By Annis Lee Adams
First, I would like to extend deepest appreciation and thanks to 3M and the NMRT Grant Committee for providing me this amazing opportunity to attend my first ALA Annual Conference. I would not have been able to attend this conference otherwise!
Friday, June 24, 2005
I arrived in Chicago and found my way down to McCormick Place to register. My conference badge had not arrived prior to my leaving, so I wanted to make sure that I had everything in order to start Saturday off right. McCormick Place is huge, and I somehow managed to go in an entrance that was as far away as it could be from the conference registration booth. Fortunately, there were many lost souls wandering around just like me, so we all managed to find our way. I even ran into someone else from Hawaii right away (I guess the library world, even with 27,000+ of us there, is small enough)!
So, back at my hotel, armed with my conference program, a highlighter, a pen and paper, I took to designing the next four days.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
I was happy to realize that I could walk from my hotel to the hotel where the NMRT Orientation was being held. The Orientation provided useful information about how to navigate the conference. I also met some very nice people there, so I was glad I went. I just wish it hadn't conflicted with other sessions I also wanted to attend.
After a quick lunch, and still in walking distance from my hotel and the NMRT Orientation hotel, I attended a session entitled "Implementing a Federated Search Tool." My library is beginning to look into federated search tools, so this was an excellent session for me.
The absolute highlight of the day was hearing the Opening General Session featuring Senator Barack Obama. Senator Obama charmed me immediately by acknowledging the librarians in his life and apologizing to the Punahou School librarians for having to discipline him for acting up all the time, "but," as Sen. Obama continued, "I did make something of myself, contrary to their expectations." Senator Obama grew up in Hawaii, so those of us from Hawaii in the crowd loved hearing some of our own mentioned by name! However, it was his theme of libraries being "windows to a larger world" and the importance of literacy as a crucial "gateway skill" that powerfully resonated with me and the thousands of other librarians in attendance. This was a great end to a great first conference day.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Sunday proved to be a full, interesting, and entertaining day. First, I attended the session, "E-Reference Services: What our are Users Telling Us?" This was a thought-provoking session in which the speakers discussed the diverse responses of library patrons have to e-reference services. One speaker from a public library has found that her patrons "are tired of technology" and prefer to call the library for reference assistance. Usage statistics from many libraries show low usage of email reference and chat reference, although another presenter from Colorado found that teenagers make up the bulk of chat reference usage. However, the panel agreed that two questions must be addressed before undertaking an analysis of e-reference services: what qualifies as a reference question, and how much usage would justify continuing an e-reference service?
Next was the session, "Teaching, Learning, and Leading: Key Roles for Librarians in the Academic Community." MaryEllen Weimer, a faculty member at Penn State, was the sole presenter. She emphasized the importance of assisting students to develop their confidence and learning skills more than teaching course content. She stressed that by building sophisticated learning skills, students will become more confident and be more successful in the long run. She believes that it is more important for teaching faculty and librarians to work together to teach students the process of learning rather than subject content. Because a teacher can only teach so much content in one class, it makes more sense to teach the information-finding process that will help them in all of their classes and the rest of their lives.
I enjoyed these sessions tremendously, but decided to shift gears by strolling through the exhibit hall to see what was new and shiny from the vendors. I also made a pitch to several vendors to come out to our Hawaii Library Association Annual Conference in November. There are many librarians back in Hawaii who don't get the opportunity to go to any national library conferences, so it is greatly appreciated when vendors come to the state conference to show their new products.
The day just kept getting better and better. The partying began at the University of Hawaii Reunion event. I was able to connect with a friend whom I hadn't seen since library school, as well as colleagues whom I see more regularly. I was pleased to meet some alumni for the first time, too!
We kept the party grooving when a handful from the reunion accompanied me to the 3M/NMRT Social. The Social was big fun, and not just because I got a plaque (although, I liked that part a lot!)! I welcomed the opportunity to meet and chat with the other two grantees, Philip Homan and Michal Strutin - very dynamic librarians! Yummy desserts, fun music, the charming 3M staff, the friendly NMRT officers and party-planners, and a great crowd made the evening a perfect end to a terrific day.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I started off the day in the Exhibit Hall, spending some time at the 3M booth learning about self-checkout systems, RFID, and the old standard, tattle-tape. The 3M staff was very friendly and patient explaining their systems to me, since I really haven't had to do much in this area of the library. I explored the exhibits a while longer before staffing the NMRT booth.
In the afternoon, I sat in on a session called "Use Measures for E-Resources." The presenters talked about factors affecting usage such as: count methods, usability of web pages, the user population, instruction, and marketing.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I spent the morning in the exhibit hall collecting books and talking with the exhibitors. Even after spending parts of 3 days in the exhibit hall, I still didn't get to see all of the products that I had hoped to! Next time I attend ALA, I will be sure to plan even more time in the exhibit hall!
I enjoyed my ALA Annual Conference experience tremendously. I relished the opportunity to meet librarians from around the country (the shuttle bus was an ideal place for this); I appreciated learning from the speakers; and I welcomed seeing the exciting new features and products from the exhibitors. This was a memorable experience, indeed!