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#alavirtual20 The difference is US.

A Virtual conference experience is different! That difference makes you stop and think okay, what usually makes a conference a great experience? Been looking at the difference and where the treasure lies – what makes it memorable and what makes it matter?

When you’re in person by the time you get to the third day of a conference you’re making some careful decisions about how you’re going to use your legs and your brain. You’ve walked a few miles by now. You’ve saturated your neurons by now. Those doors on the hotel hallways aren’t opening quite as early as they were on the first two days.

What are you looking for at this point in the conference? When I really think about it, at this point I’m looking for those moments when I sit down at table for lunch and I don’t know anyone else at that table. It takes about ten minutes and folks introduce themselves, where they work, what state they’re from. The things you have in common come out and then you listen to each other talk about the job we do and you hear the ideas and you get the feeling you aren’t alone in this library world.

I’m also looking for those librarian presentations about best practices and about new issues and how people are thinking about them. I’m looking for author panels so I can hear what the authors chose to write about, why they chose to write those books and the brilliance behind so many of the illustrations that lead us to turn the pages.

Really ….it comes down to people…the individuals who make such a difference… and the conversations you have that help you move our own thinking forward.

Virtual conferences feel different because all those people aren’t there. It’s like watching the Belmont with horses and no one in the audience. You need to share it with other human beings. You miss the interactions, the learning, the laughing, the getting exhausted together, the where is room 102 questions, the sitting on the floor on the carpet in the back of the room because every seat is taken and you don’t want to miss this one.

It makes you appreciate and value what each of us has given to each other in the past. I am grateful to the speakers and the publishers for all they have worked hard to create for us this year. It wasn’t an easy task.

Yet, this year I have learned and enjoyed and been inspired by words and ideas. Gordon C. James saying “being a minority is a passport to do anything you want in the world.” Stories being shared about Syrian refugees, immigrants to Cuba in World War II, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the importance of a story for our African American boys so they can claim their futures.

Our authors, our publishers, our leadership all offer us their own unique gifts. And…..I miss the little moments and the elevator smiles and the people sitting quietly in the hallways working on their phones and ipads and laptops.

I miss Us.

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