This was my first time attending ALA Midwinter, and probably my last, based on the discussions of upcoming changes to the Midwinter format. I attended the conference in my capacity as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect of the RUSA History Section, since only one other member (the Secretary) of the HS Executive Board was able to attend (and I will be unable to attend Annual). As a result, most of my conference activities revolved around RUSA and History Section-sponsored programs.
On Friday, I welcomed attendees to the RUSA Genealogy Institute (organized by the History Section), which was focused on reading German handwriting styles without knowing the language. Although this isn’t typically an area of research that I am involved with, I did learn some general techniques for working with manuscripts in other languages and was introduced to some tools that I wasn’t aware of for deciphering handwriting. If this is a topic that is of interest to you, I still have some of the handouts that I would be happy to share!
On Saturday, I led the History Section All-Section Meeting. Any member of the section was invited to attend, and we had time for both open discussion and breakouts for committees to check in about their work. I also attended the RUSA Membership Social that evening, where I was able to meet and talk with members and leaders of other RUSA sections. In between, I took some time to visit the exhibit floor and catch up with colleagues from other institutions, including a History Section colleague from Temple University, who introduced me to a fantastic dim sum restaurant near the convention center!
Sunday was a busy day. I started the day off with the History Section breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, which is a fantastic little chain of French-style breakfast places that I had never heard of before this trip! We had a small group, but there were a few new members who attended, and it gave us a great chance to talk and get to know one another away from the official conference meetings. We went from that breakfast to the Genealogy and Local History Discussion Group, where the 50 participants in attendance discussed topics related to Ancestry DNA, privacy, and how to inform patrons about potential risks to using these services. That afternoon, I was the History Section representative at the RUSA Board of Directors Meeting. Much of our discussion revolved around SCOE and the Forward Together plan, as well as the future of Midwinter as a conference. That evening, I attended the RUSA Book and Media Awards, where they announce the winners of the Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, among others (including an audiobook award). Being the book lover that I am, I enjoyed hearing short synopses of each title and the enthusiasm from the audience for the winners. I added some titles to my own TBR list and as to the list of titles I plan to order for the Browsing collection!
On Monday, Mary Beth and I had some free time, as we had both anticipated having meetings that day that didn’t materialize. So, we took advantage and ventured out into the cold to check out the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and some of the other sights in the historic area of Philadelphia. And I have to say, although it was chilly, this was possibly the best time of year to visit, as we were often the only people at each site! We were able to take our time, chat with the guides, and really soak up some of the incredible history of the city (while lines from Hamilton ran through our heads, of course). Thanks for a great time, Philadelphia!