- Writers conferences are organized a lot differently than library conferences: I don’t just mean because we are from different professions either. Writers are creatives, so their focus is on the programming- having as much programming as possible--- every second. Librarians, we are about the organization of the conference as much as the programming. What does this difference mean? Well, for one, as I was building my schedule for StokerCon I noticed there are no breaks where there is no programming. There is no down time for people to congregate, network, and just enjoy being in a place where everyone is in your same line of work like we have at library conferences. But the big difference is in how conference scheduling software. The writers conference has a list of everything in order of what time it is happening- all mushed together. The library conferences all have scheduling apps where you can build your schedule easily on your phone. From ALA to my state conference, I can go in and see the program description, the “track” it is on, who is speaking, where and when it is, and add it to my personal schedule. Now pointing out this difference may be unfair since our profession is to organize knowledge, but that doesn’t make my planning process any less frustrating.
- Panels at both conferences are very different: When you are asked to be on a panel at a library conference you are expected to prepare a talk. You are expected to have slides, notes, links, and handouts for people. When you are on a panel at a writers conference, it is apparently a free for all. You are expected to just be there and talk from your experience, and, from the research I have done, you have to fight for your chance to speak. At a library conference, the panel organizer lets everyone know how much time they have and makes sure that everyone sticks to their time. Well, I am on 2 panels at this conference and I will have no problem holding my own, but I do have to say I was a little confused as to how it all works at first. The two ideas of a “panel” couldn’t be more different.
- Writers conferences don’t do exhibits halls. This goes back a little to number 1. At library conferences the exhibitors are paying the bills. They pay huge booth fees to be there and sell their wares to us. But they also demand exclusive time where there are no programs to attend in order to bring people in. I love the exhibit hall at library conferences because it allows me to see products that I didn’t even know libraries needed or used. I can see a fuller picture of our profession and think about how I do my job and what I may be missing. The exhibit hall is also a place to see the newest technologies before I would ever get to use them. I still remember seeing Hoopla’s debut in this setting; now I use it all of the time. On the other hand, writers conferences have dealers room where publishers and authors can sell their books. I get that, but, I also think they are missing out by not having a hall where they invite the vendors that provide services they could be using. A visit to the exhibit hall would be a good break to recharge AND it helps to pay the bills. But, maybe not. Writers do not have the budgets libraries do. [As a Trustee of a smaller library we have almost $3 million to spend, for example] So maybe the exhibit hall model couldn’t work.
- But the difference I am most surprised by: We know all about writers, how they work, and how they make money but they really don’t know much about us. One thing I have learned as I have been part of the pre-conference processes is that every time I begin to explain what I do and how libraries work-- how we buy books, what a collection development policy is, how the rules are created, basically everything about how we work-- they are fascinated and want more info. They want to know more about us and how they can work with us. The publishers know us. They have their own reps for us. At times I even feel like they have too much control over us. But the writers, for the most part, they are in the dark about what libraries can do for them. At first, I was shocked by this knowledge, but it makes sense. We are both losing out by not understanding each other better.
This fourth reason is why for today’s Call to Action I am asking all of you to find a writers association and see how you can get involved. The HWA is not the only writers association that has a level for librarians to join. Most do, but membership among library workers in writers associations is low.
Let’s change that. Pick your favorite genre and find their writers association page and inquire how you can join. Tell them Becky told you to join. Tell them you want to help their writers get their books into libraries where readers can discover them. You want to buy their books and promote them. And studies show that library users buy books at a higher rate than non users, so we can be a huge help.
This argument doesn’t even take into account all we can learn from the writers, but I will be focusing on that side of the story once I am at the conference where I will post about what I am doing and learning.
Once you join, get involved. We are very interesting to the writers. They want to work with us, but I think we need to make the first move. Let’s get started now!
For past Call to Action posts, click here.