Friday, June 25, 2010

Meredith Attends Her First ALA Conference

So as a recent graduate, the only thing on my mind is getting a job, therefore, I decided to attend the American Library Association’s National Conference in Washington DC, hoping to make the contacts to land me that job.

On arrival at the Washington Convention Center at around 3pm today, I was amazed just how many librarians were already wandering around with nametags fastened to button-down shirts. I was wearing my ‘I love my public library’ t-shirt with black leggings, Panama Jack hat cocked to the side, and in no time one of my fellow librarians said how much she loved my outfit. Thank God, since I was actually concerned with being a bit too over-the-top in the skintight lycra, but the weather in DC was brutal and I wanted to be comfortable when walking blocks to and from the Metro. I had brought more professional attire for the rest of the weekend but wanted to scout the territory first and get my bearings incognito, which now as I think about it, I probably wasn’t.

I attended ‘Conference 101’ hosted by NMRT (New Members Round Table) and I have to admit that I was slightly bored with all the jargon about why we should be a member of this or that. Listen, I get that the speakers want to prepare the new librarians for what to expect at the conference when it comes to all the workshops and meetings but I need a job, okay? And until that time comes, this librarian needs you to speak about the things that really matter - where’s the free food? And how can one carry so much swag in a cheaply-made book bag with straps that couldn’t hold one of Meyer’s Twilight books, let alone the twenty no-name authors I will insist on picking up because they are free?

And that is exactly what happened. At 5:15pm on the dot, 5,000 librarians (most with jobs who don’t need free stuff to make their trip to the conference mean something) were all waiting for the exhibit hall to open to consume any and all that was free. Never have I seen such chaos. Well, maybe at that Jimmy Choo sample sale in NYC but this was pretty close to that. Librarians were like linebackers pulling luggage on wheels, all racing towards Random House or Scholastic displays where books were stacked in towers, free for the taking if you could get close enough to get a hand on one.

At first I was reserved. I held back. I was afraid. Very afraid. I knew how heavy my luggage was in trying to get it to DC, so did I really want to add more weight with a few books that I would probably never read? YES!

At first I just took some teen titles since that will probably be my area of librarianship. Tom Sawyer and Zombies – heck yeah! Che Guevara manga? Bring it on! I was getting excited. These titles were pretty cool. Next thing I knew I was picking up a book about finding love in your 50’s. And as a fan of The Wonder Years, I just had to have Winnie Cooper’s new math book (Danica McKellar’s Hot Algebra Exposed!) STOP. What are you doing? You still have to take this load of freebies on the Metro and walk up a hill. Slow down. You have been at the conference a whole three hours. Relax. There are four days to go. You have Toni Morrison. Amy Sedaris. John Grisham.

I guess this is the reason I am a librarian. I do love books. Free books. And you could too, if you want to help me carry these home. Or just go to your local public library. Although, maybe next year I’ll bring one of those wheelie things…