ALA Conference Survival Tips #ala10

Last year was my first ALA and it is definitely nothing like other conferences.  This is a combination of tips I’ve shared before and new ones learned the hard way. I’ve also included a reading list with suggestions on networking and tips for introverts.

  • Give people your name – wear your name badge up near your face rather than on a lanyard so it’s easy for people to glance at it while talking to.  Introduce yourself, even if you’ve already met the person.  Some of us have hard time with names and there are a LOT of people to remember.
  • Don’t hang out with the people you came with – Go to different sessions, maximize your time at the conference you can share with each other what you learned.
  • Meet new people – you’re probably not going to meet new people if you’re hanging out with the people you came with.  Get out of your comfort zone, ask people what they want to get from the conference, how far they traveled etc, you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet.
  • Make a schedule, be willing to break it – make a schedule of what you’d like to attend, know what you absolutely must see and what you’d be willing to miss for coffee with that person you’ve been wanting to meet or the awesome new person you just met
  • Know what amenities your hotel offers – internet access, gym, fridge, breakfast etc
  • Ask for the things you need at your  hotel – you’re a paying guest, don’t be afraid to ask for little things like more hangers
  • Make time for down time – conferences can be overwhelming there is so much to do, so many people to meet.  Don’t wear yourself out early, it wont matter how much you see if you are too worn out to remember it or how many people you meet if you are too burnt out to make a good impression.
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Layer your clothes, bring a jacket, sweater or shawl, temperature can vary widely in rooms and you want to be comfortable
  • Drink lots of water – so easy to forget when you’re on the go and it is one small thing that can make you feel so much better

From others via Friendfeed, Twitter or blogs.

  • In the exhibits, ask yourself before taking swag “would I want this if it weren’t free?” And it is unseemly to push people out of the way to get an advance reading copy. – Steve Lawson
  • Anything you acquire, you will have to bring home. I like to stick a small flattened cardboard box and a roll of packing tape in my suitcase to mail home free books. – Jason P.
  • ALA is very spread out. You need to factor in where a session/meeting is when planning a schedule Tombrarian

Karen Schnieder has a great list I’ve grabbed a couple of my favorites, so as not to steal the whole thing but go read it.

  • Bring more business cards than you think you need. You will always run out.  I also know I’m ready to go home when I start handing out other people’s cards. When you get back, go through your cards and write people. – Karen Schneider
  • Always visit the exhibits. ALA conferences survive because vendors continue to send entire cotillion of staff and equipment to the exhibit hall. At the very least, go in and greet the vendors your library uses (yes, even the vendors you don’t like). But if you have more time, wander the halls. – Karen Schneider
  • Get creative with transportation. ALA has shuttle buses, and sometimes I use them. But usually I find other forms of transportation between conference sites are faster (especially after Big Events, where people will be lined up for hours). Quite often I  hoof it, sometimes with a colleague with whom I can catch up. Other times I share a cab (get bold: ask that librarian, “Want to share?”). In DC, get a Metro pass and when appropriate, use the Metro to get from A to B very quickly. – Karen Schneider
  • Attend a program hosted by an entity outside your usual “space.” If you are an academic librarian, see a PLA program, and so on. You’d be surprised what you can learn, who you meet, and what it feels like to be outside your arena – Karen Schneider
  • Tip the people who make our visit so comfortable. Tip the shuttle driver, the hotel concierge who drags your suitcase to the lobby, the clerk who brings your bags up to the room, the hotel desk clerk who retrieves your suitcase, the maid who cleans your hotel room,  the restaurant wait staff, and the cab drivers who hustle you around the city.  Your tips mean a lot to these service workers, and enhance the image of the profession as a caring, sharing group.  Bring dollar bills for the smaller tips (I rarely tip under $2 these days for anything) and a $20 (at least) for the hotel maid.

Must Read List

Where I’ll be, if you really want to know 🙂

Unfortunately my schedule looks something like this

ALA Schedule

I’ll be presenting a couple of times.

On Friday afternoon at a YALSA pre-conference session – Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools. On  Sunday afternoon I’ll be on a panel Designing Digital Experiences for Library Websites for LITA with David Lee KingToby Greenwalt and John Blyberg

Last but certainly not least Monday evening I’ll be participating in Battledecks

This awesome logo was created by

You can even get your very own awesome battledecks swag.

24 thoughts on “ALA Conference Survival Tips #ala10

  1. Bobbi, thanks for pointing to my post about ALA. I forgot one major thing in my own post. Pack extra shirts and change before dinner. Your body will thank you later.
    And find a hotel with a pool and use it.


  2. Thanks for the tips and the links. I knew Chris Brogan had some good ones but they slipped my mind. These are really helpful, especially because it’s often difficult to get out of your comfort zone (I know it is for me). But that’s what makes things happen and how we grow. Have a good conference.


  3. thanks for the reminder about extra business cards … fortunately reading this at work so just grabbed a few more.

    my tip? put several business cards in your name badge holder for easy retrieval. (hotel key card usually fits in there nicely as well)

    see y’all soon!


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