Seat Saving At Library Conferences! WTF?

So I’m at the Library Assessment Conference in Baltimore, my first time attending this one. Assessment is on my portfolio at work, so with it being so close by, I was glad to have the opportunity to attend.

Twice already today I came into the meeting room, not late or anything. I like an aisle seat if possible – which is not uncommon. Lots of seats were taken, but more than once I came across an open seat – or so I thought. Turns out someone got there before me, threw their stuff on the chair, and claimed their stake to it. I would politely ask someone nearby, “Do you know if anyone is sitting there?” and the answer was usually “I think so.”

I know that lots of seat saving goes on at graduations and movies. But library conferences? I haven’t encountered much of that before. I don’t know about you, but in general seat saving is not cool. You’ve probably had the experience where you see a row of open seats and then you head there only to find someone else got there before you, threw their jacket or book on the seat, and then just took off. Hey, if you want the seat, take it and stay there. I’d like to go off and get a cup of coffee or talk to my friends too, but if I want a good seat I try to get there early and then I wait – in my seat.

If you happen to be a chronic or even occasional seat saver, give it some thought the next time you stake your claim. At least check out some of the rules of engagement to make sure you are following the proper etiquette. Next time I might just move your stuff over to that chair right in the middle of the row. What about you? Have you encountered seat saving at library conferences? What do you think? Do we need a seat saving ban?

9 thoughts on “Seat Saving At Library Conferences! WTF?

  1. I am behind this 100%. I have long argued that conferences should have a tiered seating approach similar to airlines and sports arenas.

    Basic conference registration should allow you to sit in any seat you like, except for seats within 2 of the aisle; seats with easy access to electrical outlets, or special seats in the “conference plus” zone with extra legroom and a place to put your totebag. For those seats, you’d have to upgrade to gold status, which would also allow you to save up to two seats per session.

    In order to enforce such a plan, each session would require a waiting area, several ushers, and a Portal Coordinator to announce which groups were currently eligible to enter the conference room and find a seat.

    It’s not a perfect plan, as I know that librarians have an anti-authority streak in us, and it might not be possible to hire enough bouncers to keep order. But really, something must be done, and I think a seat saving ban doesn’t go nearly far enough.

  2. I wouldn’t move anyone’s things as well. But I can actually top that, at the same conference. I was getting an inside seat this morning and someone tried to tell me that it was saved–but there was nothing there but the handout for that presentation! I didn’t fall for it and the person said, well, I guess they’ve lost it.

  3. I’m confused- had the session started yet? I’ve gone to the room, put down my stuff, and then left to wait in line for the ladies’ room. There are ALWAYS lines in the ladies’ rooms at library conferences. As long as I’m back in time for the start of the session, I don’t see any rudeness. Perhaps, Steven, you are spoiled by the lack of lines in the men’s room. :)

  4. i’m also confused . . . why is it such a big deal that someone put their jacket and/or bag down to claim a seat and then left to go to the restroom or get a drink?

    library conferences can be so tightly scheduled you often only have a few minutes to get to the next session room, find a seat, claim it, and then run off to try to get that bathroom break in.

    the rationale is that coming in after the presentation has started is much easier if you already have a seat to go to. you don’t have to disturb the presenter or attendees as you wander to and fro trying to see where an empty seat is located. how many times have you heard a presenter stop what they are saying to point out, like your old homeroom teacher, “there are still some empty seats down front.”

    i would suggest you do like the rest of us — get used to sitting anywhere (or standing if there aren’t enough seats) and realize it will be over soon. The presentation is probably not going to be more than 45 minutes to 1 hour and then you’ll be out of there.

    really, if seat selection and saving a seat for yourself was such a big issue, there would be tickets sold and reserve seating with nobody allowed in after the presentation started (think opera or symphony concert) . . . sort of like what Steve L suggests in his whimsical comment.

  5. I’m at the same conference–and I had really never given the topic of seat saving a thought before. I’m usually getting in the room right when the presentation starts, so I’m not usually a seat saver! However, I do think that some seat saving is okay.

    Sometimes colleagues want to sit together, and one is out in the hall on the phone, etc.

    In fact, I even saved my seat today. I attended two back-to-back sessions on Library Space–during the break, I left my bag on my seat to go to the ladies’ room (Candice’s comment is right on the mark for lines at library conferences!) I thought that was OK–I had been occupying the seat for the last 90 minutes! To someone coming in to attend only the last part of that session after the break though, I probably did look like there were a lot of seats saved.

  6. But why do you have to sit on the end of the row in the first place? I’m not in favour of seat saving but those who sit at the end of a row making everyone else have to climb over them to sit down are just as bad. Conferences, church, cinemas – it is a problem in all sorts of places. Take a deep breath and venture to the middle of a row.

  7. I didn’t expect folks to take this quite so seriously (SteveL was in the right frame of mind) but since they did, let me see if I understand it correctly. I’m supposed to get over wanting the aisle seat – which I like because my legs are long and I usually skip out to catch other sessions – but it’s ok for others to save the aisle seat. I guess they are saving it for reason. If they want to save a seat why don’t they save one in the middle of the row?

    If you need to run to the restroom, get a drink, etc., that’s all fine, so do it and then come and get a seat. Everyone thinks it’s fine to take whatever seat is left or stand for 45 minutes or whatever, so it sounds like there’s never a reason to save a seat – we can all just come in we’re ready to sit down.

    I believe seat etiquette indicates it can be acceptable to have a friend save a seat – I can understand wanting to sit next to your friend. I would probably not move someone’s personal belongings, but isn’t that what the seat saver is counting on. If we all started moving their stuff, seat saving would come to an end pretty soon.

    Now let’s move on to a topic with a little more depth to it.

  8. So, you readily admit to “skipping out” to attend another session, yet you expect any seat to be made available to you? In my opinion, folks who don’t plan to stay for the whole thing should stand at the back and let those of us who do plan to stay have first choice of seats.

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