When you’re too poor for ALA Las Vegas (but still want to show you care about those libraries!)

Rachel Loria, Head Editor, INALJ Colorado

When you’re too poor for ALA Las Vegas (but still want to show you care about those libraries!)

RachelLoriaAlthough I understand that most conference attendees are—to at least some extent—sponsored by their respective organizations, I still cannot help but feel slight librarian-envy at the Facebook status and Twitter updates I have been receiving all week(end). Though the alternative weekend of bleaching my walls, wet vacuuming my carpet and deep cleaning my bathroom were of paramount fun, my reality is that I am a library para-professional with lots of student loan debt and the 1500 miles separating me from the ALAAC is a devastating truth. I am a 24 year old new librarian, and I am still riding out my ALA student membership—which I managed to obtain just before my graduation date—so traveling to Las Vegas for a fun week of networking and conferencing isn’t really a possibility for me right now.

Now, no one wants to read a blog post written by a bitter curmudgeon, so I shall not devote the next several paragraphs to the complaints about my bank account balance and desperate need for low humidity warm weather. To be sure, I am beyond happy that there are a multitude of librarians out there who care enough about improving the profession to continue this fabulous conference tradition. Still, I must assume there are other library enthusiasts out there with similar dispositions to me who are also thinking to themselves: are there any more affordable options and alternatives to staying informed about library innovation beyond shelling out my month’s rent to attend a conference so far away? If so, where are they, what are they and how can I get on board?

As a recent MLIS graduate, I must admit that a majority of my educational pursuits were devoted to professional development, innovation of technology and improvement of services. Simultaneous to that I was made to understand that rarely in this economy are library budgets increasing—so somehow we have to be really innovative on a budget. Thus, I have developed my own list of suggestions for improving one’s library self on a dime. My list of suggestions are as follows:

1. Attend local library conferences. Sure, they are not as glamorous. Nor do you get the bragging rights that you traveled to some exotic locale for a fancy workcation. But they are much more affordable (in my opinion anyway) and much easier to accommodate to the hectic library schedule. I attended the Michigan Library Association’s Conference just last year and absolutely loved it! The year prior I had volunteered so was able to attend some of the speeches at no cost—which was ideal to my struggling grad school self.

2. Get pedagogical. One of the most obvious ways to stay innovative and informed is [unsurprisingly] to volunteer your time at various places. Whether an internship or just some volunteer hours for the experience, pedagogical learning is one of the absolute best ways to network, experience, explore and learn. I have been extra lucky to have volunteered at libraries ranging from public to academic to private research institutions—in addition to a recent paid internship with Deloitte and Touche where I was able to explore the nuts and bolts of corporate records management. I have learned arguably more doing all of these experiences than I ever would have done in a classroom!

3. Visit your local library(ies). Honestly, I cannot stress this one enough. Living in the Metro Detroit area I recognize that I am lucky to be in a decent 20 mile radius of 100+ libraries, so I really do not have an excuse for being unable to explore the many libraries in entirely different communities. Even so: I was bumming this week about not being able to afford a trip to Las Vegas (last complaint, I promise!) so I decided to check out some events at local libraries. I ended up viewing a remarkable presentation which showcased the documentary Freedom Riders with a fascinating post discussion led by a local professor. The next day I attended an Indian Cooking Lesson at a different library—which was accompanied by delicious and free food! While both of these events were interesting to me in terms of topics, I definitely think it is important to remember the marketing tactics used to promote the events, the ideas, the conversations and library atmosphere each event curtailed.

4. Pub trivia with your library school friends and/or co-workers. Do you know what makes for an amazing night out? Grabbing your favorite library-lovin’ nerds and heading out to the local bar/pub/restaurant to get your respective trivia on! Sure, there’s not a whole lot in the way of valuable librarian insights to offer here, but I think you will be impressed by just how well your team does when the theme for a round is “Famous Authors” or “Popular Literature.” Plus it’s surprisingly decent in terms of networking. Go figure.

5. Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe. Obviously attending conferences is the ideal way to soak in the information, culture and passion for libraries (plus, if you’re anything like me: a great way to actually have NO choice but to focus and reject distractions). Still, I think there is incredible value in reading up on the latest library events—whether in a favorite blog, an online journal, a printed journal or just your favorite local library’s newsletter. I actually created an email account specifically to entertain my inner librarian. Library Journal, Stanford University Library’s Digital Blog, The Digital Shift and the Ubiquitous Librarian are among some of my favorites. Figure out what interests you and don’t be afraid to read, read, read!

….We’ll get to the ALA Conference someday, and think of all the stories and experiences we’ll be able to share! 🙂

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