New Orleans Annual, June 26, 2011: Flash Mob

ALA’s first ever Advocacy Flash Mob and Freeze took place in Jackson Square on Sunday at 5:50 pm amid a downpour that some participants dubbed a “Flash Flood Mob.” More than 50 library advocates gathered in front of Saint Louis Cathedral despite the rain to dance and sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” as a lead-up to the Freeze. Most wore t-shirts with library slogans on them to identify themselves as librarians supporting the New Orleans community, just as ALA did in 2006 when it was the first conference to return to NOLA after Hurricane Katrina. Libraries care about communities, and communities should care about libraries. The Freeze Mob was organized by the ALA Think Tank as a #makeithappen event.

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.

JP Porcaro Talks to Erin Dorney about Emerging Leaders at #ala11

JP and I met up with EL Alumni Erin Dorney at the Emerging Leaders poster session at #ala11 to talk about her EL Experience, how it prepared her to be a leader, and EL as a way to network with fantastic librarians.

Adam Block talks to JP Porcaro about “Off the Fence”

While in the “office,” Adam Block started talking to us about his company called Off The Block. We tried to get the interview in the “office,” but we decided to step out into the hallway instead.

Greg’s (My boss) New Orleans Recommendations #ala11 #alatt

I got this email from our assistant director in the library system where I work. His name is Greg Bodin and he used to live in New Orleans and really knows all about where to eat drink and what to see in New Orleans. This list was really good so I thought I would share it with more than just our staff.

From Greg:
These are just a few recommendations.  Having been to many conferences, one never really has time to see lots of things but I suggest these as worth your time while visiting New Orleans.  Of course, please contact me if you have questions or would like other recommendations.

Things to see
The conference takes place at the Convention Center, which is in the Warehouse District.  The Warehouse District is adjacent to the French Quarter, the Garden District, the Central Business District and Uptown.  Lots of things are walking distance or an easy cab ride.  I indicate if things are a bit farther afield.  Below are things I enjoy.

Warehouse District:
Contemporary Arts Center
This is New Orleans’ main museum for contemporary art – also a really cool space.

World War II Museum
A really great museum – even if you aren’t a history buff.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art
This is one of my favorites – it is a collection of traditional and contemporary art from throughout the South.

French Quarter:
Jackson Square
This is the center of the City.  While New Orleans is a very French city, it’s design and architecture reflects it’s time as a Spanish colonial city.  Jackson Square is reminiscent of the plazas and zocolos in Latin American counties.  Central to the square is St. Louis Cathedral.  The Cathedral is flanked by the Prebytere (originally a residence for the Bishop) and the Cabildo (originally the main government building).  On either side of the square are the Pontalba Apartments.  All of these are worth a visit.

Directly in front of Jackson Square, the Moonwalk is an elevated walkway along the

Mississippi River 
You get a great view of the Mississippi and a pleasant walk that can take you from Jackson Square back to the Convention Center.

Algiers Ferry
The Algiers Ferry connects downtown New Orleans to the Algiers neighborhood across the Mississippi River.  The Ferry is free for pedestrians and is a great way to experience the River.

Royal Street
A stroll on Royal Street is a lovely way to see beautiful architecture and do a bit of window shopping.  Royal Street is the traditional shopping street in the French Quarter and is filled with art galleries and antique stores.  Check out the beautiful Supreme Court Building on the walk.

Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is best experienced in the evening.  Even if you are a teetotaler it is worth checking out the spectacle.  If you aren’t a teetotaler there are plenty of places to quench your thirst.  Be warned that Bourbon Street gets touristy.  If you want to go where the locals go, head to Pat O’Brien’s.

Historic New Orleans Collection
A wonderful little gem of a museum, archive and library.  This is one of the principle repositories for historic New Orleans documents, ephemera, books, etc.  I highly recommend it.

Uptown/Garden District:
St. Charles Streetcar
The oldest continually operating streetcar in the county.  Both locals and tourists use and love the streetcar.  I highly recommend getting on Downtown and heading Uptown for a ride.  Warning: it isn’t air conditioned.

Magazine Street
This is the main shopping street for Uptown New Orleans.  It is really long and filled with lots of cool stores and restaurants, ranging from funky to high-end.

Audubon Park/Zoo
One of the most beautiful parks and zoos in the country.  You can also take a boat from the French Quarter to the Zoo and get a ride on the Mississippi River.

New Orleans Public Library: Latter Branch
Sadly, the New Orleans Public Library is a poorly funded institution that has suffered from years of neglect.  Visiting New Orleans Public libraries will make you realize how lucky we are at the San Mateo County Library.  However, a visit to the Latter Branch is always a treat.  The branch is located in a beautiful old mansion in Uptown New Orleans.


French Quarter:
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
A great bar for ambiance.  The building is one of the oldest in New Orleans.

Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone
A fun bar in a beautiful old New Orleans hotel.

Napoleon House
This is one of my favorites in the French Quarter.  You can’t beat the ambiance.  Order a Pimm’s Cup.

Frenchman Street
This is where the locals hang out (as opposed to Bourbon Street).  Lots of clubs and bars and lots of good live local music.  Frenchman Street is located just outside of the French Quarter.

Decatur Street
There are two parts of Decatur Street – the upper part near Canal Street which is touristy and filled with tacky t-shirt shops.  The lower part near Esplanade has numerous bars that are lots of fun and definitely funky.  Molly’s on the Market and Coop’s are my favorites.


The Columns Hotel
A beautiful, old hotel on St. Charles Avenue.  Have a drink on the front porch.


Warehouse District

Really good New Orleans cooking that is walking distance from the Convention Center.

This was Emeril Lagasse’s first restaurant in New Orleans and it is still a great place to visit.

My favorite Cajun restaurant in New Orleans.

French Quarter

Café du Monde
An absolute must-see.  The place to get coffee and beignets (French doughnuts).  Great any time of the day or night.  Filled with tourists but worth the experience.

Central Grocery
A take-out sandwich place.  They invented the muffaletta sandwich.

Emeril’s French Quarter restaurant.

Really good food – kinda pricey but worth it.

Really good food – Stella’s cheaper sister restaurant.

A beautiful restaurant on Jackson Square in the French Quarter.

Kind of a dump but really good food.  One of my faves.

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Librarians Unplugged (Mobile Guitar Lending Library) #ala11 #alatt

Hey! Stop being a “hero” and play a real guitar! This year, the ALA Think Tank folks are all about the power and strength of music to bring folks together. We will be returning from midwinter to Annual with our mobile guitar library. The ALA Think Tank will provide two guitars and various other instruments of construction. If you want to play guitar, maybe learn something from each other, network, or just want to enjoy some good… music played by some of the great talent found in our profession come on by and jam for a while. This is an open session where anyone and everyone can “check-out” an instrument and jam for a bit while meeting other awesome librarians. If you want to find it, you can follow @pcsweeney or the #alatt hashtag on twitter for current locations. See you out there!

If you want to check out last year’s Mobile Guitar Library you can check out the video –

(About the Vid)
At the 2011 American Library Association Midwinter meeting, the crew of the Think Tank infiltrated the conference with a guerrilla guitar lending library just to see what would happen. We invited all kinds of folks to “check-out” a guitar for a few minutes or a few hours. Many librarians and other good folks sat and played. As it turns out, our profession is filled with talented musicians. This video is the mashup of many of the patrons of this guerilla library.

Librarian JP (JP Porcaro)
Lisa Carlucci Thomas
Jaime Corris Hammond
Josh Hadro
Peter Bromberg

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Eat and Drink for Free at #ALA11. #alaTT #ALAfree

Free stuff with #ALAfee
Going to ALA can be expensive and I know that there are many of you starving MLIS students out here who came to ALA on your own dime. There is also a buttload of unemployed librarians who paid their way to ALA, and even more folks whose library didn’t pay them for their trip out. There are many ways that you can save money at the conference by sharing hotels, taxis, and volunteering for passes into the conference, but did you know that you can also get books and prizes and eat and drink for free?

I’ve never eaten better than at an ALA conference and mostly I eat and drink for free! This is in large part due to my fantastic Think Tank team and the sharing of what’s happening at the conference. When one of use hears about something free we text each other and we all descend on the free goodies like a pack of vultures. Well… Now you can be a vulture too!

The vendors at the conferences want you to come and check out their products and they usually try to entice you with free food, drinks, and other good stuff. Mango Languages, for example, is keenly aware of the starving librarian and almost always has something delicious at their booth. However, the big problem is knowing where these events take place, so I am once again proposing a hashtag for all of us to share where we find the free stuff! So, whenever you find something free you can tweet about it and let some of these starving librarians in on the goods using the hashtag #ALAfree. Who knows? You might find out about some of the cool new stuff that our vendors are offering too!

If you are a vendor and want to let people in on the secret, don’t be shy about using the hashtag to entice these future customers to come and see your products and services with free good stuff.


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So the ALA Think Tank sold out. #ala11 #alatt

So the ALA Think Tank sold out.  But it’s cool, we do it for you.

Andrea Davis brought this to our attention.  Mango Languages is holding a Mango Mania Competition at ALA Annual 2011.  In order to enter the contest we had to submit a video all about where we would Mango.  Luckily, our group had a little “unconference” trip to Tijuana at ALA Midwinter in San Diego and I filmed some awesome footage of that trip.  So, basically, without even planning for it we already “Mangoed.”  It’s interesting how these past unplanned #MIH shenanigans come back to work for us in strange ways.  Here is our video entry –

I’m not going to lie to you. We do get some personal benefit out this competition. The swag and grand prizes are nice (iPad anyone?), but more importantly, the winning team gets credit towards our Mango Languages Subscription at our library system. In the financial state that we are living in now, I’m sure you can appreciate my desire to not get laid off and to be able to bring something back to my library system?

But anyway, down to the meat of this post… So how is this good for you?  Well, Mango Languages is giving us some cash for our trip to ALA, but since we all already paid for our trips we decided to spend it on our ALA parties and other off-the-books kinda ALA Think Tank events.  We want to make this the best ALA that we can for all the folks going out to the awesome city of NOLA so let us know what we can do to help make it EPIC for you!

We also wanted to get some good publicity for the Think Tank group that is doing all kinds of awesome stuff.  The folks involved in the group are fantastic librarians who are doing great things!  You can read about this group and what we want to do to revolutionalize from our manifesto.  There are many amazing people involved in this group who are working to make conferences more beneficial to the members of ALA and to ensure that the organization is working for its members.  You can be a part of this amazing group of awesombrarians by joining the ALA Think Tank group on Facebook.

If you want to follow our Mango shenanigans on the Facebook Fan Page (we had to make one as per the rules of the contest) you can check it out here – ALA Think Tank FB Fan Page

You can follow us on Twitter with the Hashtags #ala11 and #alatt or individually as
Librarian JP
Tiffany Mair
Jenn Wann Walker
Patrick Sweeney
Andrea Davis

ALA Think Tank events so far…
ALA Dance Party
ALA Flash Mob and Freeze
What else?  It might be a surprise!

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ALA Advocacy Flash Mob and Freeze #ala11 #library

Budget cuts, library closures, layoffs, what’s the good news? Well, in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina the American Library association was the first group to hold a conference in New Orleans. To this day, my friends and family who live there have made comments about how amazing librarians are for bringing some semblance of normality back to NOLA for just a brief weekend. As an organization we have made some great impact on the community of New Orleans. So, while most of the cleanup is done from Katrina, and much of cleanup is underway from the BP spill we can show our continued support for the residents of NOLA and hopefully they will see the need to support libraries and librarians like you.

This is the ALA Advocacy Freeze. Where we get out of the echo chamber of the conference and show that Libraries and Communities can and should continue to support each other. The plan is to have a large convergence of librarians at Jackson Square at 5:45 on Sunday. All participants should wear some kind of library related t-shirt, pose in some position, or bring something that identifies them as a librarian. All participants will converge on the park grounds at 5:45 for the mob and freeze from 5:50-5:53 to show our large presence at ALA and show that we care about the community of NOLA and that communities should care about Libraries. Afterwards we’re encouraging everyone to get out into the restaurants and bars and make a ruckus in NOLA! #partyhard

Andy Woodworth’s suggestion for creating your own t-shirts with facts about libraries is epic. You can buy a fabric pen and a T-shirt at any hobby store or even a Walmart or Target for next to nothing. Just write a great fact about libraries and their support for communities across the United States.

If you’re not a DIY kinda person, there are also many great shirts available online through stores like Purchases from this store go to fund other library advocacy projects. If you know of other great online stores or good clothing/designs please post them below!!

If you’re not familiar with a Freeze mob you can see many examples on youtube but here is another good one.

This is an off the books kinda ALA event. ALA is not involved in the planning of this at all. This is a #MIH happen event brought to you by the ALA Think Tank.

Jackson Square info

Facebook Event page to sign up!

Don’t forget to tell you friends to come out too!

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