How I Attended My First ALA Annual Thanks to NMRT

By Kelly Robinson

This year I was fortunate to attend my first ALA Annual Conference as a recipient of the generous New Members Roundtable Shirley Olofson Memorial Award.  Though attending ALA Annual has been at the top of my list of professional goals, as many new librarians know everything from student loan payments to tight or non-existent professional development stipends can postpone attending that dream conference.

Aware of the difficulty new members sometimes encounter in getting to ALA, New Members Roundtable offers several awards, professional development grants, and scholarships for members interested in attending ALA Annual (

As a hospitality subject specialist at my library, I felt that I needed to make every effort to attend this year’s Annual Conference the moment the location – Las Vegas, NV, was announced. Not only would the professional development opportunities be enormously useful, but the chance to visit the renowned Lied Library at UNLV Las Vegas, with the premier gaming research collection in the country (not to mention other hospitality subject specialists – we are few and far between) was enticing.

Receiving the NMRT Shirley Olofson Memorial Award not only made attending ALA Annual possible, but the programs and receptions sponsored by NMRT at ALA Annual also made the conference a truly memorable experience.

For conference newbies, NMRT’s Conference 101 is a must attend, not only to meet fellow members but also to learn how to navigate the conference. For more networking and light-conversation, the NMRT Student Reception and Awards Ceremony is a fantastic opportunity to meet leaders in NMRT and new friends and colleagues. NMRT also holds programs and sponsors services for job seekers. When I found out that I would be attending this year’s conference, I quickly volunteered for the NMRT Resume Review Service. This was a rewarding morning spent working with some exciting new librarians to help polish their career materials.

My first ALA Annual Conference went by in a blur. Each day I felt as though I was learning something new and reinvigorating my love for the profession. There were sessions on every topic imaginable, from digital badges to threshold concepts in teaching. Each night happy hours and get-togethers allowed for networking or learning about ALA sections. I got to hear one of my favorite authors, Alexander McCall Smith, and have books signed by him, and spent every spare minute in the enormous exhibit hall. If you have never attended ALA but have heard the rumors about the exhibit hall and bounty of free ARCs you will receive there – let me be the first to tell you that rumors are true.

I left ALA with new friends, a backpack full of books, and great ideas for the upcoming fall semester at my library. Whether you’re a student, job seeker, or new librarian trying to make it to your first ALA Annual, I highly encourage looking into the wonderful awards and grants available through NMRT!

Kelly Robinson is the Public Services Library at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management