ALA Annual Conference 2023

#alaac23 Pre-Conference Planning

Hello! I’m thankful for (and a little intimated by) this opportunity to blog for ALSC for ALA Chicago 2023. I’ve gone to ALA once before, so here are some tips from my admittedly limited experience: 

Hotel parking is expensive. Consider parking at one of the city’s many extended parking lots, then take the train downtown. 

Take the (free) shuttle. Assuming you’re staying at a conference hotel, you’ll take a shuttle bus to the conference center; here’s the schedule. (I didn’t understand this at my first national conference, but it really isn’t feasible to walk to the McCormick Center.)

Bring some food. My conference hotel doesn’t serve breakfast, so I’m bringing instant oatmeal, a bowl and spoon, granola bars, etc. It’s a lot cheaper than getting them at the hotel store. (Though I’ll never forget the looks I got from hotel staff carrying shopping bags full of snacks at ALA 2017! This time, I’ll carry them up in my suitcase.)

Download and use the conference scheduler before you get to the McCormick Center. There are just so many options these next few days, and it can be overwhelming. I highlight everything I’m remotely interested in – that way, I have a backup option in case a session is full, which sometimes happens. (Use the filters at the top of the scheduler to search for specific units – ALSC for example.)

Make time for vendors. Learning sessions are great, of course, but I learn just as much from vendors at the Library Marketplace. 

Bring an extra suitcase. At past conferences, I needed it for all the free books and goodies I was hauling home. In addition to what you pick up from the Library Marketplace, often publishers will have free events near the conference center for giveaways or even to meet the authors. (Hint, hint, vendors – I haven’t received any invitations for these yet!) I treasure my signed copy of Justice Sotomayor’s book, Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, signed by the author and the illustrator, Rafael López, the latter of whom I met. If you come to Chicago by air and can’t afford the cost for such a heavy piece of baggage, there usually are stations for you outside the vendor hall to ship your items home. (But remember, no wheeled carts in the Library Marketplace.)

Meet new people. For instance, go to the ALSC meet up Friday evening!

Share your learning. For months after AASL 2019, I shared things I learned from the conference with teacher librarian colleagues. They weren’t able to go to Louisville, so they appreciated it, and it allowed me to really take away my takeaways – some of which I still use! Whether it’s posting to a blog, tweeting, or emailing a colleague about a great new idea, spread the joy of ALA by sharing it with others.

Staying home? If you aren’t able to make it but want to make the case for your library or district to send you next year, take part at home as much as you can. There is “The Digital Experience”, but make sure to also check out #alaac23 on social media. If you find someone live-tweeting a session that looks interesting to you, engage with them and even reach out after to get their immediate takeaway. A lot of presenters will put their information online and are happy to share. (For example: here’s the slides from my session with Tennessee teacher librarian Dustin Hensley from AASL 2021.)

Have a great conference – I’ll see some of you in Chicago! And I’m excited to share some of what I learn and experience with all the rest of you!


Today’s guest post was written by Dr. Christine Sturgeon (she/her/hers). Christine has been working in school libraries for 42 years, getting her start as a volunteer in her elementary school library (or, if you want to be pedantic, 12 years as a licensed educator – BA, 2009, MLS, 2011, PhD, 2020). You can read about Christine’s libraries in articles she co-wrote in the Winter 2021 YALS special issue on student voice and the March/April 2023 School Library Connections. She’s the district teacher librarian for Fort Dodge (Iowa) Community School District, where her best days are spent doing preschool storytime.


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

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