By Nancy Poole
You have to admit that you wondered a little about this article's title, didn't you? It's simply to draw your attention to one facet of the ACRL's Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) Buddy Program for first time conference attendees that you might not have considered. You probably thought at once of the information exchange, the how-tos, the must-sees, the try-this, and the you-really-need-to-meets, as well as the ears that are ready to listen and the experiences ready to be shared.
But consider this: you're coming to a big, may I repeat BIG meeting for the first time. Perhaps you're still in graduate school or already working. You may be thirty-something, sixty-something, or anywhere in between, but you're probably aware that you will be overwhelmed. You'd like to make your first ALA conference worthwhile, but where should you start?
Think about coming home after a long trip. Lots more fun with someone waiting for you, right? Think about getting to an airport after a long flight. Lots more fun when someone is there waiting to pick you up, right? Hence my take on the Buddy Program. The buddy as the body waiting. Okay, the person waiting. (Let's not objectify our new contact!) The buddy as someone who is actually expecting you to show up at the conference. The buddy who will help you feel lots more comfortable walking into that large room full of strangers. One contact who makes you feel like you belong. One contact who makes you feel like an insider. It's a good feeling.
Am I making a buddy into a miracle worker? No. You still have to do the work, you still have to get to the conference, and you still have to have something to contribute to the conversation. So many of us have that something to contribute . . . if only we could just get past the fear of jumping in. Buddies offer a wonderful hand.
Become a buddy. Someone (like me) will be glad you did.
Nancy Poole, MLIS 2010, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, attended her first ALA Annual this year. She applied for a buddy from RBMS and was matched with Eva Guggemos, Research Services Librarian at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. They met at an RBMS New Members and Professional Development Committee Meeting and then went to lunch with two other new attendees. That someone waiting; certainly made a difference for Nancy and the committee may now have three new members.