ALA Annual Recap

For anyone reading this who isn’t a librarian – ALA Annual is the giant annual convention of the American Library Association that takes place every year at the end of June/beginning of July. It’s kind of a big deal. This is my recap of the good, the bad, and the annoying.

1) Cancelled sessions make me sad
It felt like half the sessions I was planning to attend this year were cancelled – including every single session I wanted to go to on Monday. I was really looking forward to the one about data visualization. I’m honestly kind of confused about what was going on with this year’s cancellations. I got 3-4 emails about sessions being cancelled in the days running up to the conference, including one on Saturday while ALA was actually happening. I’m understanding about these things usually – emergencies happen and I’ve been there – but these were mostly panel presentations with 3+ people speaking. Did everyone’s aunt/grandparent/cousin/guppy pass away the day before the conference?

2) People get weird around free books.
ARCgate is a thing. Which is sad. I will not comment on that, but I will share something that I saw, that made me very angry. I was waiting for a cooking demonstration at the What’s Cooking @ ALA stage (my FAVORITE cookbook author was there!). The author had unpacked a few books, and then went to go check on something. As soon as she was out of sight people got up and took the books she had set up. They continued to take them after I reminded people that the books are not to be taken before the presentation. In fact – I wasn’t even sure that these books WERE free, until after the demo when they were given away. Seriously people. It’s just a cookbook. You can buy it, or better yet borrow it from your library. It’s not like all of you are going to be rushing out to buy fermented tofu any time soon…

3) I’m beginning to question the utility of conferences in an increasingly networked world.
I really didn’t hear anything new at ALA, at least not from the sessions I attended. Sure, it’s possible that I just picked badly, but I also think that part of the problem is the multitude of places to make ones voice heard. A number of the sessions I attended featured people who had already published or blogged about their programs/successes – including several who had been featured in ALA/ACRL publications. Maybe I’m too connected to the librarian-web, but I was disappointed that there weren’t many new voices.

4) Anaheim had FABULOUS WEATHER.
It was 20 degrees cooler in Southern California than in West Michigan. No, I don’t understand it either.

5) I still love working with new librarians.
For real. I love meeting new kids and getting them involved with ALA. I know it’s weird to say that, since I’ve been grumping about ALA and ACRL lately, but I really do love the people (or at least most of them).

6) But as much as I love the people, I think it’s time for a break.
I’m not planning on attending ALA next year. Or rather, I’m not planning on attending the way I usually do. Normally I do the whole conference (since I always have to travel), but since 2013 is in Chicago, I can do just one day. Maybe that’ll help me recover from my grumps. Although 2013 is an ACRL year, so that might just reinforce them.

After the conference, Jeff and I took a day to go to Disneyland. Honestly, it was fun. Neither of us like big rides, but we went on some fun themed ones (the Snow White ride has some MAJOR narrative holes), saw a pardoned Thanksgiving turkey, and ate at a Rainforest Cafe. It was fun, silly, and nobody got sunburned. That day also served as out totally-not-a-honeymoon-but-still-kind-of-a-honeymoon trip. (For the record, we’re doing something real next year – 2012 has just been too hectic for a REAL vacation.)


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