin who started the ALA Think Tank and moved me from just showing up to conferences to actually participating in them through their whole Partyhard and Makeithappen attitude. It is for the people that I owe my huge thanks to Emerging Leaders.

    I highly recommend that you get involved in this program, do your project so you can makeithappen, and most importantly partyhard with your fellow Leaders!

    Plus, it’ll look good on your resume.

    Going to ALA Conferences? You’re Doing it Wrong!

    I never used to enjoy going to the ALA Conferences and I’ve heard so many people say the same thing. They were always too big, too overwhelming, and just… too much. But, at the ALA Conference in Washington DC 2010 I was invited to stay at a vacation house with 11 other Librarians that was organized by Justin Hoenke and JP Porcaro. I was excited about this for a couple of reasons.

    1) Justin and JP are awesome humans
    2) It was way cheaper than the ALA hotels
    3) It would be a totally new conference experience

    So of course, I said yes. In the days coming up to the conference various emails were sent to introduce everyone to each other and to talk about anything that we might want to do as a group at the conference. Somewhere in these emails, someone, at some point, jokingly called the house the ALA Think Tank (because it rarely seems as if people are thinking at ALA) and the name stuck. This conference experience was amazing and I learned more than I could have ever hoped. By the end of the conference, I realized that this was the only way to go to ALA and the ALA Think Tank folks have done one Midwinter and two annuals like this. What follows is everything I learned about conference going from the awesome folks in this house.

    Start a Think Tank.
    I can’t stress this enough. The benefits of a house are HUGE! The full kitchen and communal living dramatically reduce the cost of conference housing and food. There will always be someone to do something with and you’ll be plugged into so many different things going on at ALA then you would be alone in your hotel room. It also makes a great space to have your own meetings and socials to meet even more people. You also get to hear about all the other things that your roommates learned at the conference and greatly increase the amount of take-away information you’ll get. I learned so much from my Think Tank folks that I’m still processing information from DC.

    Get on Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, instagram
    I know, everyone is saying this, you’re probably sick of hearing it. Why aren’t you on the social medias? By following the ALA conference hashtag or seeing what your friends are posting online about the conference you can find out about the best sessions, networking events, book signings, latest updates from ALA, where all the freebies are, blogs about what other people learned at the conference, tons of various tidbits of information from other librarians learning things, and you’ll get to find opportunities to meet more librarians. If you don’t know where to start:

    1) Facebook – Join the ALA Think Tank
    2) Tumblr – Browse the Tumblarians list
    3) Twitter/instagram – Follow the hashtags (the official hashtag is #ala2013 but everyone is blowing up #ala13)

    Meet Everyone
    Meeting folks and networking with other awesombrarians is really one of the best things I get out of ALA. There are so many people doing rad projects at their libraries and meeting them at the socials and after parties gave me opportunities to find out what they are excited about. Of course, there are over 20 thousand people at ALA so meeting everyone is not at all possible but at least put yourself out there and talk to everyone you can! You would be surprised where a random conversation at a meeting or a networking event will take you.

    Forget about the Sessions and Workshops
    As a tie-in to the previous three tips, I think this has really helped me learn even more while at the conferences. I know it seems totally backwards but I learned so much more at everything else ALA has to offer that I stopped going to sessions and workshops. The problem is that the session proposals are written a year ahead of the conference and by the time you get to the conference (if you’re on FB and twitter) you’re going to be sick of hearing about whatever the session is because it will have been discussed and blogged about ad-nauseum all of the days to and following the conference. Instead, I recommend the following three tips;

    Get involved… In something!
    My own personal choice was Emerging Leaders. This was a great pre-Think Tank kind of group learning experience. Through Emerging Leaders I figured out how to navigate the ALA and first met many of the people that I currently work with in the ALA. While my experience in my EL project itself was less than stellar, I did meet a bunch of amazing librarians and got gently pushed into running for ALA Council. All of the committees and council stuff that I’m involved in keeps me learning and pushing me forward. If you don’t want to get involved in Emerging Leaders you should visit the ALA Office at the conference and they can explain how to get involved in ALA in many different ways.

    Typically, I get up at 7-8am on conference days to get to the conference for my morning meetings and various obligations. This is rough considering I also typically spend most of the night out with librarians at various council forums, meetups, socials, and after-hours networking events. It’s during these times that I corner my professional heroes and talk to them about what they are working on right now. I’m interested in learning what the next big thing is that they are excited about. Also, I find that people are far more truthful about their previous projects over a beer then they are at the session they held. People are more open about their fails and how they overcame obstacles at these events then they are in the more professional conference setting. It’s also during these times that some of the best projects that I have been involved with in librarianship arose. Basically, by partying as much as I could with as many brilliant people as I can find, I have been able to learn more meaningful, current, and useful information in librarianship.

    ALA loves to say that they are your organization. This is a lie. You are ALA’s organization. You are the one who has the ability to make your conference experience as amazing as you want it to be. It is your duty and obligation to get out there and make whatever you think should happen at a conference happen at the conference. For example, JP Porcaro, Amanda Pilmer, Justin Hoenke, and Jenn Walker decided to make an ALA Dance Party happen so they organized it and it was epic. If you think your conference experience would be better if there was a QR code hunt, you can make that happen. If you would like to help other people make awesome stuff happen at the conference you can join the group on FB called the ALA Think Tank and see where you can help #makeithappen. Overall though, it’s your conference and if you don’t get everything you can out of it, you have no one else to blame. Don’t complain, #makeithappen.

    Bonus tip – Friend JP Porcaro on Facebook and Twitter. (and google+)
    Trust me on this one.