I’m now in Anaheim to attend the 2008 American Library Association (ALA) annual conference. ALA Annual is one of those behemoth conferences–held in huge convention centers, with many sessions and events held at satellite hotels. With about 25,000 attendees and however many divisions, sections, roundtables, caucuses, committees, etc., you need all that space. And it is very easy to be overwhelmed by it all.

I attended my first ALA Annual in 2005 in Chicago. As a Spectrum scholar, you get to attend a Spectrum Leadership Institute at the end of your scholarship year. The institute occurs the Thursday and Friday just before the end of the conference (the conference starts late Friday afternoon). Since our airfare and conference registration is already paid for, it makes sense to stay for conference. However, after the institute, you’re on your own as far as paying for your lodgings, meals, etc. When you’re a student, that means you’re putting in a lot of money you don’t really have.

I remember a lot of things from that conference, including:

  • I was trying to save money, so I picked a hotel that seemed to be pretty cheap. I did not take the time to read the reviews, and it turned out that the hotel workers had been on strike for a couple of years. My roommate (also a Spectrum scholar that I had just met) and I did not know what to do when we got there. We were met by pretty aggressive strikers who told us to stay somewhere else. With thousands of librarians–not to mention the summer tourists in town, it would have been difficult to find a inexpensive alternative. So, we had to cross the picket line (I know, bad) and were always uncomfortable walking in and out of the hotel.
  • The hotel was an old one, and we were definitely in the old wing. The elevators were slow, and we still had to walk far to get to our room. We had a huge room, but it was shabby. And the air conditioners did not work that well.
  • New senator Barack Obama was the opening speaker. Though he had just been sworn in in January of that year, he had delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention a year earlier.
  • The first day, I picked up so much free stuff from the exhibits that I then had to lug back to my hotel. And I was so tired that I slept the rest of the day.

I’m sure I attended sessions, but I can’t remember them anymore.

I’ve attended lots of library conferences since then, and I’ve had lots of good experiences. This is my third ALA annual (5th overall ALA), and the conference experience has definitely been getting better for me. So here’s to a good ALA!

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