ALA Annual 2010: 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Report

By Erin Dorney erin dorney 3m/nmrt grant recipient

This July, I was able to attend my second American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference. Held in Washington, D.C., I would not have been able to attend this important meeting had it not been for the generosity of 3M and the ALA New Members Roundtable (NMRT). I would like to thank both organizations for selecting me as a recipient of the 2010 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant. Below is a recap of my experience at the conference and additional notes will be added throughout the summer on my personal/professional blog Library Scenester.

Friday morning was spent attending the ALA Unconference. This was my second library unconference experience and as I expected, one of the most memorable parts of ALA. If you’re not familiar with the idea, unconferences (also known as camps) are a new form of professional development, allowing practitioners to gather informally with their peers to share information and be creative. The events are participant-driven, on-the-fly, and spur-of-the-moment, with little formality and a blurring of the hierarchy between speakers and attendees. The ALA unconference was no exception, with our group of 50 determining the topics to be discussed, breaking off into small groups, and then reporting back to the room. My group’s discussion topic revolved around bringing change to libraries. Organizer Michelle Boule has posted more detailed unconference notes on her blog A Wandering Eyre. On Friday evening I eventually found my way to the New Members Roundtable Mentoring Social. It was nice to meet other new librarians and interact with them in a more social setting (as opposed to everyone running around trying to get to their next meeting or session).

Saturday I was up bright and early (with caffeine assistance, of course) for my first session: ”First Year Impressions and Confessions” sponsored by the Spectrum Scholar Interest Group.  Then I made my way through the Exhibit Hall and spent an hour at the 3M booth learning about different aspects of the company, especially the RFID conversion station and stylish new detection gates (particularly Model 9100). I spent the remainder of the afternoon at a Pecha Kucha style presentation on case studies in academic library marketing.

Sunday was another early start with the PR Forum at 8 AM! (Sessions this early should probably be outlawed.) I enjoyed seeing Stephen Abram speak, as I have read so much about him in various library blogs and literature. I was also able to see a few other librarians whose work I admire from digitally-afar at the next session, “Designing Digital Experiences for Library Websites”. The speakers included Bobbi Newman, John Blyberg, David Lee King, and Toby Greenwalt. This session was particularly interesting to as my library is launching a redesigned Drupal website this fall. I made my way to the Coordinating Committee meeting for ACRL 2011 and capped off the evening with the NMRT Awards Reception. It was a pleasure to meet the other award winners and join in celebrating 3M’s 35 years of supporting NMRT with this professional development grant.

My final day of ALA included another ACRL meeting (I am co-chairing the ACRL Virtual Conference for 2011) and another session, “For the Love of Reference”. I had the opportunity to hear both the library-renowned Nancy Pearl speak about reader’s advisory and my inspirational friend Peter Bromberg (of Library Garden fame) at this jam-packed session. Ready to go out with a bang, my last activity before leaving D.C. was attending “Battledecks: The ALA Rumble Royale”. Battledecks represent the ultimate challenge for a public speaker. Participants compete by attempting to give coherent presentations based on seemingly unrelated PowerPoint slides that they see for the very first time live on stage. If you couldn’t make it, be sure to see the videos on the Learning Roundtable site (you can see me in the audience at the :26 mark!). The excitement in the room was palpable and I admired the bravery and creativity of my colleagues. I left the event and the conference re-energized with ideas to bring home and would like to thank 3M and NMRT again for this incredible opportunity!