ALA Survival Tips, New & Improved for #ALA11

I’ve made some updates to the conference tips I shared last year before ALA.  Hopefully, there is a little something for everyone, I’ve added a short packing list  of things I can’t live without and a reading list with suggestions on networking and tips for introverts.

Packing list

These are the things I can NOT live without at conferences

  • A good bag in a light weight material. Forgot leather its hot & heavy. Instead go for something lightweight like the bagallini bags, I have two big ones, the Only Bagg and the Ala Carte Medium. Both of these are large tote style bags great as a carry on or if you like a bigger bag. My favorite one is smaller though, the Hobo Style Tote. It’s just big enough my netbook will fit in it, the outer end pockets are big enough for a water bottle and the strap can be shortened to wear as a shoulder bag or long to wear as a messenger.
  • External Battery Pack I can not express enough love for this device. It’s slightly larger than my cell phone and will fully charge it, twice. Yep. I just remember to plug it in and charge it each night then throw it in my bag during the day. No looking for an outlet or dealing with a dead phone. It has 2 usb plugs on it so if you’re feeling really generous you can share with a friend just as long as they brought their own cord.
  • Good shoes, at least 2 pairs, neither new
  • iPod touch – in addition to being a great travel companion (games, podcasts, music, books and more), there are some great white noise apps to help me get to sleep at night or to help drowned out those loud neighbors. Many hotels have a docking station or an mp3 connection to the alarm clock/radio. The new iTouch takes photos so you don’t wear our your cellphone battery taking pictures. Plus lots of great note taking apps if you decide not to take your laptop.
  • Umbrella – small compact kind
  • Snack bars – yep, most days my schedule is so packed I can’t get out of the convention center for lunch and you never know what food will or wont be offered.
  • A well planned schedule – yep my schedule is plotted out weeks in advance with locations and everything. I print it out in additon to having it on my phone so I can easily see a glance where I’m supposed to be and when. I politely decline the big printed one at check-in. I already know where I’m going & its heavy.


  • 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, eat meals with other people, 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, use them.
  • 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 or more coffee.
  • 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 – seriously, if you must wear heels put a pair of flats in your bag, trust me you will be happy you did when you making that long walk you weren’t planning to make.
  • Get the right bag – you don’t want to carry too much it’s hard on your back & shoulders, but you need room for important extras like extra shoes, a water bottle and a sweater or wrap. Really think about if you need that laptop. Can you take notes by hand & type them up later? Twitter and check email from your phone if you can.  Forgo leather, sure it looks great but its hot & adds extra unneeded pounds (see more about bags under shopping list)
  • 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

More tips 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
  • Always visit the exhibits.
  • Get creative with transportation.
  • Attend a program hosted by an entity outside your usual “space.”
  • Tip the people who make our visit so comfortable.

Must Read List

What’s in your must-have packing list? What tips would you add?


29 thoughts on “ALA Survival Tips, New & Improved for #ALA11

  1. I’d like to toss in one minor detail: bring cash and have it be a mixture of denominations. It’s good for covering smaller incidentals like cab fares, snack machines, tipping bellhops and housekeeping, and good for other places and services that make having a debit or credit card an inconvenience or liability.

    Cash is especially handy when you attend a group dinner. While restaurants can handle taking certain amounts off of different cards, making that list of who is paying what can be a pain in the ass. With cash, you drop what you owe (be sure to include your part of tip and tax) and be free to leave if you need to.

    Having cash on hand for some of these things with a debit or credit card backup allows you to handle costs quickly and reasonably.


      1. Let’s split the difference here. Carry some cash, leave the rest in the hotel safe. Like, limit it to $20 unless you are going out for a group meal. That’s a bit safer!


  2. This was a great tip from a colleague…If you do take a program book at ALA, tear out only the schedule for that particular day and leave the book in the hotel.


  3. Ask an Ambassador – at the Info Desk outside of Hall H or at the Membership Pavilion (booth 2540) in the Exhibits – these long time attendees who have a good idea about how to ‘do’ conference along with a wealth of Annual and NOLA info at their fingertips. Conf Ref…. (Thanks, Bobbi for the post!)


  4. As a New Orleanian, I cannot stress bringing extra water enough. It is starting to get ridiculously hot, and we are good at those hot and humid summer-times.


    1. Great suggestion Melanie, water is VERY important!

      I’d also add sunscreen for out-of-towners. Anyone planning to spend any time outside should wear lots of sunscreen!


  5. Bobbi, great list but one very important thing you forgot: do not, repeat do not, wear your name badge or carry your swag bag after dark unless you want to become a crime statistic. Also move in packs at night. Nola is a high crime city.


    1. yes! Very important to remove ones name tag outside of meetings. Thanks Will. I recommend not taking the tote bag at all. I mean really, how many do you need? 🙂 I pass on the bag and on the huge heavy program and all else.


  6. When traveling leave good jewelry/the stuff you really treasure at home. No worries about losing it or theft.

    Bring a good map of the city. Cell phone provide directions, but sometimes it’s good to see the big picture.


  7. Definitely bring sunscreen! I heard a radio news story yesterday in which a dermatologist stated that T-shirts have an SPF factor of 6. Most people will not be wearing their best “Dress for Success” formal T-shirts” , but many people will wear short sleeve or no sleeve clothing. Protect your skin and your future health

    Dallas, Texas is having a Mavericks victory parade today, a cloudless day with temperatures in the 90s and the heat index at or above 100. News stories will have information about lessons-not-learned by parade goers in Dallas, located at a latitude 2 degrees 49 minutes higher than New Orleans.


  8. I’m definitely linking to this on my blog how to survive ISTE! Muwaa! I have a great love for bringing a lightweight powerstrip! A Powerstrip makes friends! I also bring to the hotel a Belkin travel powerstrip w/2 USB chargers! It’s listed, along with other travel gadgets on my Gadget-A-Go-Go wikipage! Lastly, I love me my mini MOO cards w/QR Code goodness!! So sad I’m gonna miss ALA & the Movers & Shakers luncheon..but rock on fellow Red!
    The Daring Librarian


  9. Years ago Lis Riba suggested these Minimum Daily Requirements: “healthy multiday convention attendance is brought to you by the numbers 5 and 2: in each 24-hour period, get at least 5 hours of sleep, at least 2 meals, and don’t confuse the numbers…many people have renamed it the “5-2-1 rule” for your recommended daily allowances of sleep, meals, and showers.”


  10. Contraceptives – just in case, as you don’t want to be roaming the streets of NOLA at 3am looking for a 24/7 drug store.

    Sanitary wipes.

    Mouth freshener, as it’s just your luck that the hottest librarian you’ve ever met starts to chat you up just after you’ve eaten the onion salad…

    Fake wedding ring (if not married) – to repel amorous admirers you are not interested in.

    Smartphone loaded with social media apps, so you can quickly and covertly check out anyone you find there who’s attractive.

    Massage lotions that smell good.

    Comfortable underwear *and* sexy underwear – covering (no pun intended) all occasions.

    Good bodywash – showering with a hot (in more ways than one) delegate you’ve met is often fun – and NOLA is hot anyway (“Hey! We’re both sweating and there’s another session in 30 minutes; shall we take a quick shower together?”) – but it’s better when you aren’t using the cheap soap that the hotel default provides.

    Things to leave behind … guilt, inhibitions, any way for your ex or the “It’s complicated” in your life to contact or distract you while you are there. Look, you’re in New Orleans with several thousand like-minded people you haven’t met before, and you have precious little vacation time for such fun in the next year ahead.

    So be safe, but enjoy yourself… 😉


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