CLIS Student Chapter of the American Library Association

Conference 101: Navigating the ALA Annual Meeting May 3, 2007

Filed under: event — simmons5 @ 12:07 am

This afternoon Dr. Weeks met with fifteen CLIS-ALA members and shared her tips on how to prepare for and navigate the ALA conference. Dr. Weeks has been attending the annual event for twenty seven years; so we were thrilled to have her share what she has learned. She has also graciously volunteered to answer any follow up questions (acweeks (at) umd (dot) edu). Thank you Dr. Weeks!

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The conference is massive. There will be somewhere between 20,000-25,000 attendees and around 3,000 events and meetings taking place. There will also be 1600 exhibit booths. Events run from 8 AM to 10 PM daily.
  • It is best to check in on Friday June, 22nd as Saturday check in will be very busy.
  • Be sure to bring your badge (which should arrive in early June) and a photo ID to check in.
  • You will receive a very large program book at check in. This book will include tons of information about the conference, but it is best to go over this information ahead of time on the conference website.
  • Plan your schedule ahead of time! You can choose programs by library type, track, speaker, time, etc. Just make sure that you have a plan when you get there.
  • Events will be held at the Washington Convention Center and 15 nearby hotels. Remember that it may be difficult to get from one place to another quickly. Be realistic in your planning and take the metro whenever possible.
  • Attendees and speakers will be very approachable and friendly! Be sure to make an effort to talk them. Everyone will be wearing name tags (which also identify their library affiliation).

Suggestions from Jeff, who attended the Mid-Winter Meeting in Seattle:

  • Bring business cards for networking purposes!
  • If possible attend the conference with a friend or co-worker. This will make it seem less overwhelming.

Thanks to Kelly we also have a complete set of notes from today’s session! They can be found below:

ALA Conference Preparation Meeting:

-annual conference is very massive

-people will be happy to talk with you as a first-time student attendee and will give you advice—you can really talk to anybody about anything

-people wear nametags, so you can usually see what library that person is from

-take the opportunity just to talk to people

-it is much easier to register before you get to the conference. Be sure to register as a student—inexpensive

-register early on to get mailings—as a first-timer will get invited to functions/receptions/special events

-You will get your badge itself in the beginning of June

-best to go on Friday, midday, to get materials (beat the Saturday rush)

-You will have name badge and what looks like a credit card—need both to pre-register, will scan card, give you a badge holder, and give you books; need a photo ID to pick up badge

-Saturday morning is too busy to pick up materials

-At sign in, you will get a program book—has everything that you need to know about the conference—spend time acquainting yourself with it

-This program book is very large. You won’t have time to go through the whole thing, so you need to prepare ahead of time. Read through the preliminary program and familiarize yourself with materials on the conference website.

-There are 11 divisions, sections within divisions, and offices—each entity sees itself as organization separate from ALA—all entities plan social events/meetings for their particular interest group. The event is really like a number of conferences rolled into one (over 3,000 events/meetings held).

-best way to focus on what you’re interested in is to go to the round table’s website (decide what branch of librarianship interested in)

-Almost everything is available to you except for special events where you have to pay additional money (Pre-conference events/tours)

-on any given day, there will be at least a dozen different things that you are interested in

-Events run from 8 AM to 10PM (approx. 2 hours each)

-There will be between 20,000 and 25,000 people at conference

-Main conference events will be held at Convention Center and two co-host hotels, but there will be events at about 15 other hotels in the city—it is easy to think you can easily get from point A to point Bàalthough there are shuttle buses that go from one event to another, the buses may not get you there on time

-Try to group the things that you want to go to, and be realistic about things that want to see

-Use the metro whenever you can.

-Registration and main programs will be in Convention Center or headquarters hotels (Grand Hyatt and Renaissance)—auditorium speakers, opening and closing, exhibits, big programs, meetings

-The key to success is planning ahead—can plan by type of library, by tracks (administration and leadership, etc.), by space; also, on ALA website, there is a preliminary schedule with times and programs (goes from 8 a.m. until about 10 p.m.)—Friday through Tuesdayàcan look in preliminary program book, which is also online

-Think about the people you want to meet/hear speak

-Great access to people that you have only read about—they want to talk to librarians, and they are very accessible

-The conference shows the whole range of information professionals.

-There are also meetings about becoming involved in a particular division—if you’re interested in a specific topic, there are committee meetings, discussion groups, interest groups; unless they are award committees or talking about personnel issues, everything is open

-Many divisions have all-committee sessions, so you can table-hop and listen to discussions going on

-things that cost extra moneyàpre-conferences (some are free) tend to be very expensive; banquet for youth people, which is very expensive (Newberry-Caldecott Banquet)

-there are lunches, socials, tours, boat rides (these have fees), and exhibits, which are overwhelming (about 1600 booths)—you can either try to do the exhibits systematically, or look at entire list and go to ones that you really want to see, opportunities to buy clothing, library-related jewelry, get a massage

-booths will be giving away things, such as pens, candy and posters

-exhibits close on Tuesday afternoon—Tuesday is a good time to go because almost everything for sale is half-price (can get enormous bargains for books)—sometimes they will just give you things—especially if you tell them that you’re a student

-exhibits will be very busy on Saturday morning, better to go on Tuesday (there will also be free food at the Exhibits Reception on Tuesday morning)—generally, some exhibits offer food to get you to come

-New Members Roundtableàfor new members, less than five years in ALA—doing Conference 101 on Friday afternoon (4-5), two-hour orientation on Saturday morning from 8-10; each division will do a special orientation (will find information about this on website); there are “Newbie” activities; meet-and-greet for new members

-by the beginning of June, the website will have the locations for all meetings (probably by June 1)


2 Responses to “Conference 101: Navigating the ALA Annual Meeting”

  1. I’m with Jeff. I don’t know how many times I’ve said this in the last few minutes but make some business or networking cards. You can use something like Vista Print (

    Another great article on networking cards.

    Trust me they work,
    Justin (ALA Student Chapter President)

  2. justgrimes Says:

    Don’t forget to use (or contribute) to the ALA 2007 Conference Wiki

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