By Andrea Mullarkey
Midwinter is a significantly smaller event than the ALA Annual conference, with fewer attendees, sessions, and exhibitors. But that definitely does not mean it is easy to figure out, especially for first-time attendees and new professionals. For those who needed help, New Members Round Table hosted a conference orientation on Saturday morning from 8:30-10 am. Despite the early hour, the room was full with conference-goers eager to learn more from a panel of conference, library, and local experts.
This year's expert panel consisted of Kay Cassell from the ALA Membership Committee; Ron Jankowski, ALA Membership Development Director; Alice Knapp from the Exhibitor Round Table; Emily Prather-Rodgers, NMRT President; and Siobahn Riordan, Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Panelists shared the microphones and took turns answering questions for first time conference attendees. The topics ranged from how to decide what sessions to attend; navigating the exhibits hall; ways to network while at the conference; what is available for new professionals, library school students, and job seekers; and how to make the most of your time in Philadelphia. In addition, the panelists spoke about the importance of professional involvement, the benefits of ALA, division and round table membership, and how to get your first committee assignment.
Some of my favorite tips, strategies and advice offered by the panelists included:
- Library students: talking to vendor reps will prepare you for your future job. Get to know the market.
- For job hunters, check the Resume Review Service available onsite, or NMRT members can use the email review service throughout the year.
- If you are looking for your first committee assignment, NMRT guarantees members an appointment. Look for the committee volunteer form online beginning in February.
- And the piece of advice I wished I'd taken to heart at my earliest conferences: don't be afraid to leave a session if it's not what you expected. It's your conference and you need to make the most of your time.
In between the excellent advice and encouragement, orientation attendees also had the opportunity to get up and meet one another in a couple rounds of a bingo mixer. Many said that this opportunity to meet other newcomers and more experienced conference-goers really helped them settle in to the conference. As someone who saw orientation session attendees throughout the conference in various sessions, at the Networking Uncommons, and walking through the conference center, I can say it was very nice to find familiar faces and have an opportunity to continue the conversations started on Saturday morning.
NMRT offers Orientation sessions at each Midwinter and Annual Conference as a way to bring first-time attendees, students and new professionals together at the beginning of the conference. It is also a good way for more experienced folks to kick off the conference with an opportunity to meet others in a friendly, high energy session. If you are going to be at Annual in Las Vegas, look for the orientation session to be held on Friday afternoon. Hear some good advice, meet some nice folks, and get the conference started on the right foot. We hope to see you there!
Andrea Mullarkey is a Teen Librarian at Berkeley Public Library and Chair of the NMRT Orientations Committee. You can find her on Facebook or Twitter @mullarkea.