Teen Librarian Toolbox
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What I DIdn’t Learn In Library School: Making Conferences Successful: Christie’s Version

If you know anything by now, you know I don’t tend to run in normal circles, no matter what I look like.  So it stands to reason that I don’t do conferences as a normal, either. Maybe it’s the anxiety, maybe it’s my brain, who knows, but I just don’t seem to fit a typical conference go-er.  I like doing it my way, and it works- I come back energized  refreshed, and ready to tackle new things and ideas.  It’s completely the point of a conference to me. How do I do it?

Know Your Territory 

I always do research before I go to a new city for conferences, so I know one special touristy that I want to do: last time in Seattle it was EMP Museum by the Space Needle, and they’ve added so much that I think That Guy and I will go back.  But I also found where the nearest drug store to my hotel was (there’s always a chance I’ve forgotten something like Excedrin), where the nearest shopping mall was (for souvenirs for my staff), where the nearest shipping place was (to ship books and other things back, because I never make it to the Post Office spot on the exhibit floor, and sometimes it’s actually cheaper), how far it was to Pike’s Peak Market, how much a cab would take from places I wanted to go, where the nearest ATM for my bank is, and what places to eat were recommended by local newspapers.  And when I got to the hotel, I start asking the staff where they recommended to go to eat.  My budget never stretches as far as the ALA official dining guides, and the places around the convention center are always packed, so I make sure to talk to the locals to see what they eat when they’re working- and they’ve never steered me wrong yet.  I’ve had some of the best pizza, burgers, and Italian around.  
Find a library family 
I have a wonderful group of friends that unfortunately, I only see at conferences for the most part due to life.  So they are termed my library family.  I know that they’re going to be there every conference, and we catch up on what’s going on, share life, and have wonder times together.  SO GO FIND YOURS.  This isn’t as hard as you might think- find a group of people that you want to be around, and be around them every conference.  Patrick Sweeney talks about his Think Tank and how they rent a house every conference.  If a share house isn’t your thing (not mine), think about the people that you know and get along with that you’ve met along the way (via Twitter, committees, blogs, networking), and reach out and say HEY, ARE YOU GOING TO SEATTLE? Me, too?  Want to meet for dinner or something some night and talk, like, in person?   
Go to the socials
There is no time like a conference to find wonderful people who share your passion, no matter what it is.  And you’d be surprised who shares it.  Not sure where to start? 

ALSC is having Speed Dating.The New Membership Round Table is having a a social.  YALSA’s having a Happy Hour.  GLBT-RT is having a Social. Great places to meet people who share your passion, and at the most, you’re out a couple of hours of time at a great place!   
Know Your Limits
Everyone I knows goes to conference in the same mindset as they go to Disney World: I gotta do this, and I gotta do that, and I have to do this, and this and thisandthisandthisandthatandthisandthat…..  And then you’re frazzled and can’t breathe and can’t remember what you were doing or why you wanted to go to the conference in the first place.  Especially when a conference is in a different time zone/climate than you’re used to, and you have to get adjusted and thrown into everyone all in one day.  Use the tools available (the ALA Scheduler and the app, for example) to find out what you want to go to, and then find out WHERE it all is.  Because trust me, not everything is going to be in the convention center, and most will be scheduled on top of one another.  You’re going to have to pick and choose, and it may come down to whether to go to that workshop or stalk Jonathan Maberry…  (I know who wins, BTW)… 
Pack The Basics
You have your clothes.  You’ve searched the weather.  You’re all jazzed up about your tablet and your ultrabook and your smartphone, and you’re going to go PAPERLESS this conference!  Good for you! Just remember, you’re going to need your business cards and pens and paper.  Why? Because the vendors have give-aways that want your card, the booksellers are wanting you to fill out stuff, and if your laptop dies in the middle of a presentation, you’re going to have to take notes for back home (even if you didn’t get any of your way paid, you’re going to have to present to justify your time).  Don’t forget a good back back, because the freebie bags are crap and kill your shoulders. 

Everyone always says wear your normal work clothes- I wear what I’m comfortable in, which is my t-shirts and jeans, and no one seems to mind. I’ve also got spare batteries for my smart phone because I can never find a charger, and I pack a surge protector as That Guy and I have more gadgets than the hotel room has outlets, and running out the door at 6 a.m. for a session with this sign:  is a doomed day. 
Sit In On An Open Session
Midwinter is the “working” conference, where almost all of the book committees meet, and while there are a lot of closed sessions where you can’t come in, there are a number of open committee ones as well.  Search them out online, take a look at what they’re doing and do a little research before you go to conference, and then sit in on one of their sessions.  You’ll be surprised at what you find, and how hard these committees are working, and you might find a new thing to join.  Examples would be The Amelia Bloomer Project, The Rainbow Project, Amazing Audiobooks, Notable Children’s Recordings, SRRT Task Force meeting, and the YALSA Groups Work Session.

So those are mine.

What are your tips for making conferences successful for you?

A note from Karen: If you see Christie at Midwinter, please take a moment and say hi.  Also, remind her she is not allowed to come back home unless she has an ARC of Requiem by Lauren Oliver for Karen. Just saying.


  1. Thanks for the post, Christie. Now I've seen it, I might do the YALSA happy hour to meet librarians for Library Lions interviews.


  2. Awesome tips! I've been to ALA Midwinter twice now and I really wish I had read your advice and tricks before I went that first time! Invaluable. One thing I learned the hard way is wear sneakers! No one seems to mind and wearing those cute but uncomfortable shoes will kill your feet (and your mood).

    Have a great conference and thanks again! 🙂

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