I spent the past few days in Orlando, Florida, attending the American Library Association Annual Meeting. It was, as always, an inspirational and thought-provoking experience, as well as being just plain fun. The gathering of thousands of library people never fails to be enjoyable and interesting. From the serious gatherings like the various divisional meetings to the controlled chaos of the exhibit hall to the whole-heartedly goofy (if curious, check out the Twitter hashtag #alalibrarygames for some end-of-conference hilarity – especially the guy who lip-synced “Don’t Stop Me Now” and the interpretive dance to “Bird Set Free”), I loved every moment.
I have attended both Annual and Midwinter Meetings since Philadelphia Midwinter in January 2014, making Orlando my sixth ALA conference. Each time I find myself more focused and more involved. While I may sometimes miss the schedule freedom to attend all the celebrity talks, I derive much greater satisfaction from my increasing divisional and sectional involvement. At my first conference in Philadelphia nearly three years ago, I attended the inaugural gathering of a new section of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA). This new section, currently called the New Professionals Section, aimed to serve as a landing place in LLAMA for students, new graduates, and anyone taking on new levels of leadership/management responsibility at any point in their career.
It does that and more – NPS has piloted a new structure and way of functioning within LLAMA. Instead of the formal two-year committee appointments, we work as project teams. This gives us greater nimbleness in our work, allowing us to get things done without being bogged down by the formalized and labyrinthine bureaucratic structures that can develop elsewhere in ALA. For instance, a year and a half ago, a few people proposed a podcast as a way of reaching out to current and potential LLAMA members, and within a few months the team had been formed and was in motion. We have so far produced 14 episodes and have two more on deck.
But to get back to Orlando. Because of my involvement with NPS and LLAMA, a lot of the sessions I attend have to do with issues of leadership and management. The idea of change management was a popular topic this time, and it’s given me a great deal to think about. As someone who finds changes challenging, I find myself wanting to learn more about change management. Perhaps learning about the topic and some of the techniques involved will prove useful down the line. Issues of leadership and management are very important to me. As a lone librarian, I have to step into that role quite frequently, learning to advocate for my department, learning to supervise volunteers, etc. Sometimes it’s challenging, but in a good way. These are all necessary skills, no matter where my professional life takes me.
On a less serious note, ALA conferences involve a lot of free books. Lots of publishing houses show up and offer piles of free advance reader copies. I got nearly thirty this time! As I finish them, most will end up here at the museum, freely available to anyone who wants them. So if you like to read – and I’m guessing most of you do – check back every so often to see what’s up on the shelf.