Monday, April 24, 2006

Gypsy Librarian will be attending the Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference. . .

. . .and he will be dragging his "unruly cousin," the Itinerant Librarian along.

Folks, I will be attending TLA this year, April 26-28. It is my first foray into a librarianship conference. I will note, however, it is not my first professional conference. I have a few literary studies conferences under my belt as presenter. Yet I understand librarians put on quite a different show, so we shall see. Besides, the fact that it is taking place practically in my own backyard makes it a good opportunity. I figured I would go, have some fun, learn some things, and judge for myself if the state library association is something worth my time and efforts. I did join the association to get the break on the conference fees, and I figured that if I liked it I would renew, if not, I could let it lapse at the end of the year. And no, I am not doing any of the preconference events. Those cost extra, and even though a colleague is presenting, I will just have to wait to hear about it later. I am sure he will do fine. Most of my colleagues are going this time around, even those that have not attended in a while. The proximity factor is a good incentive. By the way, this came out of my pocket. I am letting my workplace pick up something else later. At any rate, even if I wanted to do any preconference stuff, I am teaching a class (2 sections) tomorrow. Yes, it is a class late in the semester, but the instructor in question actually scheduled it back in February or so. I spent much of last Friday preparing for it. It should be fun.

Now, last Thursday afternoon, after most of my colleagues had left, I was here working a bit late. Our ever nurturing A.D. for Public Services came over to the Reference Office to offer her advice on how to cruise the exhibits. In retrospect, someone should write a brochure about that. I have read some tips about conference attending from other places, but I think they did not take these in mind. For instance, she demonstrated the waltz of grabbing freebies from the exhibit table without actually making eye contact. She reminded me one is not to be shy when grabbing for things. She also told me what she wanted me to bring her back, since she is one of the brave souls staying behind to hold the fort. I think she is headed to ALA in New Orleans later in the year. In seriousness, she has been very supportive of this little outing, reminding me that it is important to take the chance to meet new people, maybe find some people who do what I do. I recall the word "networking" bandied about once or twice. To be honest, it is something I need to work on. I can be very dynamic in a classroom teaching or working with students. Put me in some fancy room with an open bar, and I go hide. Adding to the advice, our ever intrepid ILL Librarian, who is also attending New Orleans, also chimed in on what she wants me to bring her back. I will be keeping an eye out for a particular poster, but if not, I am sure I can find something nice. I do not recall seeing this in any of my readings about attending library conferences, but maybe we should add a line about "make sure you remember those who stayed behind."

As if I did not feel awkward enough, we had our librarian's meeting last Friday morning. The librarians that are going to TLA were comparing notes on what luncheon invitations they had gotten from vendors and/or groups. They were trading stories about who gives the better lunch, who has the nicer food first thing in the morning, what they do to you if you do attend, and why a certain dinner function sponsored by a vendor, that shall remain nameless, is best avoided. I learned at that point that I am just a lowly peon with no power whatsoever since I got not a single invitation. The lesson here is that those invitations usually go to the acquisitions folks, who are the ones who actually make the decisions. Namely, they buy the stuff (I select stuff, but they "write the checks."). Some of them had four and five different invitations. That part of the meeting was a jolly little moment (no, I won't go into the rest of the meeting, which was, shall we say, not as jolly?). Oh, and by the way, be leery when you win some giveaway. In one case, another of my colleagues told the story of how they won some microfilm or microfiche collection. Nice, but she was stuck then having to deal with it (cataloguing it, putting it out, etc.). So the lesson here is beware what you sign up for? I guess. You see, I am already learning all sorts of things, and I have not even made it there yet. Imagine what I will actually learn when I do get there.

And for me, this will be a learning experience. I am now into my second year as a professional librarian. Attending something like this seems like a logical next step now that I have had some time to make my institution my home. ALA's conferences are pretty much out of reach for me, financially and practically; I can only ask so much of my spouse when I go away for professional development, and campus support only goes so far. I should note, in the interest of full disclosure, I do have some issues with ALA and how they do things (those have been well expressed elsewhere. Run a Technorati search under ALA and membership or similar terms if you are interested). Then again, I do have issues with most large organizations; I had them with the teacher associations as well back when I was in that field. At any rate, I have not totally given up on ALA. . .yet. If the day does come I can make one of their events, I will strive to give them a fair shake, but let's leave that aside now.

I am going to this event with open mind. I am hoping I will learn a few things, meet some new people, and bring back new ideas I can implement when I get back. Maybe this will be an organization I want to be involved with. While I am not a tenure track librarian, I do see myself doing something for the profession. If for no other reason, then I am doing it because I owe it to a certain librarian who for some reason thought I would make a good librarian. If you ever read this and recognize yourself, please know I am doing my best to justify your faith in me. On another level, I guess I am curious to meet other people who do what I do, and I want to meet people who do other things besides what I do. I was a bit worried when some people said this conference may not be "academic enough," in other words, more geared to public librarians. That may or not be the case, and I will get to see. In terms of the program, it does seem a bit more favorable to my brethren in public libraries, but I have managed to find a good set of sessions to attend that I think will be good for me. Maybe that seeming "tilt" to one side means people like me should try to present at some point? I don't know, but it is a possibility. Though, what could I possibly offer is beyond me. Maybe I'll find out.

I am not posting my schedule or anything like that. I have seen some people who do that before they go someplace, but they are usually the big people who need to be reachable. Us peons can afford to blend in, hehe. While I did outline some things I would like to see and do, I do believe in the power of serendipity. So, if we meet, and you have a better idea of where to go next, let me know. Oh, and no, I am not carrying a laptop or such. As this is learning time, I am leaving my e-mail and all that behind. However, I will blog about my experiences and put up my session notes shortly after so I have a record. Overall, if readers out there are locals (or not so local) attending, maybe we'll meet. But if we don't meet, may you have a good conference. And to readers who are not there now, maybe our paths will cross in the future. In the meantime, best, and keep on blogging.


Mark said...

Nice post Angel. I've seen TLA talked about in a few places over the last few weeks and it certainly sounds like a (possibly) nice conference. I forget whose, but I saw a list of sessions someone was planning on attending that looked real interesting to me.

Enjoy yourself first and foremost, and good luck with that networking thing. Something I'm struggling with myself.

Oh, and don't forget to bring me a....

Honestly though, nice thought to remind people to keep in mind those holding down the fort.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Mark: Thanks for stopping by. I came back from TLA with a full brain, so in a way still catching up. I am posting the notes gradually. Still working on the networking thing. You would think an Instruction Librarian of all types would have a walk in the park with something like that. C'est la vie. Best, and keep on blogging.