By Philip Homan
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I took Northwest Airlines’ new flight from Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Minneapolis, then to Chicago. I was eager to be in Chicago again. I had attended Endeavor Information Systems' EndUser 2005 on April 28-30, gotten a taste of Chicago, and fallen in love with it. Joan Detloff of 3M helped me make my arrangements, and 3M sent me a check well before the end of June. I didn’t expect it so early, but I was very grateful for its arrival. I checked into the Chicago Hilton across from the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I then wandered up Michigan Avenue and had supper at the Berghoff, an 1898 German restaurant located at 17 Adams Street. This restaurant is the inspiration for Theodore Dreiser's Fitzgerald and Moy, which Hurstwood managed in Sister Carrie. I had family living at 20 Adams Street three years before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, so I wondered whether I had just walked where they had!
Thursday, June 23, 2005
On Thursday morning, I took a tour of Chicago’s most famous attractions with the Chicago Double Decker Co. Back at the Chicago Hilton that afternoon, I ran into and had a good visit with a fellow Idaho librarian, now Head of Technical Services, University of Idaho, Moscow. I met her several years ago when she was Head of Bibliographic Management Services at the Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula. She was at ALA for the Library Administration and Management Association (LAMA) meetings. Her quote is on the LAMA membership application brochure: “LAMA is the place where I can find someone who has been where I want to go and will help me get there.” I concur; I discovered that ALA can do this for me.
Friday, June 24, 2005
On Friday, June 24, I met with my New Members Round Table (NMRT) conference mentor, the Cataloging & Systems Support Librarian at the William Howard Doane Library, Denison University, Granville, OH. I not only got help navigating the complex ALA Annual Conference, but I also established an acquaintance with a colleague with similar interests and career goals. I’ll keep in touch and look forward to seeing him at other conferences. My mentor was at ALA for the Online Audiovisual Catalogers meetings, as well as to co-teach a name authority pre-conference: “Effective Name and Title Authority.” My mentor gave me some good advice: find what I want to do—what ALA divisions, sections, committees, and round tables I want to be involved in—and go to their sessions. ALA is big; don’t do too much. Spend some time seeing the city in which the ALA Annual Conference is held. Friday afternoon I took a genealogical tour of four Lake County, IL, cemeteries led by the Lake County Genealogical Society (the society’s home base is the Fremont Public Library, Mundelein, IL). Thanks to cemeteries, genealogy is the last type of librarianship for which the most important resources are still recorded on stone!
Saturday, June 25, 2005
On Saturday, I attended the NMRT Annual Orientation Session. ALA President-Elect Leslie Burger and Sally Gibson, NMRT President, welcomed NMRT members to the conference. Leslie asked us to contact her with our concerns thereby helping her to serve ALA during her presidential year. Ann Snoeyenbos of Project Muse (who was formerly at New York University, where I did a cataloging internship in 2002) gave a great guided meditation on the structure of ALA. With 11 divisions and 17 roundtables, ALA is a complex, sometimes intimidating organization. Ann taught us to think of ALA member leaders and their divisions, sections, committees, and round tables as a house with many rooms; the ALA executive officers as the pine tree that shades the house; and the grass blades in the lawn as ALA members, state library associations, and other affiliated library associations, such as the Special Libraries Association, the Medical Library Association, and the American Association of Law Libraries. Courtney Deines-Jones, Principle and Founder of The Grimalkin Group, LLC, gave us advice on navigating such a complex conference with 27,800 attendees, 2000 plus programs, and 900 plus exhibitors. Finally, Amy Rosenbaum of H.W. Wilson Company, who is also ALA Exhibits Roundtable Chair, encouraged us to talk to vendors: they want to know how our libraries are using their products. The NMRT President’s Program Saturday afternoon, “Planning the Next Step in Your Library Career: Strategies for Keeping Pace with the Changing Library Environment,” was just as informative. A panel of library professionals from academic, special, and public libraries discussed the coming challenges for the next generation of library job seekers and answered questions from concerned NMRT members. A major change in the library profession is coming down the pike. “If you like to work in a library,” warned one panelist, “then start looking for another job.” There are thousands of library jobs, 70% of which will never be in a library. If, however, you like helping people, researching, etc.—the traditional skills of the profession—then there are thousands of jobs for you. The panelist gave some good advice for applicants: cover letters should consist of three paragraphs. Applicants should state how they heard about the position; explain why they are the perfect candidate for the job, addressing all requirements, even those they don’t meet (the advertisement is a blueprint for the desired candidate); and express thanks and promise to follow up on the application. With experience on an academic library hiring committee, I’m also impressed by applicants who say why they want to move to Pocatello! Although the concern over the availability of professional positions was palpable at the Program, a new MLS graduate’s willingness to relocate, I believe, is one of his or her greatest assets. The NMRT Membership Meeting followed the President’s Program. NMRT officers reported on the past year’s events and called attention to those to come. It was a good opportunity finally to put some names to faces and helped juice me up to become more involved in NMRT.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
The big event on Sunday, June 26 was the 3M/NMRT Social, where I finally met the two other 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant winners. I also met the Senior Program Officer, State Library Programs, IMLS, which gives LSTA grants to state libraries. I told her that Idaho had just received an LSTA grant for name authorities training to establish an Idaho NACO Funnel (I attended the training at Boise State University, Boise, ID, on July 11-15), and she gave me some ideas for other grant opportunities. I also met another Idahoan, Public Services Librarian at Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, ID, who had come to Chicago on an LSTA grant. I received my award from Rory Yanchek, Library Systems Business Manager, 3M Security Systems Division, and NMRT President, Sally Gibson. I brought my mother and sister with me to Chicago and to the Social; 3M couldn’t have treated us more graciously. My mother was even asked to dance! My sister and I had hoped for some foxtrots, but I just had to dance to The B52s’ “Love Shack,” one of my favorites. I asked my Idaho colleague to join me (Mom and Sis aren’t the “Love-Shack” type). 3M really showed us a good time.
Monday, June 27, 2005
On Monday morning, June 27, I spent time at the 3M booth in McCormick Place. Todd Schwarzenbach, Customer Service, gave me guest passes for my mother and sister, but the registration line was too long for them to wait. (I should have purchased them tickets at my early registration, but I didn’t know that the Exhibition would be so impressive. I’ll know better next time.) Zach Dunmire, Library Systems Sales Representative, spent an hour demonstrating 3M’s impressive new self-checkout systems. My hearty thanks to Todd and Zach for treating me so well. Their cordial professionalism is the best advertisement for their company: I will speak highly of 3M, both in my library and beyond. After I checked out the exhibits (the tradeshow map & guide certainly helped), I visited the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace House and Museum in Oak Park late Monday afternoon. I live in the state which Hemingway loved and in which he died, so I wanted to see where he was born. Finally, I topped off the day with roast lamb, moussaka, pastitsio, and dolmades at the Parthenon, Chicago’s most famous Greek restaurant. This restaurant is located on Halstead Street which figures so famously as the location of the Union Stockyards in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Finally, on Tuesday, June 28, I wandered through the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park and visited the Art Institute of Chicago before catching a cab back to O’Hare for the return flight to Pocatello. I hadn’t realized that Tuesday was a free day at the Art Institute, which saved me a few dollars, and, in front of Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath,” I ran into the Head of Original Cataloging at New York University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, and Coordinator of the Art NACO Funnel Project. What a small world! Attending the ALA 2005 Annual Conference reminded me of the value of serendipity in librarianship, not only in information retrieval but also in professional development, which an ALA Annual Conference can provide. Frequently running unexpectedly into people I knew taught me that bibliographic relationships—the relationships between similar library resources exploited by library catalogs—are not the only worthwhile relationships in a library. Renewing acquaintances and forming new friendships at ALA will therefore enhance my career as an academic librarian and library science educator. Not to be overlooked, too, is the opportunity to visit a city with so many literary sites dear to a book lover’s heart. In gratitude to 3M and to NMRT, I am serving on the 2005-2006 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Committee. I will be honored to do what I can to help other NMRT members attend an ALA Annual Conference for their first time.