Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


March 2004

Vol VIII Issue III

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Information School
University of Washington
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Workin’ the PLA

By Amanda Hornby, MLIS Day
Last Saturday afternoon I emerged from the downtown Convention Center loaded down with spoils crammed into a blue tote bag and inspired by the ultimate goodness of the Public Library Association. I was at the PLA conference for three days and met librarians from all over the U.S. However, I did not attend a single session or workshop and didn’t even pay for admission. My secret? I “worked” the PLA!

Dutiful volunteers Beth Swartzbaugh, Amanda Hornby, Katy Shaw and volunteer organizer Lisa Fraser.
Workin’ the PLA means that you do not actually attend any lectures or even experience the conference as an active participant. In my case, I worked for our fine institution and volunteered at the PLA for other fine organizations. The Information School booth was nestled among other academic and commercial institutions in the Great Exhibition Hall. For those of you who weren’t there, imagine teal-colored columns, multi-hued carpet samples, and row upon row of booths. Along with esteemed members of the Information School, I answered school admission questions, handed out program fliers, and watched librarians shovel iSchool paraphernalia into their tote bags like pieces of gold. We were stationed across from a book-mobile vendor who had parked a sample vehicle directly across from us, leading us to debate how an entire bookmobile had gotten into the third floor of the convention center (surely not via the escalator!).

Workin’ the PLA also allowed me to view librarians in their element, surrounded by peers. Laughter, camaraderie, jumpers, and eyeglasses abounded. The wet bars peppered throughout the exhibition hall were usually deserted (which I found surprising), while the free carafes of coffee were literally sucked dry within minutes (which I did not find surprising).

At any convention, but particularly at a conference for librarians, what is most interesting is not always what is being said, but what is being sold. The most popular booths teemed with giveaways and somehow incorporated cute animals, babies, jewelry from New Mexico, and free books. There was a “talking” robot that circulated the halls who, had this been 1981, would have been really high tech and clever! It was unclear what the robot was selling, if anything. Also, Gandalf the Grey has apparently started working the conference circuit, for he was observed to swish about the hall. Again, it was unclear what he was selling. Many vendors offered free tote bags not just with their logo on it, but often with soft-focus photographs of puppies and kittens. Of interest was also the earnest comic book company booth that offered free Wonder Woman lapel pins.

Workin’ the PLA meant that I missed hearing Sherman Alexie speak, did not even catch a glimpse of Nancy Pearl, and didn’t network with potential employers. Regardless, I had a blast! I also leaned a valuable lesson about convention center booth success. Next year, no matter what the booth theme, I advise displaying inexpensive turquoise jewelry, free trade paperbacks, pictures of babies, and perhaps even a petting zoo.

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