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My first Midwinter – also my first ALA conference experience – has been quite an adventure! Things kicked off Thursday evening with an unofficial dinner with about 30 of my fellow Emerging Leaders at a Thai restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. I was grateful to have a casual setting in which to make connections, including with two of the other NC ELs and two of my project teammates. In addition to giving me evening plans my first night in a new city (always welcome), I also went into Friday’s day-long EL session more at ease since I knew many names and faces.
Friday’s Emerging Leaders training and planning session was informative and exciting. The EL program is designed to prepare new professionals for future leadership in ALA and its Divisions, and to that end we heard from several ALA “bigwigs” – Leslie Berger (the former president who launched EL), Molly Raphael (President Elect), and Keith Fiels (Executive Director) – about their experiences. All were inspiring and reassuring that the behemoth that is ALA is not impenetrable, and will become more manageable and personal as the 60,000+ cloud of ALA members condenses to friends and colleagues with whom we will have connection for the rest of our careers. They also encouraged us to question the status quo as we become more involved, as it is up to us (all of us!) to make ALA what we want it to be. We also received leadership training from Maureen Sullivan during which she deftly drew upon the ELs’ own experiences to help us identify principles and practices of strong leadership.
Beyond preparing us for future ALA leadership through inspiration and training, the EL program also prepares us for committee work by placing us on projects sponsored by ALA committees, round tables and Divisions. I am working on a project sponsored by the Learning Round Table (LearnRT) examining the feasibility of an ongoing webinar series. During the next six months, my teammates and I will assess current and previous webinar series, draft a report for LearnRT, and design a poster that we will present at Annual in NOLA on Friday, June 24. In a somewhat surprising circumstance, the five of us working on this project are all academic librarians, but the membership of LearnRT seems to lean more public than academic. It will be a good challenge for us to be cognizant of the different perspectives and needs of public librarians as we complete our project.
Following the EL training day, I dropped by the LearnRT Meet & Greet to introduce myself to the chair and members, then headed back to the hotel to catch up with Susan, Roz, Carolyn and Erik for a reunion dinner at yet another Thai restaurant in the Gaslamp. After dinner and a stop by Heavenly Cupcakes, where we bumped into Lauren C., I headed to the EL reception held in the President Elect’s suite at the headquarters hotel. If Molly Raphael’s suite is any indication, being ALA President definitely has its perks when it comes to conference housing! The EL reception was great fun, as I had the chance to meet more ELs as well as Past President Camila Alire, but my class of ELs might have taken the boundary-pushing encouragement too far, as we were so loud security threatened to shut us down. Talk about busting the quiet librarian stereotype!
Saturday and Sunday were overwhelmingly devoted to attending various scholarly communication-related sessions, including the ALCTS Scholarly Communication Discussion Group, the SPARC-ACRL Forum, the ACRL Scholarly Communications Committee Meeting, and the ACRL Scholarly Communications Discussion Group. All were quite informative, reassuring me that we are on the right track at WFU, and I happily reconnected with several of my fellow ACRL Scholarly Communication 101 Road Show faculty, whom I have not seen in person since the last ACRL conference in March 2009. I also attended the Washington Office’s Saturday morning panel on ebooks, where an over-full room had lots of difficult, detailed questions for the three experts: Brewster Kahle, Sue Polanka, and Tom Peters. I bumped into Steve on Sunday afternoon, and we went to hear the conversation between Nancy Pearl and Neil Gaiman, which was wonderful. Dinner both nights was spent in the company of various ZSR colleagues, with the welcome inclusion of Bill Kane (ZSR colleague by extension) Sunday evening.
For my final Midwinter day, I attended a book talk breakfast to which I’d received an invitation through the EL program, and took an extended tour of the vendor floor. I also attended three other vendor meals throughout the weekend, where I heard great speakers and met friendly librarians, including a former colleague of Carolyn and Erik’s from Pfeiffer and another who used to live in Winston-Salem where she worked as a school media specialist.
Of all my experiences, the most impacting was the frequency with which I bumped into people I knew. Be they ZSR colleagues (Wanda and Lauren P., sorry I never saw you!), fellow ELs, Road Show faculty, or librarians I met throughout Midwinter, I repeatedly spotted known faces, underscoring the point made at Friday’s EL session that although large, ALA truly can be personal. And the personal is professionally very satisfying and reassuring to me as I launch farther into ALA involvement!