ALA Annual 2018

#alaac18: Staying Safe in New Orleans

There are under 3 weeks left until the ALA Annual! As the Chair of ALSC’s Local Arrangements Committee, I’m feeling that nervous combination of anticipation and excitement, like I’m the hostess for the biggest party I’ve ever imagined. And because I feel like all of the ALSC members in particular, and ALA members in general, are like friends or extended family, I want to make sure everyone stays safe while you’re here in my hometown.

Most ALA Annual events are taking place in the Warehouse District, the area surrounding the Morial Convention Center. There are a lot of great restaurants and museums that you could experience just staying in that area, but I highly recommend also traveling across Canal Street and visiting the historic French Quarter. And just on the far side of the French Quarter is Frenchman Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, which is home to some of the best live music venues. These are the areas that are almost always crowded, with both tourists and locals, and where you need to be aware of opportunistic crimes.

“I bet I can tell you where you got them shoes.”

It’s a classic New Orleans street scam. The scammer charms a tourist into making the bet, and then wins it by following up with, “they’re on your feet,” or “they’re on Bourbon (or Royal or Decatur) Street.” It’s a short con, and again, not malicious, just opportunist. Most travelers know enough to avoid it without even being told about it the same way they’d know not to get sucked into a shell game or Three-Card-Monte. But like many other things in New Orleans, it’s a tradition, and one that will be around as long as people still get suckered by it.

Pickpockets are harder to avoid by just not taking a bet. They operate in and around crowds, especially in places where your attention is elsewhere. But you can dodge them by being aware of your surroundings and your belongings. Don’t keep items of value in your back pockets. If you lack pockets and keep your phone and wallet in a purse or bag, keep those things behind zippers. Figure out the walking route to your next location while still inside, so you aren’t distractedly following a map on your phone as you walk.

Bring a towel

I was lucky enough to attend Midwinter this year in Denver. I packed as many warm outfits as I owned (about 5 days worth) and obsessively researched the high altitude to try and predict how that was going to affect me. Now that we’re talking about New Orleans in June, we all need to prepare for the heat, humidity, and probable afternoon rain showers.

If you’re traveling from a cooler climate, and plan on hitting the ground running to go to all the events you can, you might be particularly at risk for heat exhaustion as your body needs time to adjust to the hotter temperature. And the high humidity means sweat, your natural cooling defense, evaporates quicker and can’t decrease your internal temperature as much. Make sure to stay hydrated and be aware of the early warning signs of heat illnesses: muscle cramping and a general feeling of weakness.

Luckily, air conditioning exists, so for the most part conference attendees won’t have to worry about the 90°+ outside temperature. But AC also means it will easily get chilly indoors, so prepare accordingly. I’m planning on many outfits that can be worn with or without my various light cardigans and with my water resistant boots because I doubt we’ll get through a 5-day period in our subtropical climate without getting rained on at least once.

And now I’ll take my “mom friend” hat off and pass it on. Do you have any indispensable advice for conference goers? Please share it in the comments.

— Kacy Helwick for the Local Arrangements Committee

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