Getting Social At ALA
Editor’s Note: In this third in a series of posts about the upcoming ALA Conference in New Orleans, Megan Hodge, Circulation Supervisor at Randolph-Macon College and Adjunct Instructor at Bryant & Stratton College, reminds us that even after our long conference days we need to get social at night – and gives us a preview of the ACRL action in New Orleans. We’ll be hearing more about the ALA Conference from our new team of ALA Emerging Leaders over the next few weeks leading up to the big event.
One of my favorite things about the ALA conferences is how energizing and affirming they are of my decision to become a librarian rooms full of ideas and people who are passionate about the same things. Newer librarians or extremely involved ones may be tempted (or have no choice about) to cram program after program after committee meeting into their few days at ALA Annual. After a long day of programs and committee meetings, when your feet are hurting, your shoulders are sore from carrying tote bags full of freebies and your eyelids are drooping because of jet lag, the last thing you may want to do is head out on the town for a night of socializing with strangers. So why go?
As ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels said, if you don’t come back from a conference with new ideas, you’re missing something. Sometimes those new ideas aren’t learned in the formal programs, but from simply talking to your seat mate on the Gale shuttle or neighbor at the ProQuest lunch. Many ACRL sections (and other ALA divisions and roundtables) host socials during Annual where free food is often provided and interaction with others of similar interests is guaranteed (see selected list, below). While it’s entirely possible to get a great programming idea from a public librarian you stop for a chat with in the Exhibit Hall, don’t you think it’s much more likely that you’ll learn something useful from another science librarian? If you’re shy and find making small talk with strangers difficult, these are also great because you’re guaranteed to have something in common with the other attendees.
In addition to the section/division/round table-sponsored fetes, there are also a few grassroots socials that aren’t sponsored by official ALA groups like Facebook After-Hours and the Newbie and Veteran Librarian Tweet-up. The Tweet-up, in particular, is good for newer librarians or ones who haven’t yet found a sectional home in ALA or ACRL; Bohyun Kim started it in 2009 because it would consist of totally random group of people. And there would be no pressure! It’s also a good idea to monitor the Twitter backchannels; you may find that someone who is in the same session or hotel as you is looking for dinner companions.
Vendors also host evening receptions. If you don’t do any purchasing for your library, you might not have received an invitation, so ask a coworker if s/he can wrangle you an invitation (or if you can tag along). You can also chat up the Exhibit Hall booth staffers of larger vendors like Gale and EBSCO whether they have any functions planned that you could attend. Creating or reinforcing relationships with vendors–even if you have no purchasing power at your present institution–can be helpful down the line. Vendor representatives, like the rest of us, may be more inclined to work extra hard to resolve problems if they already have an established relationship with you. The important thing to remember is that you needn’t wait until you’re a purchaser to attend a vendor event; vendors are just as interested as you in networking and developing connections! Today’s newly minted librarian is tomorrow’s Head of Electronic Resources.
So what do you do if you’re an introvert like me and even the idea of making small talk with strangers or talking to those rock star presenters in any environment less structured than immediately after their presentation makes you want to lie down in a darkened room? As former ALA President Leslie Burger advised the 2011 Emerging Leaders, always have a drink in your hand. It doesn’t matter whether that drink is alcoholic; just holding something in your hand will make it much more difficult to cross your arms, which signifies a reluctance to talk and engage.
Normally there are sections for events with food and parties and receptions in the Annual wiki, but the wiki will be incorporated into the Conference Planner this year (now open on ALA Connect!), according to Jenny Levine. I’ve highlighted a few below. Many thanks to all the committee chairs who so graciously responded to my requests for information!
ACRL-CLS (College Library Section) Friday Night Feast: Friday, June 24th, 6pm. Tommy’s Cuisine & Wine Bar, 746 Tchoupitoulas Street. $30. A cocktail half-hour followed by dinner; RSVPs required. Mary Heinzman says that the feast is a chance to meet with others in similar-sized organizations and learn about what is happening and what challenges they face. The other purpose is for new members to get to meet others and learn about opportunities to volunteer within CLS.
ACRL-EBSS (Educational and Behavioral Sciences Section) Social: Date and venue TBA. EBSS Membership Committee chair Scott Collard urges attendees to bring your nametag, introduce yourself to someone (maybe even before the social if possible), and just be ready to tell folks a little about yourself and what your concerns are, as EBSSers are usually really good at saying “you know who you should talk to….” and sharing from there!
ACRL-IS (Instruction Section) Soiree: Friday, June 24th, 5:30-7pm. Howlin Wolf Den, 907 S. Peters. Jambalaya (meat and vegetarian), bread, and cash bar.
ACRL-LES (Literatures in English Section) Social Hour: Date and venue TBA. Appetizers/bar food with cash bar. Primarily for socializing; newcomers are encouraged to not be shy. People have a couple of drinks, catch up, meet new people (Liorah Golomb, LES Chair).
ACRL-STS (Science and Technology Section) Dinner: Sunday, June 26th, 7-10pm. Creole Queen Cruise Ship. $25 registration (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stscruiseneworleans) is required by May 27 and includes dinner with a cash bar. In celebration of STS 50th anniversary, they are hosting a Mardi Gras Mambo dinner cruise with cash bar. The dinner is primarily for socializing and networking; dinner planner Matt Marstellar said that his attendance at these dinners greatly helped him put together a list of external references for his promotion portfolio!
ACRL-ULS (University Library Section) Social: Saturday, June 25th, 5:30-7pm. Pirate’s Alley (622 Pirates Alley). Food served. Jason Martin, ULS Membership Committee Chair, urges first-timers to â€œBring lots of business cards to hand out. Don’t be shy. Talk to as many people as you can. Also, feel free to stray from library topics. While it is a nice venue to meet other professionals and make contacts, sometimes it is nice to talk about sports, movies, books, gardening, or whatever floats your boat.
ACRL-WSS (Women’s Studies Section) Social: Saturday, June 25th, 6-8pm. Venue TBA, but professional development is often built-in by dint of the location (e.g., one year it was held at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and the social included a tour). Newcomers, especially those who are FTF or SRRT members or have interest in Women and Gender Studies collections, archives or librarianship, welcome.
Facebook After-Hours Social: Saturday, June 25th, 9pm-2am. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (941 Bourbon Street). Per the social Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=209816775714013), drop by, have a drink, sit at the piano bar, and unwind following vendor parties, scholarship bash and other louder fun elsewhere on Bourbon Street.
LITA Happy Hour: Date and venue TBA. Membership Development Chair Don Lemke says, It provides an opportunity to get to know others within the organization and let those who are thinking about joining meet people in a relaxed and open environment where you aren’t expected to perform or be “professional”. Problems do get solved and ideas are shared but it is NOT a time to show how great you are. People eat and drink and talk to one another, renew old acquaintances and build new ones. Relationships happen.
Newbies and Veterans Tweet-up: Date and venue TBA, but likely to take place between NMRT Social and Facebook After-Hours Social. Begun by 2011 Emerging Leader Bohyun Kim at MW 2009 because she had no idea where to go to meet other librarians since I was a brand-new librarian who never attended any library conference before, this is an opportunity for new and experienced librarians alike to socialize and tweet in an informal setting.
RUSA Membership Social: Date and venue TBA. Free food and raffles. RUSA Membership Chair Liane Taylor recommends Introducing yourself to RUSA division and section chairs and vice-chairs, who are usually easy to identify! They’re happy to talk to you and will introduce you to others. Talking to them is a great way to meet others in RUSA, if you don’t know where to start.
RUSA-STARS (Sharing and Transforming Access to Resources Section) Happy Hour: Friday, June 24th, 6:30-9pm. It’s a very casual atmosphere & a very welcoming group, so first time attendees can feel comfortable walking in and joining any conversation, says STARS Membership Committee Chair Nora Dethloff.
Montford, M. (2011, April 17). #Jobseekers: Networking 101 for Introverts [Web log post].
Retrieved from http://coachmeg.typepad.com/career_chaos/2011/04/jobseekers-networking-101-for-introverts-.html
Kim, B. (2009, December 29). Tweet-Up for Newbies at ALA MW? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.bohyunkim.net/blog/archives/279