Back home, safe and sound, and life is ordinary again. I had a colleague ask me if I’m glad I went. I am, but it took me a while to arrive at this conclusion. There were some major dislikes along with the likes. The major thing framing my experience of the conference is simply where I am in my library career. I’m a relatively new librarian. I went on my own time, without a specific to-do list or committee responsibilities. If you were me, and wondering what you should do at Annual, I would absolutely not recommend
The Job Placement Center
I had very high hopes for the Job Placement Center. I got a really terrific resume reading at ACRL’s Job Placement Center, so I was ready to make more great connections, talk jobs, etc. etc. This did not happen. The people running the welcome and registration booth gave me as warm a welcome as a bowl of goldfish might. They were not actively unfriendly, but they did not ask what I needed, nor did they attempt to showcase all the features of the Placement Center. The one thing I know about job hunting is that it makes one anxious and self-conscious, and a big smile and a hello goes a long way towards helping that. Didn’t get either of those. Is there some sort of magic handshake that turns the Placement Center into a world of opportunity? Don’t know, the people manning the center didn’t offer to tell me. I printed out a copy of my resume on the mind-numbingly slow computers and puttered around to the different booths, ready to do my “I’m an underemployed digital projects librarian” song & dance (do any other librarians on the job market ever feel like a poodle in a tutu at the circus?). But there were very few booths, none from state libraries or consortia that might offer lots of jobs from a variety of libraries, and after a failed attempt to connect with a singularly grumpy librarian from a university, I took my sad little underemployed self out of there.
It was really demoralizing.
Thank goodness for the
These totally saved me. Poster sessions are where people who are working on a super-cool project tell people who are interested in the same thing about their super-cool project. For five minutes, you get to have an awesome conversation with an interesting person, and ask them all the silly questions about their project you never would have dared to–or had time to–in a lecture-style presentation. I learned about cleaning up metadata on digitized archival collections, open source folklore, and slow reading. I got to compare notes on roaming reference with librarians from halfway across the country. I listened to the answers to others’ questions and learned things about patron-driven acquisition I never would have thought to ask.
So yes, in the end, I am glad I went to ALA annual. I brought home lots of notes on things to tell my librarian friends about, things that do not pertain to my work, but which meet a need in their work. I met a lot of interesting people and learned about their libraries and what they do there. In the end, the function of ALA Annual was to remind me that the library world is a big place filled with possibilities.