Over two weeks have passed I attended ALA Midwinter 2014, and I think my head is back on straight.
Prior to Midwinter 2014, I had attended NJLA 2013 and the exhibits of the Public Library Association annual conference in 2012. The ALA Midwinter Meeting is inherently larger than either of those conference since it encompasses the entire membership of ALA, but MWM is also smaller than say, ALA Annual Conference. MW is more committee- and council-work driven; with fewer sessions and smaller exhibits. That being said though, I still want to take a nap when I think about the nonstop rush that MW14 was for me.
While MW14 was only down the road from me, lodging and travel expenses were still a concern for me. I debated for the early part of fall semester my option. But then Gale (a part of Cengage Learning) posted on my program’s student listserv that they were seeking Student Ambassadors to work at their booth for several hours each day of the conference — in exchange for lodging, travel, and food expenses. And I will be honest: I debated the ethical argument of representing a publisher at a library conference. Do I believe in the product and company? How do they support libraries? Am I selling my soul? In the end, I decided to apply for the program (being an early-career librarian who personally has no allegiances to anything) and was accepted to the student ambassador program. This opportunity was not only critical to my ability to attend the conference, but it also gave me more depth to the industry — a view from the other side of the carpet at conferences. I learned about database project features, user virtual experience, and pitching. I also met other librarians who work for Gale who took an alternative career track to librarianship.
Saturday and Sunday I spent five hours at the booth, and then spent my off-time attending sessions, resting, and catching-up with classmates/colleagues (I have colleagues?) At point one point, my friend and former classmate/co-president of SCARLA Jen and I attended a session of sewing small felt owls (in conjunction with an author’s book talk), which turned out to be the perfect de-stress/let’s-stop-talking-about-the-future-of-everything break. My new mission: bringing more crafting into libraries for stress relief.
I attended LITA’s Top Tech Trends session and Sex, Mind, and Body – How Guys and Girls Search for Health Information. Both were very Big Picture and not too sided to a particular scope of librarianship. From the young adult health literacy session, I learned:
- Rural populations are the most unlikely to have access to information resources, but cell phones are still popular and accessible;
- There is also a concern with lacking a health professional in the community;
- Social acceptance is a major attribute for young adult researching or seeking health information — either in regards to what they are looking for or how they want to find it (i.e. – anonymously, not mentioned on social media in fear of peer ridicule, etc…);
- Young adult males are more likely to search for health information, especially about fitness and eating, than young adult females;
- Be mindful of interconnected topics and factors like: special needs, LGTBQ, teen parents, different cultures, illiteracy, and poverty in the sense of researchable topics and delivery of service;
- Partner with parents and community organizations that have a similar mission, like the Health Department or the local municipal alliance committee.
- Introduce teen intermediaries where possible and appropriate — young adults will listen to other young adults (i.e. “by teens, for teens”);
- Consider what technology they are using — mobile updates, weekly tips, and maybe even vlogs? (my idea, not mentioned in the session);
- The preferred method of receiving STI testing results is an E-Card — which can be forwarded to their partner.
I meant to attend the session about the Digital Divide, but found myself at the Tech Trends session instead. My inability to read the program proved to be just fine as I heard the panelists discuss such topics as: technology user codes of conduct, open access, open education resources, badging and gamification, and social media best practices. Library Journal wrote-up an article with session highlights, but I think the video is a must-watch for all (linked in the previous paragraph). Some highlights:
- Codes of Conduct should be inclusive of all people (Brett Bonfield);
- Images and resources should be labeled appropriately for the public, and statements like “Please contact the institution for usage permission” should be avoided (Leslie Johnston);
- Idea: Linking historical images and documents from around the neighborhood would be a way to make the collection interactive and searchable, depending upon content-use agreements;
- Textbooks are moving towards interactive assessment with technologies like podcasts and videos from the teachers;
- John Shank’s comments about badging and gamification were very interesting from the higher education and workforce development perspective (How can we identify skills earned that a P/F or grade assignment won’t reflect / Then how can we get employers to accept that).
In addition to the sessions attended in-person, I followed the #ALAMW14 tag closely for coverage from other sessions and overall conference observations. I would really like to see any conference I attend (state, national, or association-level) embrace this practice of following sessions via Twitter and assign conference sessions with their own hashtag to following easier.
Lots of great conversations happened beyond the session halls too, and many meals were eaten at the Reading Terminal Market (Shout-out to Old City Coffee and Flying Monkey Bakery!) which was perfectly positioned below the Pennsylvania Convention Center. I am not sure if I will attend another ALA Midwinter Meeting again (unless I am on a committee or is once again held close to where I am), but overall ALA MW14 was a solid first time-attendee experience.
And for my, and maybe your, enjoyment, here is a collage of the coffee I drank/encountered.