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ALA Midwinter 2012: Try a Little Tenderness

My first ALA was Midwinter 1992 in San Antonio. It was the usual First ALA: immersive, bewildering, awesome, wonderful, daunting, and fun.But it was also an experience where I began learning and practicing my best conference etiquette.

I have had some bad habits in my life: being too hard on others and myself; rushing to judgment; piling on too much at once. And that, of course, is just a start. But I’ve also learned some good habits, learned from good people, and they port well to our era:

Be kind to TSA agents. Keep smiling. Say thank you and I’m sorry. Nobody grows up wanting to smell your dirty socks or rummage through your suitcase or be hollered at by snotty first-world businessmen. Make it easier on everyone.

Make airline travel easier. Not long ago I agreed to move so that a mom and kid could be seated together, and the flight attendant comped me my glass of wine because “I didn’t hassle her.” Geepers. I am not a particularly virtuous person, but who wouldn’t let a mom and kid sit together–seriously? If the plane gets stuck, if the baby cries, if the mom and kid need to sit together–this isn’t a 20-year prison sentence, it’s a few hours in your life, and a chance to do the right thing. Do it.

Tip. Tip waiters, and the cabbies, and the hotel maids. Tip the guy who drags your suitcase to lobby and carries it upstairs; tip the room service (above and beyond what’s built in). Go ahead and be a little generous. Note: I probably don’t have to tell you this, because I’ve heard librarians are generous tippers. But unless you really have a reason not to, please give service workers a little extra sugar.

Attend someone’s award ceremony. Anyone’s. I haven’t ever been at any awards ceremony that was over-attended, and even when I don’t really know the people being awarded, I end up crying as if I’m at my best friend’s wedding.

Praise a presenter. ALA is still largely a “stone soup” operation, which is remarkable when you consider that tens of thousands of librarians are stirring that soup-pot. There’s always time for constructive criticism, but if someone does well–especially a junior someone–tweet it, blog it, or just run up to that podium and do a little happy-dance.

Attend the exhibits. Give the vendors some love. Having spent a little time being a vendor, I have huge sympathy and respect for most of those in Vendorland.

Help a colleague. There will come a time sometime during your conference when you can show a little tenderness to a fellow librarian. You will know it when you see it. You will never regret doing the right thing. It could be a little help getting somewhere, or it could be a sit-down at a coffeeshop where you hear whatever is going wrong with their life/marriage/job. As a dear colleague says: “ALA: Come. Bitch. Be Renewed.” They may not be in a place where they want to hear YOU… that’s where karma comes to play. Your turn will come around.

And so commenceth my 20-year anniversary schedule…note: I am interim secretary of GLBTRT, hence the GLBTRT-y focus.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fly in.
Presenters’ dinner, 7 p.m.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Academic Library Summit (hosted by Springer Publishing) 10:30 AM to 2:30 PM, Joule Hotel. Note: I’m a panelist, “ROI on Campus (Proving the Library’s Worth Internally,)” 11:30 AM to 12:15 PM
LITA Happy Hour 5:00pm – 8:00pm City Tavern, 1402 Main Street (I’m thinking I’ll be there 6-7, plenty enough time to be “happy”)
Dinner with CLH and LN, 7:30 PM, TBD

Saturday, January 21, 2012

GLBTRT Steering Committee I 8 – 10am SHER – Houston Ballroom B
GLBTRT All-Committees Meeting 10:30 – noon SHER – Majestic 03
(Possible stop-in) GLBTRT Over the Rainbow Committee I 1:00 – 5:00pm SHER – Pearl 1
(Possible stop-in) GLBTRT Rainbow Project Committee I 2:00 – 5:00pm SHER – Trinity 3
LIAL 2011 Dinner 7 – 9 p.m. Location TBD

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SCELC Camino (Navigator Group) 9:30 – 10:30 OCLC Suite
WorldCat Navigator 10:30 – 11:30 OCLC Suite
(Possible stop-in) GLBTRT Rainbow Project Committee II 9:00 – 5pm SHER – Trinity 3
(Possible stop-in) GLBTRT Over the Rainbow Committee II 1:00 – 5pm SHER – Pearl 1
GLBTRT Social 6:00 – 8:00pm Dallas Public Library, 1515 Young Street
Dinner w/Friends, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, January 23, 2012

GLBTRT Steering Committee II 9:30 – 11:30am DCC – C144

Fly out late Monday afternoon

Last thoughts

Looking back… 1992 wasn’t just before smartphones and Google maps. It was before (for all intents and purposes) all forms of immediate communication. When you boarded your shuttle to the airport, you entered a tunnel of disconnect that generally was only broken until your return by family or national emergencies. When you wanted to meet up with someone at the conference, you arranged it in advance, and if that changed, you posted your update to a large message board and hoped for the best.

We have it good these days. I’m not nostalgic about the Olde Analog Tymes. It’s just fascinating to look back on how it was.KjoMSfPQUCA

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