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ALA Annual 2007: The Best and the Worst of it All

Best:

  1. The GLBTRT book awards brunch, which not only featured a very respectable buffet—the eggs were creamy and hot, the grapefruit juice was tart and cold, and the cheese blintzes were just plain naughty—but won us over with funny, thoughtful speeches by pioneer gay library activist Jim Carmichael and “Fun Home” author Alison Bechdel (the nice young man from the SLDN veered so far off topic that I lost interest, but that’s o.k.—I was still chuckling over Carmichael’s campy one-liners).
  1. The OCLC Bloggers’ Salon, where dozens of my “ilk” (to use a Gormanism) drank free wine, ate free cheese, and got to see what we all looked like in our First Life personas. We looked pretty damn good, but not quite as good as Webjunction’s Chrystie “Shopping Diva” Hill in that fabulous brown silk dress.
  1. The exhibits. I didn’t get to any actual programs at ALA, if you don’t count the ones I was presenting at. However, I did some serious booth time and felt hugely enriched. If you don’t take time to visit the exhibits, you’re missing half of ALA.
  1. Best. SWAG. Ever: a teeny-tiny book truck, courtesy of Smith Systems. Plus every time I showed it to people, they cooed over it in silly high-pitched baby voices.emmawithbooktruck
  1. Several meals and get-togethers with personal friends, ranging from pizza in a hotel suite to dim sum in Chinatown and yummo Thai chicken and basil at a joint just around the corner from the Grand Hyatt. But to hell with the food: spending time with people I care about makes ALA worthwhile.
  1. The pre-ALA emails from John Chrastka, ALA Manager for Membership Development. I agree with the woman who said she initially thought he was emailing her personally. In an association that can take three months to say “hey, I notice you just ponied up money to join our division,” John puts warmth and a human touch to ALA, as does Jenny Levine and all her efforts to push ALA forward into the 20th century. Stand back, ALA, and let them do their thing! I say this both as FRL and as a member of the ALA Presidential Task Force on Member Participation.
  1. D.C. in general. A great conference location, and the weather gods smiled kindly on us, with warm (not hot) rainless days.
  1. The D.C. public transportation system, which, as a friend pointed out, is good because the middle-class has to use it.
  1. Bantering with Stephen Abram and Joe Janes in the “innovation” debate. Boy, do those guys have potty mouths! You’ll get to hear them saying bad words when the podcast goes up (if I happen to say anything inappropriate… just remember, they started it), and thanks to Joe Fisher and company for arranging that program.
  1. Following the Twitter threads at conference, and specifically the LITA BIGWIG Social Software Showcase.

Worst:

  1. A presenter snarking about bloggers. Girlfriend, I was there to blog your talk—free press, you know? Going Gorman on us to say bloggers “have no life” was a flatulent note in an otherwise excellent presentation about an important project.

  1. Realizing many programs and events weren’t recorded, which is just plain sad. I won’t try to guess why this is; I’ll make some phone calls and suss this out.

  1. Hearing repeatedly via Twitter that technology-related presentations were so full that people were turned away. When you plan a program you estimate room size, but you don’t necessarily get what you ask for—and I’m not sure we keep good data about which presentations have overflow crowds. Oh, irony: are we the victims of bad information? If sessions aren’t recorded, that’s a double loss, because then we’ll never get to be there.

  1. Missing a great, and unrecorded, lecture about Barbara Gittings—who played a key role in establishing the GLBTRT—in order to sit through a two-hour meeting, starting at 8 a.m., chaired by muckety-mucks no less, that had no agenda. That’s right, no agenda. I will continue to serve, if asked, but I will no longer attend meetings that do not have agendas distributed in advance.

  1. Having to finagle getting to the will-call desk because I need a paper ticket to attend an ALA event. Airlines penalize you for requesting paper tickets. In ALA it’s still a way of life. ALA’s retrograde incompetence is not cute and funny; it’s just annoying.

  1. Speaking of which… seeing the wireframes for the proposed ALA website and feeling underwhelmed. It’s not grotesquely ugly like the current site, but it’s a static organizational page about as inviting as a cold speculum. Where’s the engagement? Why are blogs squeezed way down on the right? Why does the “divisions” link exclude the Round Tables? I give it an “ix-nay,” and I’ll go into depth later.

  1. Having to leave on Monday, which meant missing talks by Armistead Maupin and Garrison Keillor.

  1. “Information” people who were clueless. Countless people shared my experience: most of the time I could not get simple questions answered such as “which direction is 9th Street?” Yeah, yeah, I know, we should share that via the survey when it comes around (we do get surveyed, right?)…

Posted on this day, other years:

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