|The Exhibit Floor - totally overwhelming at first|
I am still a very new librarian. The whole time I was in school, I decided that I would NOT go to any conferences while school was in session. I couldn't afford to be distracted. Also, my kids are still pretty young and it is difficult for me to do anything that would require staying overnight. That said, I have been to a couple Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conferences (which are fantastic, by the way), New England Library Association Conference and workshops as well as smaller conferences. These in no way prepared me for the magnitude of ALA Midwinter - which is only a fraction the size of the full Annual Conference in June.
That said, the hugeness of the Boston Convention Center and of the Exhibit Floor started to shrink as I got my bearings and felt more comfortable there. As my director mentioned, Midwinter is nice because you actually see people you know. And I did! I saw former classmates, current co-workers and colleagues, and my blogger friends (and met new blogger friends). I went to a couple meetings (which didn't quite seem to be what was advertised, but still interesting), lots of BookBuzz events about new titles coming this spring and summer and walked the exhibit floor. I talked with vendors and saw demos that will help me on some committees I am on for work, I made contacts with publishers for help in developing our science fiction and Spanish language collections, and I left with a ton of galleys for forthcoming books.
About those galleys.... I was a book blogger for years before working in libraries and I had heard about the librarian vs. blogger battle for the coveted ARCs. I didn't really know how I was going to fit in there, as I am technically both I guess... so I kind of watched it play out. And I didn't really see or hear anything about it specifically until I was in one panel/BookBuzz that you needed a full conference pass to enter (ie: probably no bloggers as they most likely only purchased the cheaper "Exhibits Only" pass). Here I heard one group of librarians complain about the people grabbing too many ARCs, or stalking the tables, or what have you. They were not happy. The room we were in featured an author speaking, and had a table of galleys at the back - we were asked to take one as we left. Ideally, you would listen to the presentation on the books and choose one you were most interested it. However, once the author finished her talk, people in the back of the room started to quietly swarm the table, taking all the books. At the end, the publishing reps had to say that they were sorry, all the books were gone - and the rule following people at the front of the room audibly gasped. It was true - they were all gone. So I saw it folks - it isn't just non-librarians scooping up ARCs and it shouldn't be an us vs. them sort of discussion. I think there are just different kinds of people with different goals who attend these events - some may be more professional than others, sure but sweeping generalizations do not apply here. (do they ever?) But it is kind of ironic that ALA recommends that you don't take more than you can use, etc... and then provides a post office location on the floor to help you ship all your loot back home.
I really enjoyed seeing my blogger friends though! One I had been speaking with for a couple of years now but hadn't actually met yet - so that was great! Others I just met this weekend, and I look forward to getting to know them through twitter, etc. I was also introduced to someone who served on an award selection committee this year. Not only was she just a super nice person and someone else I'm looking forward to get to know, but she gave me a little insight on what it's like to be on a selection committee which is something I'd really like to do at some point.
And if you've read this far - let me share with you my very nearly mortifying/embarrassing moment of the weekend. I was in a booth with a blogger friend and saw that Kwame Alexander has a followup to his fantastic The Crossover coming out. I was gushing about the fabulousness of The Crossover to my friend... when the publicity person (handing me the ARC of Booked) said, "Um, you know he's standing right behind you, right?" NO I DID NOT. Sure enough, Kwame Alexander himself was standing directly behind me - luckily engrossed in a conversation an not listening to me fangirl all over his books. Whew.