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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?)…

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22 Comments

  1. Judy Hauser wrote:

    I agree with you on the best swag – I have my miniature Smith Systems book truck on my desk as I type. It now holds my business cards! My favorite event at the conference was hearing the best storyteller/author I have heard in my life at the AASL Awards Luncheon. Carmen Agra Deedy told us about receiving her first library card when she was an eight year old who had just moved from Cuba to Georgia with her family… not a dry eye in the house!

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 5:50 am | Permalink
  2. David Fiander wrote:

    A couple of comments:

    Best-9: I always assumed that you had a potty-mouth, what with your past as an air-force mechanic (remind me some time to tell you about the other ex-air-force mechanic I know).

    Worst-3: Before a minor job realignment, I was the Engineering librarian, and I got to go to the ASEE annual conference, which is several thousand engineering faculty plus one hundred-ish engineering librarians. Unlike ALA, where there’s a lot of cross-over between divisions, most people at ASEE go to their ‘main’ divisional talks only, which are a single stream, thank goodness. The problem is that the librarians actually DO go to their talks, so we always ended up in a too-small room, because the conference organizers, faculty all, must have assumed that not everybody was going to go to every talk.

    I suspect that the ALA organizers are applying a uniform “division member registration:talk attendance” ratio across the board, which (a) doesn’t apply for a couple of different reasons: LITA members attend their sessions, and (b) lots of non-LITAns drop in to LITA session.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  3. No agenda! One of my pet peeves. When I’m busy, I just don’t go to meetings with no agenda. When I’m not busy, I politely ask what the heck the meeting is about.

    I consider it arrogant and rude behavior, summoning people without telling them why.

    On a practical level, having a chance to prepare makes your meeting more effective, so it is dumb, to boot.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  4. kgs wrote:

    Considering who chaired it, I’m glad YOU said it, not me. ;-)

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  5. Blake wrote:

    Best. SWAG. Ever: a teeny-tiny book truck?? No! Free Beer over at the Hale booth was waaay better, though I suppose it didn’t last very long.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 8:49 am | Permalink
  6. kgs wrote:

    Does it count as SWAG if it’s gone before you leave the convention center?

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  7. I think that would make it SWIG, not SWAG.

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  8. Nann wrote:

    Karen, I get the same reaction to that booktruck, which I got at Midwinter. I did not have enough time at the exhibits at Annual–I’d have loved to have gotten a second one. But I did get a stuffed eagle from Highsmith, and Plato, the latest critter from BWI.

    Nann

    Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  9. JanieH wrote:

    Best swag (according to my toddler Alex) was Atlas the Dog from World Book. He has slept with him nightly since I got home… the eagle from Highsmith has taken several flights already too (including in to the wading pool so he is currently on the line getting dried out).

    Re: Worst 8 — the “Information People” — I am in total agreeance, alhtough after my last trip to DC for annual I am not surprised. As my colleague told me back then “You gotta love DC, it has all the slowness of the south and the attitude of the north”.

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 7:38 am | Permalink
  10. Karen,

    Thanks for the kind word on the orientation emails. Just trying to do it with a glance at the golden rule, I guess. What did you think of the Membership Pavilion, BTW?

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  11. kgs wrote:

    I didn’t want to admit this in the meeting, but I had *NO* idea what everyone was talking about regarding the “Membership Pavilion.” Where was this?

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  12. Dave wrote:

    Karen… You can read what I had to say about this conference. I agree with everything you said. http://dave92264.blogspot.com/2007/06/gay-day-at-ala.html
    http://dave92264.blogspot.com/2007/06/librarians-and-literature.html

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 1:17 pm | Permalink
  13. kgs wrote:

    Dave, thanks — your roundup does bring back those good memories! Enjoy your move to Palm Springs. We have friends there… tres gay.

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  14. Chrystie wrote:

    honored, naturally.

    Friday, June 29, 2007 at 4:01 pm | Permalink
  15. Anonymous wrote:

    The membership pavilion was located in the center aislee of the Exhibit Hall and it grouped together the “booths” for the ALA Divisions and Round tables. It had a special banner overhead and was an open area with some spin the wheel thingie. It actually worked much better than in past years when the division desks/tables/booths were stuck in a corner of the exhibits, or scattered all over the exhibit hall, or somewhere else in the convention center all together… Kudos to ALA for trying something different. When I was there, there was actually a fair amount of traffic.

    Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  16. kgs wrote:

    The membership pavilion sounds like it was a real winner. Thanks, Anon!

    Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  17. Great ALA top ten.

    I missed the booktruck. And as a fan of carefully selected quality SWAG, I am mad about that.

    My favorite this year was the Chaucer bobble head from Greenwood and the little 52 blue Chevy pickup from Heely.

    Great blog, btw. And I hope you get gainful library employment soon.

    Monday, July 2, 2007 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  18. kgs wrote:

    Ok, I’m jealous of the pickup truck, so there you go. Chaucer is currently gazing down at the booktruck. Imagine Chaucer shelving…

    I caught myself re-reading my post and idly thinking, “Wait, isn’t that spelled ‘cheeze’?” I need a real job, soon ;-)

    Monday, July 2, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
  19. Norman wrote:

    KGS,

    Thanks for the plug on the Stonewall Book Award Brunch. For those who missed it mark your calendars for next year annual- Monday morning 10:30am.
    It is a great event that I have attended since 1995. Over the years the book award winners often mentioned how they used the library to find out about themselves and read books about being GLBT person and thanked us for being there.

    Barbara Gittings did the same thing when she was in college but back then the books were not so plentiful or very helpful. The Stonewall Book Awards are her legacy and the GLBTRT is there to make sure those books are in the library for the next generation of knowledge seekers.

    So when do I get a copy of the picture you took that morning ?

    Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  20. Linda wrote:

    I would hope that the next ALA, they would record the sessions. I wasn’t able to go this year and would love to see it available for those who were either turned away or not there.

    Saturday, July 7, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  21. Stephanie Stokes wrote:

    Suggested Reading for “Gorman is Gone”

    “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly”

    http://www.webinknow.com/

    Stephanie Stokes

    Sunday, July 8, 2007 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  22. John Chrastka wrote:

    Karen,

    I hit send and then hit the road for a week….. Sorry for the delay in checking back, and thanks esp to ANON for the Pavilion round up. Hit the nail on the head.

    In Anaheim, we need to have a Blog-In at the Pavilion to get all ya’all down to the exhibits.

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

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