Lydia Williams, Heidi Jensen, and Christie Ericson were the first three recipients of the SAGE Publications' Support-Staff Travel Grants, which allowed them to attend their first ALA Conference.
Photo (L to R) Lydia Williams, Heidi Jensen, Christie Ericson
Christie Ericson, University of Alaska, Anchorage
As an aspiring cataloger and the current chair of the Alaska Library Association Cataloging Roundtable, I attended as many cataloging sessions as I could fit in. “AACR3: The Next Big Thing in Cataloging” provided me with a better understanding of the history of cataloging rules and the issues involved in their evolution. “Cataloging for School Librarians: It’s Child’s Play! Or Is It?” gave me further insight into the needs of school librarians and the children they serve. “Cataloging Cultural Objects: Toward a Metadata Content Standard for Libraries, Archives and Museums” piqued my interest in archival and museum cataloging, about which I know little. I also attended the Copy Cataloging Discussion Group where I learned more about the CIP program and copy cataloging at the Library of Congress.
In addition to cataloging sessions, I also attended several other programs. On my first night in Chicago, I braved the heat and walked up to the Booklist Youth Program, “A Century of Children’s Books,” where I was very excited to see some of my favorite children’s authors. In the session “Innovations in E-Journal Management,” it was interesting to hear how different institutions handle e-journals, and I was curious to return to work and learn more about how my library handles them. After a long day of sessions on Saturday, I was almost too tired to attend the Opening Session, but I am so glad I did, as it was very inspirational and I enjoyed hearing Barak Obama speak. The exhibits were spectacular and the receptions provided a relaxing opportunity to chat with the other Conference attendees.
Although I have long been interested in attending an ALA Conference, I have always been a little intimidated by the sheer size of the event. I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly my whole Conference experience proceeded. My conference mentor, Natalie Sommerville, checked in with me frequently, before and during the conference, and graciously found time in her busy schedule to meet with me and answer my numerous questions. The Awards Committee was helpful throughout the whole process and it was a great honor to attend the ALCTS Awards Ceremony and to meet the members of the committee and the SAGE representatives. One of the major highlights of my conference experience was meeting the other two grant winners, Heidi Jensen and Lydia Williams. We hit it off immediately and spent a great deal of our free time together, exploring Chicago and comparing conference notes. Our shared experience at ALA will remain with us for many years to come and I know we will remain in touch as both colleagues and friends.
I would like to thank ALCTS and SAGE Publications for the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2005 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois. It was a whirlwind trip from Alaska to hot and humid Chicago, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I am extremely honored to have been chosen as one of the first ALCTS Support Staff Grant winners and I applaud ALCTS and SAGE Publications for providing this wonderful opportunity. My experiences at Conference will be very helpful in my current position as a library assistant and in my involvement with the Alaska Library Association. I know I made the right decision in deciding to pursue an MLS degree and I hope to become further involved in ALA in the future.
Heidi Jensen, Pioneer Library System, Canandaigua, New York
I arrived at the Chicago O’Hare airport on Friday afternoon and met up with fellow grant recipient Lydia Williams. After a one-hour plus taxi ride, we arrived at the Palmer House. A short time later, we met up with Christie Ericson. The three of us, as well as Lydia’s supervisor Pat Howe, ate lunch and took a bus to McCormick Place.
Early Friday evening, the four of us walked from the Palmer House down to the lake. It was a beautiful walk and it gave us the opportunity to get acquainted. My plan after dinner was to attend the SAGE Publications reception. I wanted to thank them for this wonderful opportunity and to let them know what an honor it was to receive this award. However, I could not find the hotel. I was sorry I was not able to attend this reception.
On Saturday, I attended the opening session of the LSSIRT/COLT Conference Within a Conference for library support staff. The opening session speaker was Carla Hayden, the immediate Past President of ALA. Her message was that everyone, from the custodial staff to the front desk clerk, should be given the opportunity for continuing education and that all employees deserve to be treated as equals. Her speech really helped kick things off. Early Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to walk through the ALA Stacks. I have never seen so many vendors all in one place.
In the late afternoon on Saturday, I attended the Conference Within a Conference workshop “Professional Portfolio Development,” where I learned how to promote myself within the library community. The speaker for this workshop was Linda Slusar. Her film presentation and handouts were excellent. My evening consisted of attending the Library Journal Paraprofessional of the Year Award reception at the Russian Tea Room followed by a dinner with the Library Support Staff Interests Round Table (LSSIRT) at Leona’s Restaurant.
I started my day on Sunday by attending another Conference Within a Conference workshop, “Stress-Free Library Program Planning,” presented by Gail McGovern and Judy Card. I looked forward to this particular workshop because I enjoy planning events. On Sunday afternoon, I attended another Conference Within a Conference program—a luncheon with speaker Juan Ortiz. Mr. Ortiz is a very humorous man who helped the audience understand how important it is to laugh at ourselves as well as the importance of communication.
On Sunday evening, I attended the ALCTS awards presentation at the Palmer House. Again, I felt so honored. I was very happy to finally meet the representatives from SAGE Publications, who were gracious enough to offer me this opportunity. After the award ceremony, I attended the ALCTS reception, also at the Palmer House. On Sunday evening, I also had the opportunity to attend a reception at the Chicago Symphony and the Chicago Art Institute. It was a great night.
My overall experience was very rewarding. I loved ALA and Chicago. I have heard that once you attend ALA you will always want to return. I definitely feel this way. I want to thank everyone at ALCTS, ALA, and SAGE Publications for all of their support. This really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thank you!
Lydia C. Williams, Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia
It seemed appropriate that Chicago was the location for my first ALA Conference experience, since the city is the headquarters of the American Library Association. It is a wonderful city that I found to be captivating, and I felt privileged to be attending the ALA conference in such a special place.
The Conference was overwhelming, particularly for a first time attendee. Having a mentor who could offer wisdom and sound advice regarding how to plan my days, and to answer questions was very helpful. It was fortunate that my first experience at ALA coincided with the first LSSIRT/COLT Conference Within a Conference, since it provided me with a series of sessions and planned events that removed the guesswork from deciding what to attend. It was also nice to have everything within the convention center because I did not have to be concerned about traveling from hotel to hotel within the city. That helped to maintain a more comfortable stress level.
The members of COLT and LSSIRT should be commended for many reasons—first for the idea of having the Conference Within a Conference, and then for all the hard work they expended in planning and orchestrating the event. They did an excellent job of bringing in keynote speakers whose messages were both inspiring and motivating. The offerings for concurrent sessions provided attendees with outstanding choices as well. What I liked most were the events that combined a keynote speaker with a meal. This provided opportunities for meeting and networking with colleagues from across the country.
The sessions I attended provided me with some new and useful information. Carla Hayden’s keynote address was a motivational one in which she addressed the issue of empowerment as it relates to our careers. Her message helped bring into focus the idea that no matter what role we play in our libraries, we are valuable team members, and that “professional” is not a position but rather a description of how one performs duties. In closing she shared three words with us—prepare, perform, and persevere—and said that these three words sum up what we need to do to excel and succeed. Ms. Hayden’s address was definitely empowering.
Since I manage the archives Longwood University, I attended the session entitled “Preservation Education Needs for the Next Generation of Information Professionals.” This session provided me with information regarding the evolution of educational programs in this field, and the results of a study conducted by the presenters that may impact the future of preservation education. Although this session was informative rather than instructional, it provided me with knowledge related to the study, and I am a strong believer in the idea that knowledge is power.
“Developing your Professional Portfolio” was another interesting and informative workshop. The presenter provided a wealth of information on how to market oneself through the pages of a portfolio. Her presentation also included advice on how to develop a work philosophy and goals to include in the portfolio. The information presented set the stage for self-evaluation that is a great catalyst for enhancing one’s professional development.
Attending ALA Annual Conference in Chicago was a fantastic experience. When I returned to work afterwards, I felt energized. This feeling was due to a combination of things—having the opportunity to experience ALA in Chicago, and the opportunity to meet so many of the exceptional people that work together in making ALA such an outstanding organization. The ALCTS staff, the members of the ALCTS committee who selected me as a grant recipient, my Conference mentor, and the members of LSSIRT and COLT made me feel welcome and a part of what ALA is all about—an organization that supports library issues and promotes professional development in the field of library science. My experiences during this event had a positive effect, allowing me to return to work feeling renewed—it is a wonderful retreat for those who work in and love libraries.
Overall, Conference was a powerful and moving experience that I will always remember. I am most appreciative to the ALCTS staff, the members of the ALCTS Support Staff Grant Committee, and SAGE Publications for making this opportunity available. If I had to sum up the experience in one word, the word would have to be "awesome."