I am not at ALA and I'm trying to be okay with that

I've been waiting for ALA to come back to Chicago for so long ... and then I moved out of the Midwest and to the East Coast. What with a new job and very little time off and not a lot of money, I skipped ALA this year.

I'd be lying if I said that I feel sad looking at everyone's tweets and FB updates from the conference. So, I decided to do a pros and cons list of the ALA conference in relation to my circumstances right now. This is mostly for me to work out my anxiety, but if it helps you, then that's awesome too! 

Pros of being at ALA:

  • I see my friends and meet people I regularly engage with on Twitter. Oddly (or perhaps not?) my relationships with these people are more transparent and easy than friends I know in real life. This is probably because on Twitter, I say what I feel pretty much all the time. This is me. And if you do the same thing, that is you, and that is why I follow you. 

  • I meet new people. I am definitely introverted, but I like big crowds because I can lose myself in them. However, at ALA, I make a point to go up to someone if I recognize them and introduce myself. I put on my No-Shame hat (the one I wear during storytimes as I wiggle and shake around the room) and go for it.

  • I pick up ARCs, not just for myself, but for my coworkers and the teens at the library. Yup, it's awesome to get an ARC of a book you've been on tenterhooks for, but it's even better when you give it to a teen who didn't even know ARCs were a thing and their face lights up and you feel all warm and fluffy inside. Try it--you'll like it!

  • It's in Chicago this year, which is one of my favorite cities. I would totally live there if I a) could find a decent-paying job in the area and b) didn't have to go back to the Winters of Doom. However, if any well-read, Chicago-based millionaires who appreciate my wit and don't mind that I look kinda weird want to marry me, I'll consider applications. Ha! Just kidding. Marriage sounds awfully difficult and I am probably too selfish to make that work.
Cons of being at ALA:

  • It's exhausting and over-stimulating. There is just SO MUCH STUFF. I always worry about missing the really good sessions or the author appearances.

  • I hype myself up for a session and it turns out to be Not That Great.

  • Pursuant to the last point, sometimes sessions are flat-out insulting and not good, like the one I was at last year which basically involved a person presenting about how much they disliked a specific coworker. This had nothing to do with the theme, and since we knew where the presenter worked, it's highly likely someone at the conference knew the coworker in question. Or like this year, where I saw someone was already trying to make #infobesity into a thing. How is that a thing? How could you ever think that's okay???

  • It's pricey. If you don't have library financial support, it's really expensive, especially if you stay in an ALA hotel. And shocker! Not all of us work at libraries that have the money to pay for you to go to ALA. Or even if you do, they make you feel like a greedy person for asking. Or they punish you for going by making you write an essay. (Note: this is NOT my current job. I love my new library! They could have sent me but I wanted someone else to go, especially because I'm new and I am still learning my own job)

  • Somehow everyone else gets the invitations to all the parties with the swag and free food and champagne, and you're sitting on the outside wondering how to be with the Cool Kids. Because yes, Virginia, there are library world Cool Kids. For them, it's effortless (or directly tied to being a dude, but that's another blog post). They simply exist and publishers are like "Hey, want to come to the Newbery Gala?" And then I feel awful about myself for not being a Cool Librarian and for not getting invited to anything.

Huh. That did make me feel a little better about not being there this year. For the librarians who are there: enjoy it! Have fun in Chicago (you can hit me up for restaurant recommendations and/or directions to most places on the CTA because I'm pretty good at public transportation in Chicago)! See the Bean! Go to the Art Institute! Live Ferris Bueller's Day Off!

And with that, I might go to the beach. It's my only true rebuttal.


  1. Goodness, those sound like huge conferences! I went to Reading Matters in Melbourne this year and it had ONE stream of panels, take them or leave them, and one book stall, which mostly sold books by the guest speakers. Of course, it was more of a writer's festival than a library conference, but the auditorium was filled with hundreds(not thousands!) of librarians and other interested folk. We do have local library conferences which used to have publisher stalls - used to! I stopped attending when even the one book-themed conference for the year stopped having books at it. The others are all filled with staff from exclusive private schools which bragged about how wonderful they were with their 37 staff and how they scanned text books on to their systems(copyright violation, anyone?).
    Mind you, this year I spoke to a TL from a rather expensive private school whose budget was not much more than mine and where they were expected to survive on gift books presented on students' birthdays.

    1. Oh wow! Yes, ALA is really big, but attendance keeps dropping year after year. This year will probably be up because Chicago is just fantabulous! :) It's funny because we always end up taking over the city at the same time as Pride parade, and then 4 years ago, it was because the Chicago hockey team won the Stanley Cup and I got stuck in THAT parade trying to get to a panel.

      Yes, I am always amazed at what people admit to or flat-out tell you to do in panels! If I can sneak out, I do.

      Good heavens--private schools do not always equal better education!

  2. Quote:
    "Not all of us work at libraries that have the money to pay for you to go to ALA. Or even if you do, they make you feel like a greedy person for asking. Or they punish you for going by making you write an essay."
    Homework? Really? Hahaha. No, wait, it's mean. Totally mean.

    I had fun as usual reading your post. You may not be a Cool Librarian, but you sure are a witty one!

    1. Roberta, seriously: last year when I went to Orlando I had to write a pre-conference essay to beg for the money and then give a report on "What I Learned at ALA" when I got back. This was also when someone decided that I should only get paid for time in panels, and it's literally impossible to attend 8hrs of panels every day. They just don't have them. But my dude coworker was never told that. Hmmm...

      ANYWAY. Very happy to be gone from there and be where I am now.


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