Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Over the River, and Through the Woods: On Attending Midwinter

"Snowy Philly"

I'll admit it: I almost didn't attend ALA Midwinter, even though it was held just a little over an hour from where I live. You see, the entire week leading up to the conference, I participated in the in person seminar part of the College Library Directors' Mentor Program. I was worried that I'd be peopled and library talked out. Besides, I knew I'd be missing my old lady kitty by that point. But I let a combination of factors win me over: a good friend was presenting as part of the GamerRT Forum, a lot of people I admire were going to be in a panel discussion with a topic close to my heart, and finally there's the fact that someone guilted me into going.

No exaggeration in that tweet, by the way. I really did have an amazing time at midwinter. I was surprised to get so much out of the conference, since the one time I went to ALA Annual was a mixed-emotions kind of experience. Now that I've had a couple of days to ruminate, I've come up with a list of reasons why I liked ALA Midwinter 14 so much better than Annual 10:
  1. Midwinter is a much more manageable size. Thus far in my career, my favorite library conference is definitely LOEX (highly recommended if you can go, and if you get a paper accepted you are guaranteed a slot - something I've been fortunate enough to do twice), and the times I've been the total attendance was somewhere between 400 and 500 people. Compare that to ALA Annual, which attracts upwards of 20k attendees.
  2. The smaller size meant I was able to have deeper conversations with people. Dinner with the libtechgender crowd after the panel was fantastic. It was interesting to participate in a more personal discussion of gender issues in the work place.
  3. There were sessions that interested me personally and professionally, and that I felt would give me real takeaways. (Confession: I sometimes feel like a lot of conference sessions are prompted more by a need to put something in the tenure portfolio than a genuine desire to communicate findings.)

  4. Really, though, the best thing was the people. Twitter encompasses so many of my professional contacts and so much of my personal learning network, and I feel like I met and/or hung out with about half of my Twittersphere in the space of 12 hours.

So there's my ALA Midwinter story. A fantastic conference experience, and I wish you the same the next time you decide to go out of your library to engage with the rest of our profession. 

Anybody else who attended want to chime in?

1 comment:

  1. I had a great time. I understand that the roughly 10,000 attendees was on the low side compared to previous years (probably due to weather). So, biased as I am, the Unconference was awesome (so many smart people saying amazingly smart things) and I would love to see more informal meetings along the same lines to balance out all the committee meetings. Also I need to meet more people I know from twitter and G+.