ALA Annual 2014, Conferences/Meetings/Institutes, Guest Blogger

How to Conference Like a Champ

Thanks to the kind people at ALSC and Penguin Young Readers, I was able to travel to my first ALA Annual Conference this summer. Tennessee to Nevada travel would generally not be in my public library’s budget, so I was thrilled to have received a stipend help with the cost of attendance. (Thanks again, Penguin!) Here are my top Annual Conference tips from a newbie.

Stay at a conference hotel. I made the mistake of not booking my hotel the moment I knew that I was going to attend. (I was lost in the chaos that is summer reading planning). Transportation in Vegas was a challenge and those free shuttles would have been helpful. Fringe benefits of staying at a partnering hotel include: being surrounded by other attendees, sharing non-shuttle transportation costs, and being in closer proximity to social events.

It is okay to travel alone. I went non-stop the entire time I was in Vegas, sun-up to sun-down. (Isn’t the normal Vegas traveler’s schedule just the opposite?) I was able to hit the sessions and events of my choosing, not trying to divide and conquer with other staff members, and sometimes missing out on a session I am very interested in because another had already claimed it. I may be selfish, but with all sessions open for the taking, I felt like a kid in a candy shop.

Avoid temptation in the Exhibit Hall. As a children’s librarian, I am known to save various odds-and-ends in case I one day have a use for them. I never knew the extent of my hoarding tendencies until I was let loose in the Exhibit Hall. (Let’s be honest, there is no reason I would need enough paper-clip holders that I would have to add an extra baggage fee to my return flight home.) When faced with freebies, ask yourself: Do I need this? Can my library use this? If you can immediately answer ‘no’ to these questions, or if you hesitate coming up with a unique use for 890 temporary tattoos, practice politely saying ‘no, thank you’ to the swag.

Attend at least one session that is not directly applicable to your job. You may be surprised to find quite a bit of useful information that is helpful to you in your current position. As a children’s librarian, I am rarely asked my input on building projects, if it doesn’t directly impact the littles’ space. However, I attended “Environment by Design” session and left with some big ideas for future use of space.

Plan at least one day into your trip for sight-seeing.This is one of my biggest regrets of the trip. I learned so much valuable information, saw all kinds of great library related goodies, was entertained and educated by the speakers, but saw very little of Las Vegas. Luckily, I had an aisle seat on the flight in and caught a glimpse of both the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. I would love to visit again and take in the sights, but with my busy schedule, I will be hard pressed to find the time for this trip in my foreseeable future. One extra day built into my trip would have afforded me quite a bit of sightseeing.

Present right away! (Also, take good notes!).Present what you learned, or even a simple conference itinerary with highlights, to your director, board, and staff immediately upon return. I’ve been back in my library for two months now, and in the chaos that is Summer Reading, I still haven’t had a chance to present to the staff. While we are already implementing some program ideas brought back from the conference, with each passing day, I fear that I’m going to forget some great tidbit of information that I had hoped to pass on to our staff. Hopefully my notes will jog my memory!


Photo courtesy of Joey Yother Photography
Photo courtesy of Joey Yother Photography

Our guest blogger today is Amanda Yother. Amanda is the Children’s Services Coordinator at the Putnam County Library in beautiful Cookeville, Tennessee. She loves learning through playing and revisiting her favorite novels from childhood with her book club kids. Amanda was a recipient of the 2014 Penguin Young Readers Award. She can be contacted at

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at


  1. April Jennings

    I would like to make plans to attend my first Annual ALA conference in 2016. Although I hold a MLIS and work as a volunteer librarian in Belgium, I’m always actively seeking trends, ideas, advice in this field. I currently volunteer in an international library but have a passion for school librarianship.

    As a first timer, could you offer advice, contact information, mentors, what to expect, or any advice to help prepare for the ALA conference?

    Thank you,

  2. Pingback: Conferencia Anual de IFLA: una llamada a la acción - Infotecarios

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