By Stacy Brown
As a recipient of the 3M/NMRT professional development grant, I had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association’s 2007 annual conference in Washington, D.C. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. As my first conference, it proved to be well worth the journey. I attended a few programs each day that related to improving my work with the students at our library. For example, I learned more about learning style differences between males and females and how to address these differences to maximize learning instruction for everyone. In fact, during one program, the presenters referenced an author that they had found to be very insightful for ideas and information and then announced that coincidentally, this same author was giving their own program during the conference. I made a point to attend that session and also found it to be quite rewarding. Being at ALA felt like being where everything was happening- the best resources, the brightest minds, the newest technology, and some favorite authors. It was truly a wonderful experience having all of these different experts at the same place.
Each day, I made a point of reserving some time to visit the exhibit halls, which I must admit, I had to drag myself away from in order to make the next session that I had planned to attend. Having so many fantastic authors, great book discounts, and interesting vendors under one roof was unbelievably exciting. I ended up having to ship a box home because I had not packed my suitcase to make room for all of the unexpected goodies that I came across while at ALA.
Since the conference was quite large, I was extremely grateful to have both NMRT and the 3M professionals present for me to meet in person and spend time with throughout the conference. I met some wonderful people and exchanged contact information with them so that we can continue to be helpful resources to one another. During a thorough tour of the 3M booth, I learned about RFID and the ways in which new technology is making library processing more efficient. Plus, the enthusiasm from the 3M professionals for these changes was contagious. It was also nice to put the faces with the names after having done some work via email on two different committees with NMRT throughout the year. In addition, the excitement of being recognized at the 3M/NMRT reception at the Grand Hyatt on Sunday night was overwhelmingly fun. I met many new library professionals as a result of attending this reception and had a blast while doing so.
I was also struck by how valuable conversations seemed to take place in the most spontaneous of ways. While at lunch, I happened to share a table with a stranger who coincidently is active in an ALA division that I was curious to learn more about. I ended up having a worthwhile lunch while learning more about the sections of ALA that I did not previously even know existed. Plus, I made a new friend. Moments like these added to the privilege of being at this conference. I am extremely grateful to both NMRT and 3M for giving me this opportunity. I hope others will be encouraged to apply for this rewarding professional development grant.