Preparing for #ACRL2019

The time has come, our slides and posters are hopefully published online, our bags are (mostly) packed, preconferences are about to begin, and we are ready to be in Cleveland this week. It seems a little wild to me that it’s time for ACRL again. In 2017, this ended up being a pretty pivotal conference for me as a new professional to the field. In 2017, learned a lot in Baltimore, met the ladies who I would co-found The Librarian Parlor with, and met others who I consider good colleagues today. So needless to say, I’m excited to be in Ohio catching up with colleagues, learning about new programs and initiatives, and meeting new librarians.

However, as much as I’m excited about ACRL, I also know this can be an overwhelming conference. There are so many sessions, things to do, and a city to explore. It’s great to have so many choices, but also can feel like too much all at once. With that in mind, I wanted to bring together some tips and tricks for making the most of this conference as well as highlight some great ways to meet new folks.


With so many panels, papers, roundtables, posters, and lighting talks, it can be hard to decide on where to go and what to attend. Here are a way fews to think about choosing your sessions:

  • Before the conference, I like to take a look at the schedule, mark any and all sessions I’m interested in, and then choose a few that I will attend, no matter what. These might be sessions my colleagues or friends are presenting at, a topic I’m really interested in, or something I’d like to learn more about. Having a few concrete sessions helps to create an outline for each day and then the rest, is up in the air, and based on how I’m feeling and who I run into.
  • Create some learning outcomes for what you’d like to accomplish and learn about at the conference. Use the learning outcomes to guide what sessions you choose.
  • Experienced conference go-ers recommend choosing one session/activity for the morning, one for the afternoon, and then setting aside some time to meet up with colleagues you do not see on a regular basis.
  • Attend the First-Time Attendee Orientation on Wednesday evening to learn more about ACRL and get a sense of what you might like to attend later in the week.

If you want some guidance on which sessions, we have had a few folks put together some lists of related sessions. These can be great ways to create your own theme to the conference, or find people who are interested in similar areas of librarianship.

Now, I know looking at all those sessions makes you realize there is so much you will miss. It’s important to remember that you won’t make it to everything (and that’s okay). Some recommend attending sessions for things you do not know much about, in order to make the most of your time at ACRL. For all those sessions you miss (or want to know more about), you can review any contributed papers on ACRL’s website, download slides and handouts from the online conference program, and send an email to presenters to learn more. You’ll see what you’ll see at ACRL, but that doesn’t mean the conversation has to stop once you leave Cleveland.  

Twitter & sharing resources

At a conference like #ACRL2019, Twitter can be a great way to learn more about what’s happening, connect with other colleagues, and share resources. Some folks will live tweet the conference, and others will tweet out their slides, surveys to fill out, and questions for the general #ACRL2019 community. It’s definitely worth following the hashtag and contributing tweets. The hashtag can also help you decide what sessions to attend. Along with Twitter, sometimes folks will create digital community notes to gather insight from sessions and share resources. For example, LibParlor has a shared community notes document where we’ll discuss a few sessions throughout the conference. These can also be great documents to return to once the conference is over.

Snacks, hydration, and breaks

Fun fact about me: I’m very pro snacks. I would highly recommend having a few snacks tucked away that you can have throughout the conference. We all know that conferences like ACRL can take a lot out of you. Knowing this, it’s important to take breaks and stay hydrated. Sometimes you just need to go to a quiet corner of the convention center, or take a little walk outside. Trust me, you’ll feel better when you do.

Outside the conference

Personally, I think some of the most memorable times at a conference isn’t necessarily in the sessions themselves, but during all the time before, between, and after sessions. ACRL hosts both an exhibit reception (Wednesday) and a conference reception (Friday, 8 PM, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), which is high-energy and a nice way to celebrate the end of the conference. Beyond the ACRL reception, there are a variety of other social events. ACRL has organized a dine around for Thursday evening, some iSchools host a get together for their past and current students, and interest groups might put something together near the convention center. All of these events can be opportunities to meet new people, or connect with colleagues. I will shout out two Thursday evening events:

  • WOC + LIB Social Hour: Last week, a great new blog launched to showcase women of color in librarianship. Join co-founders LaQuanda Onyemth and Lorin Jackson to discuss future collaborations with the blog.
  • LibParlor Meet & Greet: Join me and the rest of the LibParlor Editorial Team at ACRL. Learn more about the blog, discuss all things research, and discover ways to get involved!

Other tips

I know I’m not the only person who has put together a list of tips and tricks for making it through conferences like ACRL. Take a dive into these posts here at ACRLog and over at Hack Library School. If you have more tips or questions, feel free to comment below.

Safe travels to all and I hope to see some of you at ACRL. Oh, and with spring weather in Ohio, it’s always a good idea to pack an umbrella!

Featured image by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

Now Is The Time To Get ALA Annual On Your Mind

Editor’s Note: Last month we shared news about our new ACRLog-ALA Emerging Leaders Group. Each month one of our Emerging Leaders will contribute a guest post, and each will focus on some aspect of gearing up for the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. To get the series started this month’s post is from Wendy Girven, Public Services Librarian at University of Alaska Southeast.

Spring is in the air, which means before you know it, ALA Annual will be upon us. This year’s conference is in the nation’s capital, Washington DC, which coincidentally, is where my first Annual conference was while I was still a LIS student in 2007. My conference goals involved attending a session during every time slot, finding a job, and coming home with a few new books and ideas. Then I walked in the door of the convention center and was lost in a sea of people. I must admit, I was overwhelmed by the size! Luckily, a few friends showed me the ropes of finding out where to get my badge, figuring out the conference buses, and getting to the new member orientation programs.

One of these programs that you can attend is the ACRL 101 session (with breakfast!) during the conference, where you can meet others who are new to ACRL, and make connections with librarians who are interested in/work in academic libraries. If you are in library school and have yet to decide the path you might want to choose for your career, ACRL 101 session offers a chance to explore. In addition to that meeting, there are mini-sessions held on the exhibit floor. All of these ACRL 101 sessions have an informal feeling and provide opportunity to learn names and faces. (I’ll be at each of the mini-sessions this year, come say hi!).

The main lesson I learned from my first ALA was not to worry about hitting the most possible events, but to prepare yourself to be ready for all of the opportunities that can arise spontaneously. So, to prepare for spontaneity, here is some advice I solicited from seasoned conference attendees (with my own two cents added in) on getting yourself around, what to wear, where to eat, etc.:

• Wear comfortable shoes! I can’t emphasize this enough. There is a lot of walking.
• Bring a water bottle with you – and a snack. You might not have time to grab a meal.
• Attend social events in the evening. Most ACRL sections have a soiree or social one night so that people have a chance to mix and mingle in a more relaxed setting. As a new conference attendee, I found these events a much less intimidating way to network. Plus, people attend these for the purpose of socialization and making connections, so chat it up!
• Think about where you choose to stay. Consider rooming with a friend to cut down on the cost. It’s great to be within walking distance of the Convention Center and the HQ hotels, but you may pay more to stay there. There are many conference hotels connected to the convention center via free shuttle bus, Staying farther away can mean cheaper rates, but increased travel time. For instance, I stayed at the dorm housing and the commute took me an hour each way. Would I do that again? Probably not. Whatever you do, prepare early – as soon as the hotel availability announcements are made – to get your preferred hotel (take some advice from StevenB – scroll down to the third item in this post).
• If you see someone whose name you recognize from a list-serv, etc., don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. A big part of attending the conference is making connections with other librarians (and vendors!) If you’re like me and sometimes a little shy, remember that most librarians are friendly and like to help people. I have a goal this year to talk to at least three new people a day.
• Go to the exhibit hall. Pick up a bag (or two) and stuff it full. There is a post office on the exhibit hall and you can mail your swag to yourself instead of carrying it around all day. The exhibit hall is big (read: giant), so build ample time into your schedule for it. If you can stay until the last day the exhibits are open, schedule a 2-3 hour block to cover it all. On the last day the exhibits are way less crowded, so you’ll have more time to talk to the vendors, get personalized demos, and be treated to the remaining swag. (Side note: If you are a book lover, there are many free gallery copies available too.)
• Join the social networking! Follow along with conference via hashtags (#) and be sure to add your own thoughts. I find it an easier way to break the ice with other attendees as well as being able to get input about sessions and events that are creating a buzz.
• Attend poster sessions during the conference. At my first ALA I found it much easier to talk to people at the poster sessions. After checking out the posters, I had the confidence to submit a proposal the following year.
• Bring business cards with you. I forgot them at my first conference and kept regretting that fact throughout the week. You’ll see a lot of new faces, and exchanging cards will help you carry those connections home with you. If you are a student or don’t have a card, you can get some printed up locally or online for cheap. It’s worth it, I promise.
• Be Flexible! All my best laid plans get changed at some point during the conference. Make the most of it!

Remember, if you have questions—Ask! We librarians are generally a friendly bunch. Also, Look for upcoming OnPoint Chats for new ACRL members and first time attendees, check out the Annual FAQ, and look at the Emerging Leader’s ALA Connect page for more information on getting familiarized with ACRL. Also check out the pieces of advice other academic librarians are giving (you can pick up other tips by following the ALA Annual hashtag on Twitter – when it’s up and running). See you in Washington!