My Chicago Experience, With Gratitude

By Pamela Taylor
District Librarian, West Sabine ISD Pineland, Texas

Thank you, 3M and NMRT, for the experience of a lifetime. Attending ALA’s 2009 conference was an educational, career-altering experience I hope to repeat many times in the future. The generosity of 3M and NMRT made it possible for me to attend, and I will always be grateful. Talk about the best of the best! I received my preliminary program guide several months ago, and I had so many programs circled that I think I had three or four back-ups every hour of every day! The most challenging problem during the entire trip, for me, was choosing what to attend. The quality of speakers and topics was outstanding, and I attended many programs and events during the five conference days. These were my three favorite events and my three favorite programs:

1) The Stacks

Of course! Though the Texas Library Association conference is very large, taking up a football-field-sized floor for exhibits, I was overwhelmed by a conference with a footprint three to four times TLA’s size. I especially enjoyed the pavilions and the various programs offered by individual exhibitors, such as the Library of Congress. It was wonderful visiting the 3M booth and finally being able to say thank you in person for the grant I received from them to attend ALA Chicago. I learned things I never knew about 3M’s involvement in libraries. I actually considered smuggling home the 3M Digital Library Assistant! It is an amazing piece of equipment—a librarian’s dream assistant!

2) NMRT Resume Review Service Booth
The week before the conference, I noticed in ALA Connect that volunteers were needed in the resume booth sponsored by NMRT. I jumped at the chance to help out and made contacts to volunteer. I was told I would be a greeter and was given instructions and times to work. When I arrived at the booth, the greeter told me they were overwhelmed and had people waiting and asked if I would help out with resume reviews. My one-hour shift quickly turned into three hours, and I was able to work with three amazing young women in an effort to fine-tune their resumes. I enjoyed it very much and believe I was able to help out as well. It was a great experience assisting in this booth because NMRT has done so much for me. I also enjoyed making acquaintances I never would have otherwise.

3) 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Award Reception
Each NMRT event I attended was informative, helpful, and fun. The highlight was the reception honoring the winners of the 2009 grants. It was great to meet the other two winners, as well as many members of NMRT. I enjoyed visiting with 3M representatives about the history of the award and what they hope to see from me in the future as result of my education at the conference. And, of course, it was wonderful socializing with other members and accepting the beautiful plaque.

1) Conference 101: ALA NMRT First-Timers Orientation

This was the first program I attended, sponsored by NMRT, and it was a great one to start the conference. I enjoyed the welcome from the President of ALA, who gave us a game plan for maneuvering a conference spread out over the city of Chicago. He shared memories of his first annual conference, as well as ideas to get more involved in activities both while we were there and after we leave. We were also encouraged to visit the ALA membership booth if we needed help and were given a number to text if we had any questions about anything that week.

2) We the People Programs
I especially enjoyed this program presented by the project directors of Picturing America from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I received the Picturing America grant last year, and it was a phenomenal addition to the schools in my district. I was excited to learn new programming ideas and lesson supplements for the artwork presented to our schools. I learned several ways to enhance the programming at my libraries using this beautiful art and the supplemental lesson book. We were also informed of new grants coming up and given insights into applying for the NEH awards.

3) AASL Top 25 Websites: Making Virtual-Reality Based Library Services Real for K-12 Teachers and Librarians
This one was fantastic! As I walked out after the program, all around me I heard librarians saying the same thing I was thinking: “What a great program!” Various speakers shared favorite websites as well as virtual-reality programs; we were even invited to participate by using our cell phones. I have pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students in my libraries, and I learned about programs that would be exciting for every age to discover new things and enhance their learning experiences. The teachers will also benefit greatly from this knowledge as they learn about and include these informative sites in the classroom. I learned about exciting programs I did not know existed, which I plan to implement in the libraries of my district this year. In addition to a wealth of information, we were given bookmarks with AASL Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning and AASL Landmark Websites for Teaching and Learning. As time would not allow covering all of the sites during the program, this was invaluable information. We were encouraged to share the presentation with other librarians in our region and at our state conferences. Every school librarian should have this information, and I look forward to sharing these sites with teachers and students as well as other librarians.

All in all, it was an amazing experience just to be in the same building as 29,000 other librarians and library vendors. I will never forget the 2009 ALA Conference, and I plan to share the knowledge I gained with my students, teachers, and fellow librarians.

Thank you again, 3M and NMRT, for an unforgettable week.