Saturday, June 4, 2011

Going to ALA Annual 2011 - Thoughts & questions of a newbie

I'll being attending ALA Annual 2011 at New Orleans in June thanks to support from my employers. Amazing to think that I will be attending the largest library conference in the world, when my prior experience has being attending relatively small local library conferences/seminars in Singapore.  Beyond that the chance to meet international peers who I have being corresponding online is something that is not going to come by easily.... Going to be a great learning experience for sure!

I notice Joeyanne, a academic librarian from the UK is in the same boat as me, a international librarian attending our first ALA conference,  she blogged about it here. I hope to run into her at ALA 2011 Newbie & Veteran Tweet-Up

Just looking at the ALA annual website is overwhelming which probably explains why after booking conference tickets, rooms and airfare, I promptly stopped thinking about it based on the excuse that most of the programmes weren't finalised yet.  (Side note, I wonder if this is how our new users feel when they visit our library websites which is chock full of information)

But #ALA11 is less than 3 weeks away and I have to start planning and I finally settled down to do it on Friday.

Struggling with Google calender, travel apps

I'm not much of a traveler, so it was interesting  to try some new stuff out for international travel.

First thing I did after booking my flight was to try to put my flight details into Google calender. I managed to automatically import it in, but with timezone differences, I was very wary of mistakes. On Friday I eventually realized you could enter different time zones for start and end times.

Click on timezone when adding events in Google calender so you can add flight details 

I also took the opportunity to try many travel apps like Tripit, TripDeck, FlightStatus, GateGuru which was supposed to make travel easier by capturing flight and accommodation details (often from emails or google calenders).

It reminds to be seen how useful such apps will be. (Probably bringing along my iPad 2)

Tripit app showing travel details

I also  tried services like Planely which allow users to connect with fellow travellers by Flight number, but I seriously doubt I'm going to use this.

Picking events with ALA Online Scheduler 

The ALA Online Scheduler is an amazing piece of work, I used the recommender which was pretty good at figuring out which events I would be interested in (based on your ALA profile). I went crazy selecting the events, so many interesting events so little time.... There doesn't seem to be an easy way to share your schedule though? No mobile app?

ALA scheduler, mine is way too full, currently just listing candidates 

Feeling very uncertain

As a novice to library conferences, attending his first international conference (which happens to be the biggest!), I'm obviously very uncertain about a million things. Leaving aside the fact I'm from Singapore and the social cues, practices might be different (e.g tipping ), library specific issues are huge. The gang at LSW have being very helpful though.

  • How much should I plan? Should I plan every move with military precision, or should I go with the flow e.g follow people, or be prepared to jump from conference room to conference room when it gets boring? I'm guessing I shouldn't be too ambitious.

  • Not quite sure about the differences between "Presentation/Session Tracked Programs" and "Discussion/Interest group".  Wonder if vendor sponsored lunches are worth it.

  • Think I probably want to go to vendor exhibits and have a look at the posters. Wonder what's the best time for the vendor exhibits? I have some free time after attending the Movers & Shakers celebratory luncheon on Friday which ends at 3pm so was thinking of visiting the vendor exhibits then but I notice it says Friday, June 24, 2011 05:30 PM - Monday, June 27, 2011 04:00 PM . Er but what times do the exhibits close? Seems an odd time for the exhibit to start at 530 pm?

  • There should be free Wi-Fi at most of the sites right? The hotel I am staying says there is, but I got to check whether it comes with the room free.

Many more questions but Oh well,  I need to balance between overthinking it, and pretty much just winging it...

Events I will be attending

I will arrive on Wednesday night, but have no plans for that day and the whole of Thursday for now as I will not be attending any of the pre-conferences. Maybe attend some tours? Anyone free to meet? 

It's probably pointless to list every event I intend to attend, since I will probably change my mind or even might get lost! But the one's I  probably will attend will be the following

1. Mover & Shaker celebratory luncheon - Friday June 25, 2001- 12:00 pm - 3:00pm.  Broussard's Restaurant
(Sadly this means I am going to miss the International Librarians Orientation which I dearly need, though I understand why they placed it at that time slot, since few LJ Mover & Shakers are international librarians)

2. ALA 2011 Newbie & Veteran Tweet-Up Saturday, June 25, 2011 - 7:00pm - 9:00pmBar Uncommon, 817 Common Street. May attend ALA Facebook After Hours Social later.

3. International Librarians Reception - Monday, June 27, 2011 - 6:00pm - 8:00pm, Generation Hall, 310 Andrew Higgins Drive. Main problem here is I also want to watch Battledecks 2011 which starts from 530 pm - 7 pm, maybe I can be a bit late? :)

4. I will be probably plan my schedule around these, as for the rest, I have being asked to attend the LibQual+ ones and my own interests tend to mobile, social and discovery tools. So will probably be at The Ultimate Debate: “Library Web Scale Discovery Services: Paradigm Shift or More of the Same? , 2011 PR Forum - Going Mobile @ your library: How Libraries Can Serve Mobile Phone Users  , Top Technology Trends etc

Any suggestions? Any sessions by good speakers I should definitely go for? 


All in all, I think I should try not to be too ambitious and avoid packing too many things in. I will try not to expect too much, just go and enjoy the ride! It is after all only my 1st International conference hopefully with more to come. :)

Any tips, advise from Jetsetting librarians, ALA veterans etc would be very welcome....

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