ALA Midwinter Dallas 2012
A Report by Diane Malmstrom
Arriving at the Dallas Convention Center for my very first ALA Midwinter meeting was exciting! Never before had I seen so many library people assembled in one place (approximately 11-12,000, including exhibitors). Once I’d checked in, I was given a big, red ALA bag, and sent on my way.
But where to start, and why did I need such a big bag? I soon found out the answer to my question, when I visited the vendor exhibit floor. Everywhere I looked, free books, vendor goodies, and product information brochures were handed my way, and that was only after visiting row one. I soon found myself flowing through the crowd in a sea of big, red bags! As an inexperienced conference goer, I was soon lugging around a bag overflowing with library related material. It was then that I realized I would have to be far more selective in the days to come, if I wanted to make it through the vastness that is the exhibit floor (82,000 square feet).
Thankfully, I’d laid out my schedule of conference events ahead of time. With so many informative sessions, I was glad to have some structure for my first day. I was so impressed with the authors that had been scheduled for the conference, and my first day began with the Booklist Author Forum with Helen Schulman and Hillary Jordan. Both authors spoke candidly about their writing process and exploration of social conditions, and also how changes, such as the internet, affect society. This was particularly interesting for me, because I’d written of some of these digital changes, and their effects on library reference, in the essay I submitted for this grant. I also listened to the inspiring story of Jamal Joseph as he spoke about his book, Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention. He showed how we, as librarians, can reach out to a struggling community to let people know we’re here to help them. Author John Green gave an upbeat talk about how social networking relates to literature, and inventive ways for libraries to reach out through social networking. My favorite speaker, however, was Susan Cain, author of the book titled, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her talk centered on how our culture misunderstands and undervalues introverts in this increasingly social world, and how we might be more successful in the workplace by being able to recognize the strengths of people that prefer to work alone. She spoke of how having a balance of working strategies, including allowing those more introverted to work alone at times, rather than insisting they follow the popular “teamwork” model, could be inducive to great, new ideas. I thought her approach was a unique and welcome one, coming to one that does work well in teams, but sometimes does better and more thoughtful work when it’s quiet.
Along with attending the author talks, on Sunday I attended a session calledThe Midwinter Conversation: Transforming Librarianship. It was here that I was really able to interact with some of my colleagues to discuss what we think needs to be done in order to transform libraries and librarianship. This roundtable discussion was moderated by professor David Lankes, author ofAtlas of New Librarianship, and helped us answer such questions as, how will library service be different in the future, what tools will we need to successfully move forward, and what assumptions must we change about libraries and librarianship to get there; all relevant questions as I finish my degree and enter the next phase of my library career.
One of the things that I was most looking forward to was connecting in person with many of our library vendors. I work closely with them via e-mail on a regular basis, and wanted to let them know how much I appreciate their dedicated service. Several of them invited me to attend company breakfasts/lunches held before the sessions which gave us a chance to catch up over a nice meal. Before one of the breakfasts, as I was checking in, I introduced myself to one of our reps, and she was so happy I was there, she got up and hugged me! For years, she always asks me if I’ll be attending ALA, and I always have to say no, because library funding is so bad, and it doesn’t allow for travel. I was happily able to tell her about the Robert F. Asleson Memorial ALA Conference Grant that I’d received, and how it made it possible for me to attend. These are the kinds of connections that I think would have made Bob very happy.
While I didn’t have a lot of free time during the day, I was able to fit in a morning of sightseeing on Friday before events started. I took a walk through the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, and visited the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza. As you can see, it was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the low 70s. From here, I walked to the Sixth Floor Museum which chronicles President Kennedy’s life, death, and legacy. I spent a few hours there, and while it was sad, I’m so glad I spent time to learn more about this event in US history.
On Saturday morning, I happily met with Iris Hanney (Chairman of the Board), and Cheryl Crosby (Board member) for the Robert F. Asleson Memorial ALA Conference Grant, at the Unlimited Priorities booth. It was great to finally meet them in person, as we’d been in touch, via e-mail since October. I very much enjoyed visiting with them, and hearing their fondest memories of Bob, and how he touched so many people’s lives. I’m more than honored to be a part of his continuing legacy.
As I return to California, armed with new insight and wonderful memories of ALA Midwinter 2012 in Dallas, I will begin to apply what I’ve learned with a new sense of mission, all made possible by the generous grant I received in honor of a man that had such love for information and libraries. I can only hope, when my library career is said and done, that I will have had half the impact that Bob has had on the library community. I thank each and everyone involved, and hope to see you all again soon.