Monday, June 23, 2008

More advice for the ALA convention

I'm going to my second American Library Association Annual Convention this week and I can't being to tell you how much I'm looking forward to it.

As soon as I got back from last year's convention, I wrote a post about the things I learned. Here are a few more tips (mainly geared to attendees interested in children's books). Feel free to add your own advice in the comments.

My first piece of advice comes from Maria at Library Praxis.
Go to the sessions you want to go to... not the ones you think you should go to.

What should you wear?
Last year I noticed that for the most part attendees were dressed pretty informally. I think you could get away with jeans and a nice shirt... although slacks look a bit more professional. If you have a job interview, bring along a change of clothes for the interview.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes. You'll be doing a lot of walking.

Plan ahead.
Use ALA's Event Planner. Visit the ALA Annual wiki. Make a list (or a spreadsheet) of everything that looks interesting to you. Obviously, you can't go to everything, but it's nice to have all the options in front of you.

Be spontaneous.
I know, I just told you to plan everything out. But, also remember that you don't have to do every last thing on your schedule. Make sure to linger to talk to your favorite authors. Go to lunch with an old (or new) friend. Take a nap if you need one.

Advice for the exhibits
I'll admit, I copied some of this from my post about the Book Expo, but a lot of it applies to ALA too.

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. You can take these (for the most part). If there's a publisher that you're really interested in, you might want to check back at their booth later during the conference, because they'll put out different books on different days. Smaller publishers are less likely to have the funds to do this.

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 eveything 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. 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.

Are you going to the Newbery/Caldecott banquet?
Here are a few things I noticed during this sublime event last year.

This was described to me as the "librarian prom" and I think that's a fitting description. It's definitely a black-tie event. Wear the nicest dress or suit that you feel comfortable shoving in a suitcase and dragging with you to the conference. I brought my conference name tag with me to the event, but just couldn't bring myself to put it on over my evening gown.

If you don't have a table number on your banquet ticket, I highly recommend going into the dinner as soon as the doors open. The majority of tables are reserved for publishers or groups... so you have to search for a bit to find a table that doesn't have a placard on it. I made the mistake last year of dawdling when the ballroom doors were opened. (I had a good excuse, I was talking to a famous author who was standing behind me in the drinks line). I ended up scrounging for a seat in the back. On the other hand, the people seated in the back of the hall got to go through the receiving line first at the end of the night, and I got to talk to every single author honored during the evening.

What if you really want to hear the Newbery and Caldecott speeches but can't afford the banquet? The speeches are open to conference attendees. Go to the ballroom after dinner is served (last year the event organizers listed an approximate time when dinner was expected to be over). There are chairs on the side of the ballroom where you can sit and listen to the speeches for free.

Are the Printz Awards different from the Newbery/Caldecott banquet?
Yes. The authors of all the honored books get to give a speech. This is not true with the Newberys and Caldecotts, where you only hear from the winners and not the honor recipients.

I'd wear nice slacks, a suit, or a dress to this event. Jeans are definitely not appropriate.

Can you recommend a good book (or a good plan) for seeing Disneyland in a short period of time?
Check out the Unofficial Guide to Disneyland. I've used it on incredibly crowded days and holiday weekends at Disneyland and it's worked perfectly every time. It has touring plans that help you get through the park in the most efficient way possible, and it's always saved me an enormous amount of time waiting in line. No matter how exacting their plans seem, follow them. They know what they're talking about. Even if you don't have a full day to devote to Disneyland or California Adventure, this book is still worth a quick read. It gives a rating and analysis of every ride and attraction, which helps you plan your limited time.

Older editions of the book are fine for a lay of the land and to find out how how Disney's rides are structured... but I recommend using the touring plans only from the most current edition because things change so rapidly at Disneyland. Incidentally, the admission prices in the 2008 edition are already out-of-date. Check the official Disneyland website for the current prices and operating hours.

Are you a children's literature blogger?
I'm organizing a pizza dinner on Saturday night for bloggers and anyone interested in children's books. For details, see this post.

Anything else?
Above all, have a great time and enjoy the convention.


  1. Great tips, Susan! I wish I could go, but alas...

    However, next summer ALA is in Chicago, so hopefully I'll be able to put your tips to use then!! :D

  2. Hi there! Thanks for the shout-out. Have a great conference!

  3. Wow. I hope I can go to the convention someday. Do you have to be a librarian to go?