Continue reading “Vermont Chapter Councilor Report – ALA LibLearnX 2023”
ALA Midwinter Report 2022
Hello from your local Chapter Councilor to the American Library Association. This past week I attended Council Forums and Council meetings virtually and this is my report.
Want to be a Councilor?
Brief note that my Chapter Councilor term is up in May. While I am more than happy to serve a second three-year term, I would also be happy to pass the privilege and responsibility on to someone else. Feel free to contact me directly and I can discuss what is involved. I was lucky to follow in the footsteps of Marti Fiske (with some gap coverage also by Virgil Fuller, thanks Virgil and Happy Birthday!) who did a terrific job for us.
ALA Conferences Overview
The January professional development conference (with speakers and activities and vendors) is becoming known as LibLearnX, and all the committee meetings which happen at ALA in January are… still kind of called Midwinter. It’s a little confusing and I asked specifically if this lack of clarity was intentional and was told by the Conference Committee that they are really trying to spin up LibLearnX as a “whole new thing” and so they don’t use any of the Midwinter verbiage which, to my mind, leaves people to figure it out on their own. LibLearnX does look pretty interesting and now all of the speakers and activities are at “no conflict” times, in case you were thinking about attending in the future. Next LibLearnX is in New Orleans, always a great conference location.
Next big conference for ALA is in Washington DC June 23-28. It is still somewhat up in the air whether this will be in person, virtual or hybrid. I have been advocating for a hybrid conference as I think it allows for better accessibility as well as access for Councilors from far-flung states as well as some serious cost savings for people from smaller chapters but there has been some push back on this, so stay tuned. Report follows….
Continue reading “ALA Midwinter Report 2022”
My ALA Conference
I am the Chapter Councilor for Vermont. This means I get to (have to) go to the annual and midwinter conferences and represent the great state of Vermont. I mostly like it. To be honest, I’ve liked it MORE since COVID means we can’t travel. This means two important things: meetings are held later in the day to accommodate our colleagues from Hawai’i; and meetings are cheaper because I don’t need to get on a plane and stay in a hotel to attend these meetings. There are many reasonable critiques of ALA, many of which I agree with, but I’m still trying to do my best in this tiny role. I always write up a report for the Vermont Library Association, the group that pays for my membership and which would be paying for my travel and registration. I figured I’d share it here as well.
doing it right when everything is going wrong
Apologies in advance because this isn’t really about libraries as much as about conferencing. Maybe more of an etiquette post than anything.
I skipped April. Not on purpose. I was supposed to go to TXLA and came down with a weird lingering flu. I’m usually a “push through the pain” person but not enough to get on an airplane with a fever and potentially make other people sick. No one needs that. So I missed TXLA which was a huge bummer. They were incredibly understanding about it. And then there was a week of school vacation where I teach so I decided to hunker down in MA and get well and make sure I could make it to the Rural Libraries conference in Michigan. Upstate Michigan. The UP, where it was still frozen enough so that the ferries we were supposed to take to Mackinac Island were possibly not running. So now I was in a situation where I was rarin’ to go but the conference might not happen at all.
My main contact, Shannon White from the Library of Michigan, did an amazing job with a very difficult situation. She gave low-drama email updates (to me but also all attendees) as we got news from the ferry and told me what the timeframe was in case we’d have to cancel. When I arrived in St. Ignace (via Michael Stephens’ place, so great to see him) the weather was terrible and the flight we were supposed to take was cancelled. Many people including us were stuck there overnight when we would have preferred to be at the conference venue, the Grand Hotel. I was put up in a decent hotel and fed dinner and we discussed jockeying for ferry positions the next morning. I had warned everyone in advance of even taking this speaking gig that I was not a morning person and someone graciously got up early and got a timestamped ferry ticket for me for later in the day. This was a huge deal.
The Grand Hotel is one of those places that is fancy but also deeply committed to service. All of their 385 rooms are different. When I finally got to the hotel at about 1 pm on the day I was speaking, I was put in a crazy-looking suite that overlooked the water. Which was terrific except that there was a crew of hotel-opener people (the hotel officially opened the day after the conference closed) that was going over the front of the place with leaf-blowers and lawn tools and who knows what else. I moved my room to an equally quirky suite on the back of the hotel where I rested after a day and a half of on-again-off-again travel.
My talk about the 21st Century Digital Divide was done in an oddly-shaped room without the benefit of slides. I’ve talked about it elsewhere (short form: people who could not see or hear me talked through it) but it was a suboptimal setup which we all tried to make the best of. I got a lot of positive feedback from the state library folks despite some of the shortcomings and they made a special reminder announcement before the next keynote about not carrying on conversations while people were speaking. I heard it was great, I was asleep. My workshop the next day about maintaining conference momentum went really well and, again, I got great support from the organizers as well as the hotel when I decided I needed last-minute handouts.
All in all, despite a situation where there were a lot of things that were out of people’s control, the conference was memorably great for me personally and I think for a lot (most?) of the attendees as well. As much as people made joking “Never again!” comments, there was something about working together in unusual settings through various kinds of adversity that brings people closer together. I felt well-taken care of and appreciated as well as well-compensated. And, personally, I had a great time. The people I talked to all felt the same. Thanks, Library of Michigan.
A few links for people who like that sort of thing
Big Talk From Small Libraries – free online conference Tuesday Feb 28th
I am doing a new thing this year. Well I’m doing a few new things overall, like learning ukulele, but one big thing professionally. I’ve decided to try to do a few webinars, both attending and presenting, to see how they go. In the past I’ve sort of skipped webinars on principle. I find the software difficult and it’s challenging for me to talk about good technology when using bad technology. I’m also just not that good at presenting to an unseen audience. However last year I was invited to do a lighting talk of a sort and I enjoyed it; it was even pretty low tech, using Skype to connect. There was a lot of back and forth on Twitter and good feedback/questions which was different from the last webinars I did several years ago where I wasn’t even sure people were tuning in at all. I’ve also noticed there have been a few one-day events that have gotten people talking that I might like to attend. So I’ve been exploring. Who knows, next thing you know I may start reading ebooks….
So, this is a long way of saying that I’ll be presenting with a bunch of other great librarians at the Nebraska Library Commission’s Big Talk for Small Libraries conference this Tuesday. You can see the schedule here (be aware it’s all in Central Time) and read the FAQ here. With eight speakers who are all people who work in small libraries, over 300 attendees, and a homegrown back channel, I think it will be an interesting day. Free as in beer. I think it will be a good time.