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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Not Your Average ALA Annual Advice

As I am gearing up to attend ALA Annual, I wanted to do a quick post of nontraditional advice about attending the conference. The things I am writing about go beyond the basics like wear comfortable shoes and layers and bring some high protein snacks to keep you going. While those are good pieces of advice, what I have to say is for newbies and veterans alike.

  1. This is something I said at the ARRT program last week, but it bears repeating to a larger audience-- when you are at ALA, go to your current vendors and let them know what you like about their services and then start telling them what they could do better. Don’t feel badly about complaining. They work for you. We need to let them know what we want and need for our patrons. We are the ones in the trenches using their products on actual customers. We know what works and what doesn’t in a real world setting better than they do. Guys, we don’t do this enough. How do I know? Vendors have called me multiple times to find out what the word is on the front line. What have I seen and or been told in the course of my travels? Why are they asking me? IT is because you are not telling them. So please get out there. Here is a short list of what I will be discussing with a few of the vendors I work with but you should make your own list too:
    • Please keep making audio books on CD. Even though new cars don’t have CD players, not everyone likes downloadable. I am one of those people. I like getting the CDs, loading them on my computer, and then listening when I am ready. [I delete after I listen so copyright law is followed.] I do not always get to an audiobook within the 3 weeks from when I downloaded it. When it disappears I don’t get it back, I have forgotten about it. Also, libraries are very limited by what we can add to our downloadable audio collections both in choices and because of money. Furthermore, it stinks for a patron when a series is in CD for the first 3 books and then it switches to downloadable. When this happens, more often than not, the patron stops reading that series. I know the publishers don’t want that to happen.
    • We need better cataloging and tags on our ebook collections so that we can pull more useful stats. So more than just Romance, for example. Why can’t every book have 5-10 tags? Things about it’s appeal, diversity tags, subgenres, etc... We need to be able to see what people are reading beyond- Mystery or Historical or Fantasy. Those are too broad to help us develop our collections.
    • I am in the market for furniture and fixtures as part of my local library’s remodel project. Having been on the board for 16 years, through a new building project, I have many durability questions that I will be asking specific vendors. I have a list! If you sell furniture, watch out, I’m coming.
  2. Speaking of vendors- please visit vendors you have never heard of and know nothing about. Seriously. I do this at every conference. I promise you will learn something new. I am honest as I approach and ask the vendor, who are you, what do you do for libraries, and why should I care? I ask it in a fun way. Re-reading that last sentence, it sounds mean. But I am honest and tell them that I am trying to learn something new. I hear them out and ask more questions if I can. Many times, the vendor does not provide a service that is relevant to me, so I let them know that, thank them for their time, and tell them that I will pass their information on to anyone I know who does need their services. I also always thank them for coming and buying a booth. I have done this too many times to count over the years and I always learn something new because of it.
  3. Staying in the exhibit hall with the advice, here’s some tough love-- YOU DO NOT NEED ALL OF THOSE BOOKS YOU ARE GATHERING. I know it is exciting to see all of the free ARCs everywhere, but seriously, you don’t need them. [Click here for a longer post on this issue from last year.] What you do need though are the flyers about the up coming books. Your time is also better spent at Book Buzz events for your specific area so that you can hear the publishers book talk the titles and give you readalikes. That is way more helpful than collecting armfuls of books. Also it’s much better for your back. But seriously, you will never read them all. You may want to, but you won’t. Take some. Limit yourself to a bag full day. Then, when your bag is full and you see more good titles, you have to make a choice on what stays and what goes; to put a new one in, something must come out. If you really don’t want to forget about the title, take a picture of the cover-- front and back.  Finally, when you get home, do something with the ARCs to help promote the books like I did here and here when I got a bunch at once last year. 
  4. Or maybe 3a-- You don’t need all that swag either. Just say no to the 50th pen. Again, 1 tote bag per day. You fill it, you are done. Trust me, none of these choices will be life altering, I promise. And you will have a better conference because you are only carrying 1 bag, not 5. 
  5. Talk to someone you don’t know. We all have name tags. When you are in a line or just sitting near a plug to recharge, introduce yourself to the person near you. I look at their name tag to stat the conversation. For example, if they came from somewhere I have never been, I say, “Utah, wow that’s far. I’ve always wanted to go there. What do you do at your library?” Ask what kind of library work they do. I learn so much more about our profession by meeting different versions of “library workers.” ALA is the best place to meet the full range of our profession. Sure you may never talk that person again, but I promise, you will have an interesting conversation. It’s that unplanned networking that revives us and allows us to think outside the box. So please consider talking to at least 1 person you meet randomly. Who knows, you might find yourself striking up a conversation with me.
  6. Finally, it is tempting to fill every minute of your schedule with meetings, parties, and programs, but please don’t forget to leave time to wander. Serendipity will present new people and situations. Be open to unscheduled time, even if it means saying no to free food or books. Also, it will do wonders for your sanity.
I hope this helps.  Please add anything you’d like in the comments to help others.

Tomorrow, I will be posting a few of the programs I will be attending so that you can “bump into me,” if you want.


Cari said...

I'll see you there! GREAT advice. I am so choosy about the books I take home now. You are absolutely right, you don't need all that swag. It's so much nicer when you can take home a few signed books you can cherish by authors you enjoy. Unless you're going to take stuff back to your library for giveaways.

Becky said...

Good point Cari. Gathering boxes to send back for giveaways is great but many of the publishers will send boxes to your library for you if you ask. Then you don't pay the shipping!