Prepping for ALA Annual 2015: A Job Seeker’s Perspective
by Oscar Giurcovich, Senior Editor
About 2 weeks before I wrote this blog post, I received an email from ALA asking me to confirm my hotel reservation for Annual in June. “Why are they sending this out so early?” I thought to myself. I then glanced down at my computer’s clock and calendar and realized that the first quarter of the year has already flown by! When coupled with all of the chatter in my Facebook feed from fellow LIS folk and ALA itself, I have since started kicking my prep into overdrive.
Attending Annual last year as someone looking for work in the near future was an overwhelming experience of sorts, both with meeting new people and just getting around. I have lived in Las Vegas for more than a decade, but I too was complaining about the hot weather and long distances between venues before long. Even if Annual were held in my backyard again, I would approach it much differently this time around. For those attending Annual on a mission to network and/or find a job, here are a few pointers you can think about now to help you get the most out of it.
Make basic goals for the conference. What brings you to Annual? Staying on top of trends? Meeting LIS folk or potential employers? In retrospect, I consider Annual 2014 to be a trial run. Long story short, I ended the conference feeling like I didn’t fully accomplish what I wanted to do. In San Francisco, about 50 percent networking, 30 percent job hunting conference programs and 20 percent educational programs is what I am planning. These don’t need to be hard numbers, but having an idea of how you want to spend your time will make program scheduling and other details easier to figure out later.
Create a framework to plan your conference time. This year, ALA Annual will take place on a very busy weekend in San Francisco: LGBT Pride. The city is comparatively small, and I imagine available hotel rooms in general are dwindling by the day. Since I’m paying all expenses myself to attend, I have even arranged a backup plan just to avoid any surprises in case my roommate can’t make it. If you have not done so already, see what you can get within your budget and work out any other accommodation and travel details. It will be one less thing to worry about later and help lay the foundation for what you can do and when during the conference. Once the preliminary program is released in mid-May, you can start filling in exactly which programs and other events you would like to attend each day.
Keep business cards at hand at all times! They are relatively inexpensive to make online and will have everything someone needs to contact you about a job or to just stay in touch. A trend I noticed last year is that I seemed to meet new people when I least expected it. Sure, I attended socials and other events intended to get people mingling, but I would find myself in a random hallway running into a friend along with 3 or 4 others I had never met before. Unfortunately, I kept neglecting to have business cards on hand! This year I will carry some everywhere I go, whether it’s to a program or when I’m out buying snacks at a convenience store in the area. Again, San Francisco is on the small side, so anything’s possible!
Be prepared to socialize outside of the ALA box. As I just mentioned, a good amount of networking can happen outside of the seemingly countless programs, socials and parties at Annual. As you go about your business in the city, keep an eye out for ALA attendees. For instance, one night last year I stopped by my favorite locals spot after attending a vendor party when I happened to see a gentleman flipping through an ALA program book. Networking opportunity! We ended up chatting for a while, and I learned a bit about public libraries in the LA area.
Make allowances for the unexpected. After the aforementioned night out, I was exhausted the next morning and ended up skipping a couple of 1-on-1 sessions I really wanted to attend, and I was pretty disappointed. Scheduling these essential meetings later in the day would have been better in retrospect. As programs are being added to the schedule and other opportunities appear leading up to June, you may want to mentally come up with a top 5 list of things you absolutely want to do at ALA and plan around them to make sure you can commit to participating.
While ALA continues to plan the conference in the coming months, take some time and think about how to make it a meaningful experience for you. Preparation, mental and otherwise, will help make it a low stress affair. As for me, I look forward to meeting plenty of new faces in June!