Tips for Surviving (and Thriving at) ALA Midwinter

Here are some tips from conference veterans Joe Janes, Allyson Carlyle, and Nancy Huling for making the most of ALA Midwinter, coming to Seattle in January.

  • Check the ALA Midwinter Scheduler (now live!) for all the activities at Midwinter! Plan your schedule in advance (when you log in you can save events to your own personal schedule), but leave it flexible and leave room for decompressing. Make sure to use the filters to pull out specific topics and formats of interest.
  • Unlike ALA Annual, Midwinter is all about committee meetings and discussion groups; there are not supposed to be any programs (panels, presentations, etc.). (However, our panelists noted that sometimes an event held under the guise of another activity might have some programmatic elements, like a discussion group that is preceded by a panel.) But the cool thing about committees is that that’s where all the real work behind ALA happens, and there’s a different committee for every library type or specialization. Go sit in on them, introduce yourself at the beginning, and feel free to slip out if it ends up not being interesting.
  • However, if a committee meeting (like a book award committee) says¬†closed on the scheduler, you probably can’t sit in on it. (Note: if you REALLY want to, you might try emailing the head of the committee to see if they can let you sit in silently.)
  • Joe always recommends that conference-goers remove their name badges when they leave the doors of the convention center: those who wear them on the street (TOADS, or Tags On All Day) are just asking to get shunned, swindled, or stolen from. However, Allyson Carlyle says she tends to wear hers out. My two cents: I like to take off my name badge but carry a tote bag or other indication that I’m a library-type, so that I might engage in conversation at a stoplight or cafe with someone else from the conference and make it clear that I’m interested in librarianship.
  • Check out the vendors and publishers in the Exhibits. Go to opening night for giveaways and free food and drink, and go on the last day for the big discounts on books that the publishers don’t want to drag home. Feel free to ask questions of the vendors (“tell me about your product”) and don’t apologize for being just a library student: if they’re smart, they’ll recognize you as a future customer! And vendors are good job options for LIS grads too.
  • ¬†Crash receptions. Eat for free.
  • Dress somewhat nicely. You’ll see librarians in t-shirts, but as someone soon entering the workforce you probably want to make a better impression. But wear comfortable shoes and layer up: you’ll do a lot of walking from session to session and it can get really cold in those conference rooms.
  • Bring business cards, and keep them in your badge holder so they’re always on hand. Don’t be afraid to ask for others’ cards, and make a note on them as to where you met the person and why you should contact them.
  • Schedule some time after the conference to follow up with people you met, review your notes, and put away all the pamphlets, handouts, and swag you picked up. It takes way longer than you’d think.
  • Definitely check out the New Members Round Table. They offer orientations to the conference and social activities and are a great place to meet others who are in their first five years of a library job.
  • ALA Think Tank throws some of the best parties and puts out a #partyhard guide to all the social events.
  • Use the ALA JobList Placement Center. They offer free resume review services, career counseling, and a job listings and resumes database where employers and job-seekers can indicate that they will be at the conference. You can also meet employers there: some will have reserved booths, and others will just come during the open house or by appointment.
  • Volunteer to host a visiting LIS student!
  • Don’t forget to apply for free Midwinter registration from sALA.

More questions on what to bring, what to do, and how to network? Check out these tips from the blogosphere and beyond, and leave your own questions or tips in the comments here or on our Facebook page!

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