Thursday, July 11, 2013

ALA Observations and Notes

We had a great time at the annual meeting of the American Library Association this past month.  The whole family enjoyed touring various sites in Chicago, and we all got to meet favorite authors and learn about new books. It was a great time.

No matter how tired I was each day (and trust me, I was tired), I tried to jot down notes of the things I did and the people I met. When the conference was all done, I tried to write down all the little observations and notes I had made to myself mentally. As this was my first trip to ALA, I wanted to remember these for next time (which probably won't be in 2014 as they are heading to Vegas which isn't a great family vacation spot). Here are my notes, in no particular order:

*On the last day, talk to booth staff about how they are breaking down their booths. Some publishers gave everything away. Others sold their stock and still others packed everything back up and took it home.
*Some Advance Reader Copies, or ARCs, are not put out for the participants to grab as they walk by, but you can get them if you ask. Some authors were tweeting that their ARCs were available. Other times I scored a great book because I listened to the folks around me. Still other times, I talked to the booth staff about books I liked or asked them what their favorites were and scored some great titles that way, too.
*Be appreciative and courteous. Some vendors said their display copies walked off - things they weren't planning to give away! Even if it is an ARC, if it's not displayed at the front of the booth, don't assume it is there for the taking. If there wasn't a sign or a crowd grabbing copies, I erred on the side of asking. And always say thank you! This costs publishers something and in this economy, I think they are very generous. They could easily move to all electronic ARCs or just stick with the most prominent review sources or libraries. The fact that I could get access to some of these awesome titles as a librarian from a small private school was a big deal.
*Bring cash. Not every vendor (or cab driver) could easily manage credit.
*Make a list. I had a list of signings and events I wanted to attend each day along with the booth number (the publishers name would have been a good addition). I also noted the ARCs I wanted most and where I could find them so I could focus my attention there and not get caught up in the chaos of grabbing every ARC available.
*Rolling bags might be bulky, but they would have been less abusive to my shoulder muscles than all the bags I carried every day.
*At signings, only have books personalized that you want to keep forever. Otherwise, a general signature works better to put the book in the library or to pass the ARC on to someone else.
*Know your priorities and follow them. Saturday morning I was tempted to follow the crowd of folks I was near because they were heading for a booth that was giving away a bag of "something." I decided to skip that (I knew the bags would be long gone by the time I got there) and go straight to the top author signing of my whole trip. Even heading straight to that booth, I was number 19 in a line that quickly started to spiral in on itself 30 minutes before the event was to start.
*Be kind - talk to folks around you. One person in a signing line pointed me to a vendor to talk about a problem I am having with my encyclopedias. On the shuttle buses, move to the seat by the window and put your stuff on the floor or in your lap. One day I got on a bus and no less than 6 people sat in the aisle seat with their bags on the other seat and an arm flung protectively over it.
*Don't bother bringing reading material unless you need something for the voyage there. I brought a stack of books to read plus personal books I wanted to get signed. The books for signing would have been sufficient because there were a couple that were brand new and unread.

So, those are my notes from my first trip to the American Library Association's annual meeting. It was an amazing experience and I'm so fortunate to have been able to experience it.

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