Monday, June 24, 2013

Everybody’s Free (to Wear Comfortable Shoes) & Other Irreverent Advice for ALA Attendees

Advice abounds for those attending ALA Annual this coming week. From bloggers to the divisions to conference experts, everyone has helpful insights into making the most of your conference experience. (I've included a list of these resources below.) Whether you are a newbie or a veteran of ALA Annual, there’s always something new to learn and explore. In the spirit of this call for advice, I thought I would share my own ideas - in my own style. You may remember the 90s classic from Great Gatsby-director, Baz Luhrman, "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" based on Mary Schmich's commencement speech. Think of the following as an ALA-centric parody of this tribute to advice with my own set of irreverent advice for attendees of ALA.  

Everybody's Free (To Wear Comfortable Shoes)

To those attending this year’s ALA Annual Conference in Chicago:

If I could offer you only one piece of advice
Wearing comfortable shoes would be it
Science has proven that appropriate footwear is linked with engagement, reading comprehension, and the amount of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) one can safely carry 
The rest of my advice, however, is just based on my prior ALA experiences
Which I will dispense free of charge to provide equal access for all

Remember the power and importance of networking
Oh, never mind. You will not understand its importance until long after ALA – when you get a call from that librarian you connected with and you’ll recall just how much passion you expressed and how magnificently you represented yourself.  
You are as hirable as you imagine.

Worry about the future, but know that worrying can be transformed into action by participating in committees and task forces dedicated to the issues closest to your heart.
The real troubles in libraries are apt to be things that they have considered; the kind that require innovation and creativity, the kind that you can supply.

Do one thing every day that scares you

Sing  - at the Caldecott flash mob

Don’t be reckless with other people’s space (and merch) in the exhibit hall; be patient with people who are reckless with yours. Understand that ARCs will come and go, but the connections you make today can last a lifetime.

Communicate using the latest technology; sometimes you’re tumblring; sometimes you’re tweeting... Tech opportunities are endless, and in the end,
it’s up to you how to stay informed. 
Remember to use the ALA Scheduler, forget your work at home.
If you succeed in doing this, please tell me how.

Keep your Caldecott/Newbery/Wilder Banquet program; 
reuse your Cognotes at the Maker Showcase
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your entire day – the most interesting experiences are bound to happen at author signings, coffee runs, and late night excursions. 

Get plenty of rest (yeah...right)

Advocate for our libraries; we’ll miss them if they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll geek out; maybe you’ll find someone else as obsessed with Dr. Who as you are, maybe you’ll discover that perfect book for a reader in your life; maybe you’ll spend your days at the Artist Alley, immersed in the magical world of comics and graphic novels

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself or defy your assumed limitations – there are many options for you and everybody else.

Enjoy the exhibits; visit them every day you can – and don’t be afraid to visit repeatedly. They are some of the greatest resources for your library you’ll ever find - and they offer lots of freebies...

Dance ... at the myriad of parties convened to celebrate this community (ALA Dance Party, for the win!)

Read the tweets with the #ala2013 hashtag and follow accordingly.

Do not read your bank statement: that can wait until after ALA.

Get to know the ALA JobLIST Placement Center; you never know when you’ll want job-hunting assistance

Be kind to your shuttle drivers; they are the best link between the city and the Convention Center and the people most likely to ensure you get where you need to be.

Understand that sessions will come and go, but make time for the precious few that are perfect for you. Work hard to set up a schedule that allows for “down time” and meals because the more time passes, the more you will push yourself to attend everything.  

Go to Lake Michigan once, but leave before you get sand in your new ARCs; go to Crown Fountain once, but leave before you become paranoid about surveillance.


Accept certain inalienable truths. Dystopias will revolt, vampires will sparkle, and trilogies will dominate the shelves. The trends will shift, and when they do, you’ll fantasize about the time when realistic fiction was king, vampires were the villains, and single-novel stories were popular.   

But we always respect our readers.

Don’t expect anyone else to tell your story. Maybe you’ll participate in ALSC’s Membership Meeting; maybe you’ll give out your business card at YALSA’s Happy Hour; but you never know what impact sharing your experiences can have.

Don’t forget to bring both an umbrella and a jacket, or by the time you reach the Convention Center, you may be drenched. (Chicago’s weather is unpredictable.)

Be aware of all the books you buy, but remember you can always mail them home.
Sharing books is a form of activism, reading them is a way to make the world a better place, by cultivating our empathy and transforming the ways we relate to each other.

But trust me on the shoes...

*    *    *

With so many incredible sessions, Conversations Starters, presentations, and much more, it can be overwhelming to determine where to start when you're planning your ALA experience. Like writers, there are event-planning "swoopers" and "bashers" - those who embrace the chaos of the experience  and those who plan for months in advance. I confess I'm a basher. But that means I have poured over the schedule and can share some suggestions of events, especially those related to youth services, children's literature, and comics. Feel free to share other sessions you're excited about attending in the comments. 

Graphic Novel Stage - Comics Quickfire!
Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia 
ALAplay 2013
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature (APALA)
Archives Alive: Caldecott at 75!

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