“Librarian” probably isn’t the first word you’d associate with Las Vegas—in fact, it may well be the last. And it seems that the ALA would agree, since its upcoming Annual Conference, which will be held in Vegas from Thursday, June 26–Tuesday, July 1, marks only the second time the association has ventured to Sin City, a popular convention town for the last few decades. One can only wonder what went down back in 1973 that kept us away for 41 years.
But if you look beyond it’s well-marketed libertine image, miles of gaming tables, multiple Cirques de Soleil, and Ibiza-inspired pool parties, Las Vegas functions extraordinarily well as a major conference city.
A big reason for this is the scale of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), which is one of the largest in the world and makes it possible for most programs and meetings to be held under one nicely air-conditioned roof—helpful when the late June temperatures hit 110 degrees. Also, a four-mile monorail connects the LVCC with many of the hotels on the strip. But be forewarned, properties in Las Vegas are—no surprise—huge, and it can often be a 45-minute hike just to get from your hotel room to the closest monorail stop.
ALA needs a city that works well since the Annual Conference is itself notoriously big and unwieldy, even for old hands. With hundreds of sessions, author events, and other programming, ALA tries to help you make sense of it all: for example, you can use the Scheduler on the ALA 2014 website, an online tool that allows you to peruse the programs and meetings with enormous, drop-down menus (librarians love to search!). First-timers can take advantage of an orientation session (Friday, 1–2:30 p.m.) and other events sponsored by the New Members Round Table.
Below I’ve focused on the conference’s core themes, with a few other recommendations thrown in as well. Consult the program guide for the room numbers, and note that events tagged with ($) require separate registration.
Make It Happen
When it comes to innovation in public library service, nothing dominates the conversation more than the “makerspace” movement and 3-D printing. A number of sessions explore the trend, including a trio of competing Saturday sessions (your biggest challenge might be deciding which to attend).
For those of you already involved, or planning to start soon, 3D Printers and Library Policies (Saturday, 1–2:30 p.m.) features a panel of academic and public librarians who will discuss policies for access and use of 3-D printers in libraries.
Too advanced for you? No room for a 3-D printer at your library yet? Don’t let that be an excuse! Check out 3D Printing at the Reference Desk and Library Makerspaces Without the Space (Saturday, 1–2:30 p.m.).
Tinkering, getting it wrong, and trying again are all part of maker culture—and a part of library culture as well. Hear about Philadelphia’s mentoring experiences at Teaching Teens How to Fail: Library Spaces and the Maker Movement (Saturday, 1–2:30 p.m.).
Makerspace and Digital Badging: New Opportunities to Help Students Show What They Know (Sunday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) explores budget-friendly school library makerspaces, as well as validating growth via “digital badging” an increasingly popular way to engage with and reward users.
Simply terrified of 3-D printers? Feel like all this maker stuff is beyond you? Maybe it is attitude more than anything else. Learn more at We Make Everyday: How You’re Already (Most Likely) Doing the Makerspace Thing (Monday, 1:30–2:15 p.m.).
Back to the Building
A decade ago the talk was all about virtual services. But today, we’re back to the library building, with expectations about what our facilities can accomplish as high as they have ever been, going back to Andrew Carnegie.
For academics, A New Campus Library: Vision, Design, and Assessing Usage (Sunday, 8:30–10 a.m.). looks at how one university’s vision for a 21st-century library was realized in the design, programs, and furnishing of their new building.
Collaboration is a major theme in libraries, and in Developing Collaborative Spaces that Encourage Community Engagement (Saturday, 1–2:30 p.m.) panelists will go “beyond the whiteboard” to discuss what real collaborative library spaces looks like.
At Community Driven Design (Sunday, 8:30–10 a.m.) the folks from the San Francisco Public Library will discuss how they engaged local communities in their branch building projects. Someone from New York Public may want to attend, after its difficult battle to undertake a major library project generated so much outrage...
There’s a lot of pressure on library buildings these days. We want to repurpose them for new functions and to have the flexibility to use them for multiple activities. Environments by Design (Sunday, 1–2:30 p.m.) will address our expectations, with examples of new space design and furniture solutions.
Is the central library a resource-sucking albatross or a temple of wonder? Stop by The New Central: Reimagining the Future of Flagship Libraries (Sunday, 8:30–10 a.m.) to hear how several libraries are successfully transforming their old legacy facilities into exciting new destinations.
Creating a new teen space is often the motivation behind a library redesign, and Teen Spaces 201 (Monday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) promises to provide an overview of developments in thinking about teen spaces.
And you won’t want to miss Top Library Building Trends, which is always full of fun, fresh ideas and new products (Monday, 1–2:30 p.m.).
Moving on Up
For years, there was a “graying of the profession” theme that was popular in the library press. Is the long-predicted wave of librarian retirements finally here? Maybe so, at least it would seem from the number of programs encouraging new librarians to enter management.
In Stepping into the Director Role: Preparing for the Part ($, Friday, 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m.), a great lineup of new directors promise to share the low-down on what the job really entails (be honest, guys!) and how to land the top spot.
Two new public library directors (and Star Wars geeks) will discuss their experiences in creating institutional change in Boba Fett at the Circ Desk: Library Leadership Lessons from The Empire Strikes Back (Saturday, 8:30–10:00am).
Academic librarians may want to stop in at HR Confidential: Insider Tips from Library HR Directors (Saturday, 9–10 a.m.), an informal q&a on the recruitment process[strong].
Diversity—or the lack of diversity—in libraries also remains an important subject. In Librarians of Color: the Challenges of “Movin’ on Up” (Sunday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) panelists will address being a manager and a person of color; the panel will include managers—with less than five years of experience—from five ethnic associations.
Finally, a mix of public and academic directors and managers will discuss their move into leadership as well as the obstacles they’ve encountered in What I Really Want to Do is Direct: First-time Library Directors Discuss Their Experiences (Monday, 4–5 p.m.).
Games! (No, not in the casino...)
Long on the periphery of ALA conferences, games and gaming have been growing in libraries, and at this year’s show, they take center stage, quite literally, with gaming guru Jane McGonigal giving the keynote address at the Opening General Session (Friday, 4–5:15 p.m.). After her talk, head over to ALAPlay (Friday, 7:30–10 p.m.) for a free evening of open gaming, learning, and exploration featuring some of the newest games from ALA’s game library.
Come Make a Game: Library Game Jams (Saturday, 3–4 p.m.) promises intense game-creation experiences where participants build a game in a short period of time, gaining enough knowledge and experience to bring this low-cost, high-impact, and flexible program back to their library.
But what about the kids? Whet Your APPetite: Rapid Reviews of Apps for Children (Sunday, 1–2:30 p.m.) will offer a bevy of app recommendations to librarians.
And don’t forget the Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage with events running throughout the conference.
How about a little me time? Besides the spa back at your hotel, ALA offers plenty of opportunities for self-improvement. Potential directors out there, in particular, might benefit from Coming Out of the Shell: Becoming a Power Public Speaker (Friday, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.).
Ask librarians everywhere, and they’ll tell you that few things in life are more stressful than job interviews. Answering Tough Questions As You Improve Your Interviewing Skills will discuss phone, Skype, and other face-to-face formats, what to say and not to say, and how to tell your story (Saturday, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.).
Now that you’ve got the speaking part down, what about your presentation skills? Learn quick and easy presentation tips at Don’t Sweat that Presentation! (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–12 p.m.).
Is library “professionalism” holding us back, creating barriers and stifling creativity? Maybe it’s time to let go a little. Check out Professionalism Is Killing the Profession (Sunday, 8–10 a.m.)
And, of course, there is coping with failure. Failure never feels good, but it is an essential part of innovation. Get some advice on how to recover, move on, and flourish at We F’ed Up, But We Fixed It: Thriving When Things Go Wrong (Sunday, 4:30–5:30 p.m.).
Oh Yeah, Books
With so much else going on, it’s easy to take for granted how central authors, books, and the experience of reading is to the Annual Conference. Want to be overwhelmed? Click “Author Events” on the ALA website scheduler and scroll through screen after screen of meet-the-authors events events at publisher booths, including signings and giveaways. These events are especially popular for children’ authors, and the lines can be long, so wear your comfortable shoes.
Makers spaces and apps aside, books remain the library’s “core brand,” and the professional program offers a lot of great book-focused sessions. At Turning Books into a Cool New Tool: RA Marketing in the Age of Maker Spaces (Saturday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) Tina Thomas, Edmonton Public Library’s marketing whiz, will show us how to revitalize our outreach efforts to readers.
Those Multnomah, Ore., RA librarians have been generating a lot of buzz with their personalized services. At My Librarian: Personalization and the Future of Reader Services (Monday, 8:30–10 a.m.) they’ll discuss the research they did with readers and the online services they offer.
Helping readers find their next great read is always a challenge. In Discovery: The New Name of Reader’s Advisory? (Monday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) you can learn innovative ways to mine your collection (or, for publishers, your backlist).
Literary Tastes: Celebrating the Best Reading of the Year (Sunday, 8–10 a.m.)
with Tessa Dare, V.E. Schwab, and others does just what it says: celebrates great books.
To really mingle with the book people, you need to throw yourself into the large-scale book events. Check out: The Michael L. Printz Program and Reception, featuring Marcus Sedgwick and a host of fellow authors ($, Friday, 8–10 p.m.).
The Association of American Publishers Children’s Author Speed Dating (Saturday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) features 15 illustrators and authors.
The Margaret A. Edwards Brunch ($, Saturday, 10:30–11:30 a.m.) features Markus Zusak—and who doesn’t love Markus Zusak?
The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction ($, Saturday, 8–10 p.m.) features another great crop of finalists (check out “And the Winner Is...” in this issue for the shortlist).
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast (Sunday, 7–9:30 a.m.) honors the best African-American authors and illustrators for children.
Pura Belpré Award Celebración (Saturday, 1–3 p.m.) honors the 2014 the authors of works for children that best portray the Latino cultural experience. With live entertainment!
The Newbery-Caldecott Awards Banquet ($, Sunday 5:30–11 p.m.) is the grandmother of all library book award celebrations, with speeches sure to make you cry.
And finally, the GLBTRT’s Stonewall Book Awards Brunch, our country’s oldest and most enduring awards for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writing.
If you’re like me, all these great sessions will leave you exhausted—and exhilarated. What better way to wind down than hearing author Jennifer Kahneweiler on speak aobout the quiet strength of introverts (Monday, 10:30–11:45 a.m.) before heading to the airport with a great advanced readers copy?