Do’s and Don’ts for your first ALA Annual conference

By Ruth Lincoln, Head Editor, INALJ Washington, DC

Do’s and Don’ts for your first ALA Annual conference

ruth.lincolnThe American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference is just a few weeks away. If you’re heading to sunny Las Vegas for your first (or 15th) conference, keep these tips in mind to reap the most from this great experience.


1. Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking A LOT! If you don’t already have a broken-in pair, here’s a good place to look.

2. Examine the schedule before. For every step you’ll take, there’s probably an available session, exhibit, or interest group awaiting your attention. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) schedule every minute, but do pick out some “can’t miss” sessions and add them to your calendar before heading to Las Vegas.

3. Talk to strangers. You’ll never be surrounded by more librarians, so take advantage! Make new friends while waiting in line for coffee, the exhibit hall, or at your hotel (it’s always fun to play “spot the librarian”). Like you, librarians are super friendly. And if you tweet, it’s a great time to meet some followers in real life. 😉

4. Attend a keynote. ALA brings in some big names (ummm, Jane Fonda!), so definitely find your favorites and check them out.

5. Bring your chargers (and extra batteries!). Enough said!

6. Check out your graduate school alumni event. Most library schools/iSchools will organize some small event for alumni and current student. It’s a great chance to gather in a smaller group and meet & reconnect with your fellow alumni. And there’s probably free food, too! Check with your university ahead of time, as many require RSVPs.

7. Pack your patience and keep an open mind. Yes, there will be lines, low cell phone batteries, and never enough coffee. But there’s also thousands of really cool, interesting, SMART people with enthusiasm you can’t escape. So enjoy yourself. If you come home exhausted, you know you had a successful conference!


1. Attend EVERYTHING. It’s too tempting to fill every hour. Some of your most meaningful connections and experiences will probably happen outside the formal sessions. The best conversations happen when you’re charging your phone or waiting for coffee. Make sure you get outside the convention center and remember you’re in a really fun city!

2. Overdue it in the Vegas heat. This one is location-specific, but be careful of the scorching desert heat. Drink lots of water, wear sunscreen, and take it easy in the heat.

3. Expect to leave with a job. Las Vegas will have many workshops and other events for job seekers. But don’t put pressure on yourself to leave with a job. Consider it an opportunity to learn and improve your resume/cover letter and make valuable connections. All these pieces play a role in your road to your next job.

4. Forget a sweater! If there’s one thing Las Vegas loves more than poker and buffets, it’s air conditioning. Even if it’s 115 degrees outside, count on a frozen tundra inside.


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