This was my first ALA conference, and I asked everyone I could for advice. I posted to listservs, I asked my library school professors, I read all the wikis on the ALA website, etc.
And I got lots of great advice.
Having just lived through it- I can now offer my own advice for attending an ALA conference.
- If you ask anyone what their advice is for the annual conference, they will answer "wear comfortable shoes."
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- If you're debating whether or not to go to the conference.... go.
- If there's an event/luncheon/ceremony that you REALLY want to go to and it costs money..... go.
- If it's your first time at an ALA annual conference- sign up for a mentor through New Members Round Table and ask for someone in the specific field that you're interested in. This was one of the best things I did- and I can't recommend it highly enough.
- Pick a hotel as close to the convention center as humanly possible, even if you need three roommates to be able to afford the room.
- If you LOVE children's books- go to the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. It's worth every penny (and then some).
- Don't dither about the expensive events- because by the time you decide it's worth getting a ticket, the event will be sold out. Buy the ticket when you register.
- If you go to the Newbery/Caldecott banquet- it makes a huge difference to be invited by a publisher because your seats are much better. If you get an invitation from a publisher for the banquet, accept it immediately.
- If you go to an awards ceremony- read all the books being honored before you go. The awards are announced in January- so that gives you six months to catch up on your reading. It makes all the difference in the world to know the books- the award ceremonies are a million times better when you do.
- If you have time, it's extremely helpful to read all (or as many as possible) of the books the winner of an award has written because they almost always mention their previous books in their speeches (particularly their first book).
- If a winner has won the award in the past (for example, David Wiesner who has three Caldecotts to his name) find their other acceptance speeches and read them.
- If there's a session you REALLY want to go to, and the authors are announced beforehand, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with their books before you go.
- You have to pay for the books at the author signings. (This is not true at the Book Expo, so it caught me off-guard.) Hardcovers are $10. 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 there's a book you LOVE, and it costs $10, and the author is right in front of you signing books- buy the book and get it signed. It's worth it.
- 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?" If you know any of their previous lesser known books- definitely mention them.
- Take pictures of the authors you see at the signings- no matter how stupid you feel about doing it- you'll be grateful ten years later when they win the Caldecott.
- 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.
- 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.
- Talk to everyone.... lines are great places to meet people.
- Go to the informal happy hours, get-togethers for your college, interest group, etc.
- Sit in on the Notable books committee meetings. All the other award committee meetings are closed, but this one is open, and absolutely fascinating to listen to.
- Collect all the ribbons for your badge you can- for all the divisions you belong to. Makes a great talking point.
- If the convention center has a bag check- make use of it- so you're not lugging so many books around.
- Join the listservs of the divisions you're interested in BEFORE you go to the conference.
- Enjoy every minute.
- Go again next year.