I attended ALA Midwinter for the first time when I was still in library school. I wasn’t actively involved with ALA, and I spent most of that meeting wandering around trying to find a place to sit down and plug my laptop in, trying to find someone, anyone, to talk to, trying to feel like I belonged. It wasn’t an awesome conference experience. So far, my second ALA Midwinter experience is far, far better.
This time, I have a place in the library world. I’m a librarian, with a role, a purpose. I’m involved, and I understand what all these different meetings and acronyms and councils are about. And because I feel like I belong, I’m finding it much easier to speak up and meet people. The experience between my first meeting and my second are night and day.
A lot of people think they need to attend an ALA meeting to figure out what they want to do in the organization. I think it’s much smarter to figure out what you want to do in the organization, to just get involved in any small way you can, before you attend a meeting. ALA is vast, overwhelming; even this smaller incarnation in January is daunting. Having a niche before you arrive makes such a difference in navigating the labyrinth that is our organization.
This morning, I attended the OCLC Americas Regional Council meeting (I’d like to run for the regional council when I next have a chance). They didn’t present anything too new (what they’re doing with Worldcat and Worldcat local, how they’re FRBR-izing the catalog and cleaning up their metadata, where WMS is heading, etc), but it was nice to be there, and to find out a little more about what being involved will entail. I feel really enthusiastic about the work that OCLC is doing, even though a handful of my colleagues have their serious (and not unfounded) doubts. I think OCLC is one of the most forward-looking organizations in the library world, and I look forward to the chance to contribute more actively to that work.
The Pop Cultures and Libraries Discussion Group was all about Joss Whedon and Buffy, so of course, I had to check that out. It was fun. Like any discussion group, there were some awkward moments, and a few people who seemed hellbent on derailing the discussion group to be all about them. But, not surprisingly, I felt like that room was full of my librarian kindred spirits: Young people who are interested in pop culture, people who don’t necessarily fit the stereotype of the librarian, and people who are excited and engaged and want to transform the world of librarians and libraries.
The Presidents’ Panel, now that was another story…