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So You're Going To ALA

ALA is my favorite event of the year! I get to hang out with my favorite people, meet other librarians, network like crazy, learn new things to take back to my library, and of course meet authors! As a librarian and book lover, what's not to love?? This year's ALA will be my fourth conference, so I thought I'd give some advice for conference newbies (or even conference oldies!) because it never hurts to hear someone's take on the massive event that is ALA!

-Make a schedule, but don't be strict about sticking to it. There is a lot to do and there's no way you can do it all, so schedules help a lot. Even if you're not normally a schedule person it can be a lifesaver. It helps to make a schedule before you get to ALA and then look over the conference booklet and add anything else you want. I'm obsessive and color code mine and add times and locations of everything I think I'm interested in attending.

-Don't worry if a session is not for you. Like I said, there's a ton going on and very often there are two or three things going on at the same time that I want to attend. If a session isn't for you, leave and check something else out. If you can only attend part of a session, go ahead. It's better to be there for half of it than miss out on it altogether.

-Take time to relax. ALA is HUGE and overwhelming, so be prepared to be overwhelmed and bogged down. Also expect to be exhausted. I didn't expect to be so tired my first ALA and I got back and went to bed early every night! So make sure you take time for yourself to relax before each days events.

-Wear comfy shoes. Everyone says this over and over but it's so true. I've even stashed flats in my bag just in case my shoes for a nicer event don't work out and I want flats to walk back to the hotel in. ALA is spread out, so there's lots of walking, so be nice to your feet!

(Me getting my network on!)

-Network like crazy! One of the things I love at ALA is that you can just go up to people and start talking. See someone reading? Ask what they think of the book. Standing in line? Introduce yourself and chat away. Exchange business cards (make sure to have some on hand-Vista Print will make some for free!) and try to e-mail everyone from the cards you collect saying how great it was to meet them. Networking is HUGE and you never know where it can lead you! Want to serve on a committee? Network! Looking for a job? Network! Don't just talk to your friends and people you know, meet new ones. I love that you don't have to be shy at ALA-you can talk to everyone, everywhere and it's so great to talk to people who share your passion and exchange ideas.

-Stand Out. This one might not be easy for everyone, but it can help when people are trying to find you or meet you in person after meeting online. I have pink hair, which helps me stand out a bit and also helps people remember me. Now, I know not everyone is going to dye there hair for ALA (but that would be awesome!) So bring a business card that's unique, wear a t-shirt with a fun logo for your library or blog, wear an awesome hairpiece, anything that makes you a bit memorable and helps you stand out among the sea of librarians is good.

-Attend Meetups. I have the ILOAs-a group of librarian friends that make it a point to meet up at every ALA we attend. I also have groups of friends that I've met at ALA and I try to meet up with them for drinks, dinner-whatever! Catch up with the people you know as well as meeting new ones. Attend meetups that are already organized as an easy way to network and meet other librarians. The blogger meetup is a great way to meet other blogging librarians!

-Take a Tote Bag for Goodies. Yes, you can get tons of tote bags on the exhibit floor, but very often these aren't very strong and start to hurt after loading them up with goodies to take back to your library. So instead, I bring my trusty tote bag that has nice shoulder straps and I make sure to carry that one as my good bag. The less my shoulders have to endure the better! If you can, bring a book sherpa! Mr. GreenBeanSexyMan is usually mine and boy is it nice to have a tall, strong man to carry everything for you! Sadly, this year I'll be on my own, so my poor shoulders will have to hurt a bit, but if you can't bring a book sherpa, get him to stay home and install hardwood floors in your house!;)

-Mind Your Manners. Getting galleys and meeting authors is exciting, but don't push people out of the way. The exhibit floor is crowded, everyone is loaded up with bags, so watch where you're going and if you bump someone (which most likely will happen!) say sorry. And don't be a book hog-share the wealth. Librarians use galleys for their school or public library-as prizes, for teens to read as part of a review program, and also for themselves so they know what books to purchase and spend the wee library budgets on. So remember your manners and remember it's nice to take one book (or poster, or bag, or whatever goodie it is!) per person.

-Take Advantage of the Mail Room/Spot. Just like it's good to relax, it's nice to get off the exhibit floor, collect yourself and the various things you must now ship back to your library. The mail room isn't always a room, but a spot off the exhibit floor, but it can provide a much needed break to unpack, unwind and relax before you go back in!

-Be a Tourist. ALA is held in awesome locations, so be sure to take time to explore the city you're visiting. Eat not just at touristy attractions, but try a great local place. Visit local attractions, go on a tour-do something! This is a great way to relax and unwind between conference happenings.

If you're going to ALA, try to find me! Remember, I have pink hair!:) Have a blast and enjoy the trip!

Any other tips for ALA? I'd love to hear them and add them to the list!


  1. Great suggestions Sarah! Several things I didn't think of. I'm very excited for my first ALA and I hope we can connect at some point.

  2. Oh I wish I was going! I'll just have to wait til it comes back to Chicago in two years. So it was funny, I was going through my reader and right after this post was a post about a book called "No Biting Allowed" and thought I had to share because it made me laugh so hard (esp. with the BEA drama I heard about)... so No Biting Allowed. :)

  3. I sometimes opt to take egalley (using in the form of a postcard) from the publishers instead of the hardcopy galley. They are less heavy and all you need is to download Adobe Digital!

    As for galleys, I think my thing is to be choosey of what you want. Some people take everything, but I've been selective and it's helped with the load. Also talk to the vendors and explain what you are looking for your library collection. Many will go out of there way and send you things to your address!

  4. Sarah-Yes-I hope we meet up too!

    Kristen-haha! No Biting Allowed!!:)

    Rummanah-Great point-egalleys and asking to have books mailed are wonderful!!

  5. Thanks for this post! Helps a lot for newbies like me! :D


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