Librarying with the cunning use of stick figures.

ALA Annual Conference 2011

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Caffeine and fried dough is the spirit of New Orleans.

Caffeine and fried dough is the spirit of New Orleans.

I went to New Orleans a couple of weeks ago for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. This was my second ALA; last year I attended in Washington, DC. Both years have been productive, excellent for networking, and really, really hot.

I grew up in Houston and used to joke that the only place I’d ever been that was more humid than Houston was New Orleans. So of course I got to go there at the end of June.

Cheek aside, I’m so glad I went. My library’s professional development fund has been nonexistent with budget woes, so this trip was self-funded, and I’ll admit that I was a little worried about making the trip feel like it paid for itself. The DC conference was great for networking, but as I was cataloging then and had no money for pre-conferences (almost all of the cataloging events of interest seem to be pre-conference meetings that have attendance costs in addition to the general conference admission), there was only so much I could do (that trip was funded as part of a scholarship I had for grad school). This year I attended as my library’s subscription database manager, as well as primary selector for collection development for about 24 different degree and certification programs, and I got so much more out of it.

House in the Lower 9th Ward.

House in the Lower 9th Ward.

I have learned that ALA is something I should do with an agenda. Visiting the exhibits was so much more productive when I knew exactly what I was looking for. I talked to publishers and database providers and really got to evaluate what was going to work for my college. I returned to New Mexico with an armload of catalogs and brochures and have much of my next purchase order queued and ready to place when we have the funds available.

As one of only two masters-holding librarians at my college, it’s also beneficial to periodically immerse myself in the greater librarian community to make sure that I don’t get too professionally introverted. Just because I’m one of only two librarians doesn’t mean that my patrons should lack access to the latest trends in libraries. I want to provide access to as much information and material as possible.

Next year the conference is in Anaheim, and I’m already excited about having more dedicated time to be a library nerd.

Chalmette National Battlefield and Cemetery.

Chalmette National Battlefield and Cemetery.

On a more personal note: I went to New Orleans all the time growing up – it was close, and we managed to find a ton of non-bar-related things to do as a family. But, I hadn’t been back since Katrina. This trip was so encouraging: for every house I saw that was falling apart, there were two that had been rebuilt. The people were so nice, and so proud of their city. It may have been hot, but I have rarely been in a place with more friendly people (and amazing food!). If you ever find yourself down there, I highly recommend the Chalmette Battlefield and Cemetery. The ranger there was so knowledgeable and helpful – what began as a quick visit to support my National Park Service Passport stamp-hoarding habit turned into a few hours of really feeling immersed in New Orleans history.

To sum up: Laissez les bons temps rouler and Anaheim or bust!


Written by Jessica Jones

July 11, 2011 at 10:15 pm

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