Thursday, June 24, 2010

ALA conference tips

Need some advice for the American Library Association conferences? Try these tips and tricks:
  • If you ask anyone what their advice is for the annual conference, they will answer "wear comfortable shoes."
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • If there's an event/luncheon/ceremony that you really want to go to and it costs money..... go. Often, people who buy tickets for events are unable to attend because their plans change. It's easy to find free tickets to events during the conference… keep an eye open for listserv postings and ask people with similar interests if they have a ticket they're not using.
  • You have to pay for the books at the author signings. Hardcovers are $10, paperbacks are $5. If there's an author you love, it's worth it to lug their book with you from home so you don't have to buy it at the conference. If your favorite author is sitting right in front of you signing books (even if you own the book and forgot to bring it)- buy the book and get it signed. It's worth the $10.
  • Try to say something to authors that they don't hear all the time. The more specific you can be the better. Instead of saying to a picture book author "I love your illustrations," say "I love the detailed tiger picture in this book. How long did it take you to draw that?" "Why did you dedicate the book to your brother-in-law?" If you know any of their previous lesser known books- definitely mention them.
  • Make a list of author signings, and a list of publisher booths that you really want to see. To get an extremely hot or popular book, arrive at the booth 15-30 minutes before the signing.
  • Put everything that sounds interesting to you on your schedule. You never know where you'll end up and it's good to know the locations and room numbers of all possible events.
  • Take pictures of the authors you see- no matter how stupid you feel about doing it- you'll be grateful ten years later when they win the Caldecott or the Pultizer.
  • Even if you're not looking for a job right now, get your resume reviewed at the Placement Center. It's always good to have a current copy of your resume handy, and it's great to get such wonderful, professional advice from library managers. If you plan to get your resume reviewed, go immediately to sign up for a slot..... even before you pick up your registration badge. All the weekend's sessions can fill up by the end of Friday.Plan lunch and dinner breaks, otherwise it's really easy to skip meals and wind up hungry and exhausted. Go to lunch and dinner with an old (or new) friend.
  • Soak it all in and don't be shy. Talk to everyone.... lines are great places to meet people. Go to the informal happy hours, get-togethers for your college, interest group, etc. Collect all the ribbons for your badge you can- for all the divisions you belong to. Makes a great talking point.
  • Use the bag check at the convention center religiously so you're not lugging so many books around. Keep coming back to it to dump your books. At the end of the day, sort through all the books and freebies you've picked up and take the ones you really want. Ship everything home (even if you're local).
  • You don't have to do every last thing on your schedule. Make sure to linger to talk to your favorite authors. Place hooky from a session or two. Go sightseeing. Take a nap if you need one.
  • Go to the booths of the large publishers. You'll find multiple copies of books laid out on the floor or on tables in big stacks. These are free and you can take them. Be sure to check back at the booths several times during the conference because, they'll put out different books on different days. Smaller publishers are unlikely to have free books available.
  • Ask for books you're interested in. Publishers bring tons of books with them, but don't have the quantities to put every book out in a stack for everyone to take. If there's a book you're dying to read, find out who the publisher is, go to their booth and tell them what book you're looking for. If they don't have a copy with them, they may be able to send you one after the conference is over. Or not. But, it's always worth it to ask. And, even if you don't get to walk away with one, they'll probably have a copy on display that you can take a look at (which is particularly useful for picture books).
  • Don't take everything you see. There are tons of free handouts available at ALA. Take only what you're interested in (or what a friend or colleague who didn't get to go would be interested in). If there's a free book or an ARC (advance review copy) that you already have access to, or have absolutely no interest in or use for... leave it for someone else. The same rule applies for fliers, tote bags, pens, and all the other freebies you'll see. Don't worry; you'll still acquire tons of free stuff.
  • Talk to the vendors. Don't just look at them as a source of free books. ALA gives you a chance to share your opinions with the publishers and ask them about your favorite and forthcoming books. The exhibit booths are staffed by editors, publishers, owners and salespeople. They may know an interesting detail about an author or the creation of a book that will help you "sell" a book when you get back home. And they'll be interested to hear your feedback about their books and products. And ask them any questions you have. They know a lot more about their books than what's in the catalogs.
  • ALA has a free shuttle bus service runs from the convention center to every conference hotel. It's invaluable. Use public transit too, of course… but give yourself permission to take cabs too. Sometimes, the time savings really makes it worth it.
  • You can never have too many business cards. Even if you have a professional card (and especially if you don't) make cheap personal ones to pass out. You can buy ready to print blank cards from Staples or Office Depot.
  • Don't enter a drawing, raffle, fill out a coupon or hand over your Expo Card to be scanned, unless you want to be on that company's mailing list. If you do, it's a great way to get their catalogs, and get a free gift.
  • Enjoy every minute and go again next year.
  • Ask everyone you see for more advice. You never know what hidden gems you'll uncover.

Got some advice of your own? Please share it in the comments!


  1. Business cards are like car keys in a purse ... so stash some behind your badge in the holder. Makes it easy to keep the conversation going with someone you've met waiting in line.

  2. Great advice! I'm so proud of myself to have thought of a couple of your tips all on my own!!!