Take-aways from attending a library convention

Library Convention Experiences

NYLA 2012

So I attended the NY Library convention yesterday and today.  I’m trying to sort out my thoughts and my notes, and I thought I would share.

The conference was held in Saratoga Springs at the Saratoga City Center, which has recently been expanded with more meeting rooms.  Saratoga has one of the bestdowntowns in this area, with great shopping and restaurants.  It is going to host World Fantasy 2015.  I attended Thursday and Friday of the convention.

Part of going to a library convention is the trade show.  This is where you get your swag.  In order for salespeople to snag a librarian, they lay out bait such as giveaways, bowls of candy, drawings for prizes and samples.  They also entice with coffee and food in the center of the trade show.  Booths aren’t just book-sellers, in fact, that was a minority of what was represented.  Architects, software companies, organizations, audiobook companies, e-book companies, furniture, insurance and library prize companies filled out the exihbitors.  They give out pens, bags, candy, pins, bookmarks and books.  I know some people who get enough pens so that they don’t have to buy any for the rest of the year!  There are tricks to getting the goods without getting the full pitch.  The one I use the most is the cannon fodder technique.  Send in people in front of you to get the full onslaught, nod and smile appropriately while standing behind them, pick up the freebie, and then slip away.

Another part of going is the panels.  You browse the listings and figure out what ones will help you out the most- sometimes it’s easy if you are specialized, but for me, I was looking at programs for administrators, reference librarians, children’s librarians, computer resources and teen librarians.  They all have subsections of the main library association, with confusing acronyms.  SSL, YSS, PLS, ASLS, GIRT- fortunately there’s a list in the back of the program book or I’d end up going to a program for prison libraries (CORT, correctional outreach resource team.)

The third part, (and sometimes the most important part) is the people.  There’s the ones you know, your little posse of librarians from your own library system, and the support people from the system as well.  I like comparing notes with them when we go to different panels, having someone I know to talk to about the trials and tribulations of running a library.  It is also great to meet new people.  I sat at lunch with a starry-eyed library school student from Syracuse, and we were joined by some library veterans talking about the rapid advance in technology in the past twenty years (this girl was probably 22 at most!)  When the woman next to me said that she didn’t do Twitter, the student looked at her with the expression I usually reserve to people who say they don’t wear pants.  What struck me the most about that conversation is that there is a huge digital divide, not just between “immigrants” and “natives”, but between the people highly invested in technology and people who do not even plan to use a majority of the tools available.

I went to a panel on library collaboration and was blown away by some of the community programs some libraries are doing.  The hard-working librarians forged partnerships with schools, businesses and organizations in their community to create great programs and a strong community hub.  That’s what libraries are- the hub of their community, a gathering place, a  place for social connections, information and education.  I went to a luncheon hosted by the Empire State Center for the Book (great food!) and listened to an author talk about her book and two audiobook performers talk about how creating audiobooks was different than their work as television actors.  They have to perform all the voices for a story, and most audiobooks are at least six hours long.  After the lunch I planned to go to a panel about library advocacy, but my fellow librarians were going to the science fiction panel instead.  On the way there, I noticed a book-seller’s display saying that Jim Hines would be at a panel during that time slot.  Jim Hines?  I’d been reading his blog (did you know he won an award for best fan writer?) and I knew he lived out west.  So I hurried over to the science fiction panel.  I was surprised to see author Elizabeth Bear and editor David Hartwell at this panel, along with authors Karl Schroeder and Paul Park.  It was halfway through the panel that I realized that Jim Hines hadn’t skipped out on this panel, he was at another one (one for reluctant readers, little confused about that).  I did enjoy the panel- it was a discussion of trends in science fiction, why much of current science fiction is distopian, the difference between hard science fiction and “pulp” SF and more.  After the panel I tried to  find Jim Hines, even going to the point of stalking Elizabeth Bear for a while.  I gave up and went to a “taste of Saratoga” where local restaurants were giving out samples- bread pudding, yum!  Then, on my way to the keynote address, I ran into Jim Hines and Elizabeth Bear at the bookseller’s stall.  I got to ask for an autograph, told him I much enjoyed his blog, and didn’t make too much of a fool of myself, I hope.  He was very kind.  Elizabeth asked me if I was a reference librarian, and I said as director I did a little bit of everything.  She said she really admired librarians. Wow! I was thinking I really admired authors- another librarian had said to me earlier that we librarians see authors as something like rock stars.  That was a really great chance encounter.  The keynote speaker, David Weinberger, gave a speech about libraries changing from portals of knowledge to platforms.  He spoke about how networking is changing how knowledge is being utilized, shared and created.  It left my head spinning a bit- I took a lot of notes during the talk, but at the end I was looking at my friend and fellow director and saying “huh?”  I attended a mass focus group on the future of libraries, where the number one priority distilled down to “change public perception of libraries”.  I went to a long session on library management called “I still don’t want to talk about it”, where a panel of experts took real-life thorny problems and tackled them with audience participation.  I for one hope that I don’t have to encounter some of the things discussed, which ranged from horrible employee behavior to bizarre hand-tying policies.

Now I just have to bring back what I’ve learned to my library.


2 Replies to “Take-aways from attending a library convention”

  1. I love libraries!
    The one thing I miss about NaNo this year is that the Guilderland library isn’t doing a NaNo program like last year. My local library is really great on book-availability, but disappointing on programs. They have lots of them, but not the ones I want to go to. Your programs are way better. 🙂

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