3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Conference Journal

By Danielle Pollock

Thursday, June 21

I arrived in D.C. in time to check into my hotel and go out for tea, and later dinner with fellow University of Missouri graduates. There was no official event for MU alumni at this year’s conference, but some of my former classmates and I arranged an informal get-together at the Capitol City Brewing Company. It was a wonderful chance to catch up and share what we’ve been doing in our lives and careers since leaving library school.

Friday, June 22

Friday morning was spent registering and collecting event tickets at the Convention Center, looking through the ALA store, and scouting out the area around the Center and our hotel for promising places to eat.

After lunch, I had the option of joining a group to tour the Smithsonian, or sticking around to attend the ALA-APA sponsored session, “Getting Even: Evelyn Murphy Tells How Library Staff Can Get Paid Fairly.” I’d read Murphy’s book Getting Even earlier this year, and was eager to see what she would say to librarians, so I decided to give the Smithsonian a miss this time.

Following the session, it was time to catch the shuttle bus to the Westin Grand, where members of the Missouri Library Association were meeting for a reception. Finally, I returned to the Convention Center to walk the red carpet and attend the ALA premiere of The Hollywood Librarian.

Saturday, June 23

I began the day with the NMRT Conference Orientation. This is a session I’d recommend to new attendees looking for advice on how to navigate the huge and often overwhelming ALA Annual Conference, information about getting involved in NMRT and other ALA roundtables and divisions, or tips on some interesting things to see and do around the conference host city. It’s also a great chance to meet other new members.

Late morning was the first face-to-face meeting of the 2008 Stonewall Book Awards Committee in an undisclosed, semi-secret location.

Finally, it was time for the NMRT Annual Program, “Using Past Lives to Launch Your Library Career.” I moderated a panel of five librarians who told how knowledge and skills gained in previous careers—which ranged from sports marketer to public administrator to bouncer—helped them obtain their first library position, and how they’ve since used those skills on the job. It went well. The panelists spoke to a packed room and audience members had several questions. It was great getting to meet Alexis Linoski, our committee chair, and Kristen Heathcock, fellow committee member, for the first time after planning the program for the past several months online.

The business of the day was over and I was ready to relax, so I took a couple of fellow librarians up on the offer to join them at “Stories for a Saturday Evening,” and enjoyed the performances of talented storytellers, before a late-night networking reception and sleep.

Sunday, June 24

Sunday stated early with the Amelia Bloomer Project “Who Needs Feminist Books?” Breakfast. Delicious food and speeches by Eleanor Smeal of the Feminist Majority Foundation and Kim Gandy of the National Organization for Women would have made a fine start to the day, but the highlight of the breakfast was winning a drawing for the entire list of 2006 Amelia Bloomer Project books.

Immediately following the breakfast, I had planned to attend “Stay Ahead of the Curve: Keeping the Job You Love,” scheduled in the HRDR Placement Center. Unfortunately, I arrived at the room only to find a sign with the event crossed out and the word “CANCELLED” written in large, red letters. Worse, this was the only time period in my entire conference schedule in which I had somehow failed to schedule an emergency backup session.

The upside is the unexpected gap in my schedule did give me time to make my first visit to the Exhibit Hall, meet with some vendors, get a book signed by author Mo Willems, and grab some food. (Note to first-time conference attendees: It is a much better idea to actually schedule some time to eat each afternoon, but if you absolutely feel you can’t, protein bars or other portable snacks can do in a pinch.)

It also gave me some extra time in the 3M booth, where I got to meet and thank some of the people responsible for my grant, and learn more about 3M’s products. As the librarian for the Missouri Department of Transportation, I serve a population that lives and works all over the state, so I found myself most intrigued by the e-Branch Library, a freestanding workstation that can provide library access to your patrons wherever they are. I also asked for and received a demo of 3M’s RFID system.

Following my time in the Exhibit Hall, I attended RUSA’s 13th Annual Reference Research Program. This year, the three projects presented involved libraries’ use of Instant Messaging, chat reference, and the social networking site MySpace. I’m currently on a committee exploring the possible use of these tools to benefit state government library patrons, so learning about the experience of other libraries here was valuable.

I returned to finish touring the exhibits and stop by the 3M booth a second time, then left to change for the 3M Social. The Social itself was a lot of fun. I received my plaque from 3M, ate, danced, and got to meet several colleagues in person who I had previously only known from online discussion spaces. Several Missouri librarians were there to cheer me on when I received my award, and in a testament to the value of in-person networking events (and possibly chocolate), an idea for a talk a colleague and I plan to present at a future state library conference was born over dessert. I stayed for most of the party, save a brief detour to drop in on the ASCLA/COSLA reception going on next door. Finally, when I had just enough energy left to make it upstairs to my room, I decided to call it a night.

Monday, June 25

This was my easiest day at the conference. I’d planned my entire schedule with event proximity in mind, but this was the first time I could attend a morning’s worth of back-to-back events taking place in the same hotel.

First was the Jean E. Coleman Outreach Lecture, which this year honored the late Barbara Gittings, pioneering library and gay rights activist. This was followed by the 36th Annual Stonewall Book Awards Brunch, and speeches by Jim Carmichael, C. Dixon Osburn, Executive Director of the Service Members Legal Defense Network, and Alison Bechdel, this year’s winner of the Israel Fishman Award for Nonfiction for her book Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Andrew Holleran, who won the award for literature named for Gittings, was unable to attend.

My late Sunday night combined with the excellent food from both morning events forced me to contemplate a nap at this point, but I’m very glad I stuck around to attend “Public Access to Government Sponsored Research.” I’ve been interested in Open Access and its current and potential impact on libraries, researchers, publishers and patrons for some time, and this spirited panel discussion moderated by James King, Chief Librarian of the Naval Research Laboratory, turned out to be one of my favorite sessions of the conference.

Unfortunately, I missed a planned get-together with fellow librarians when I took the shuttle back to my hotel room to drop off the literature I had collected during the day and closed my eyes just for a minute. I woke up two hours later just in time to hear author Armistead Maupin speak at the PLA President’s Program, and realized that my next conference schedule will need to involve more sleep and/or many more stops for coffee.

Later that evening, I returned to the Convention Center for what would turn out to be my final event of the 2007 Annual Conference, the Michael L. Printz Program and Reception. We were treated to wonderful speeches by the winning authors, followed by a dessert reception and an open bar.

Tuesday, July 26

I’d scheduled an early afternoon flight in hopes of being able to attend the Closing Session Tuesday morning, but ultimately, in order to make it to the airport on time, my shuttle pickup had to be scheduled in the middle of Garrison Keillor’s speech. It was a disappointing end to what was, all told, an incredible experience. Next time, I am definitely planning to schedule an extra day if at all possible to see more of the host city and attend the Closing Session as well as the infamous SupERTuesday in the Exhibit Hall I’ve heard so much about.

I would like to close by thanking 3M and the members of the 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Committee. As a new solo librarian in a small library, I found the opportunities for continuing education, networking with fellow librarians, and learning about new technology and trends at this year’s conference invaluable. I intend to be an active, involved member of the American Library Association throughout my career and the financial support to attend my first ALA conference as a professional has gone a long way toward making this possible.