Friday, July 2, 2010
I've just returned home from the ALA Annual Conference, in Washington, DC.
We all set off on our journeys with certain expectations, both positive and negative. These can, of course, turn into self-fulfilling prophecies, so some objectivity is a valuable travel accessory.
Large conventions tend to cause sensory overload for me - and I've learned how to tailor the experience to compensate for this personal response. I rarely attend more than a few sessions, avoid the vendor floor, and gravitate to more manageable spaces, like lounge or Uncommons areas.
I've read the critics, who warn of echo chambers and closed minds, but it honestly doesn't work that way for me: I connect with old friends, make new ones, and interact with small groups. The discussions in which I participated were rich with fresh perspectives; the people I met were of diverse backgrounds, united by their aspirations for our shared profession.
When I did venture into formal workshops, they tended to adhere to a traditional lecture format, with minimal interaction and no hands-on component. Much of the content is, or will be, available online.
Both the digital and paper conference guides were cumbersome and difficult to navigate. My preference would be for a searchable site, cross-referenced by date, time, area of interest, presenter, etc. I declined the print copy - maybe there could be a registration check-off box to indicate the participant wished to remain paperless?
Although many attendees mined the exhibition space for books and other freebies (and the Fed Ex satellite did a roaring business!), I'm no longer in a classroom and have no need for these types of goodies. I was content to roam the Washington Convention Center with my camera, hand out some Geek Tribe ribbons and membership cards, and strike up random conversations.
Why did I go? This type of event gathers some of my far-flung network in a single space at the same time. I get to interact face to face with people who matter to me - and we DO discuss relevant topics, like the future of libraries and librarianship, education, and technology.
I certainly don't believe that what I've described is the norm. But this is what works for me. I've returned home intellectually stimulated, my mind teeming with ideas.
MY conference was an incubator/think tank.
Hopefully, YOUR conference was just as successful.