ALA Stowaway

ALA Exhibits Hall

I thought I’d missed it, but I managed to get down to the ALA annual conference on Monday before everything was dismantled.  The southside of Chicago is a mess of construction right now, so I was a bit concerned about how to get down to the convention center.  Luckily a library conference tends to be impeccably organized and a number of clearly labeled shuttled busses were running from various hotels in the city.  All I had to do was get downtown, cut through the Palmer Hotel, and walk aboard.  No one said a thing!  Yes, all right, I had a right to be there but it didn’t stop me from feeling like an impostor; and riding through the city streets in a cushy, coach bus also left me with a feeling of getting away with something. There were no weird seat stains to avoid or chicken bones to kick out of the way.

I had been to the convention center twice before, once for a candy expo and once for a car show, and it seems that every convention is the same, save for the particular content.  There is a vast room of vendors with sneak peaks, demos, and free things, as well as some snacks.  It’s a pretty winning combination, and ALA’s setup was no different.  Attending all the talks and “sessions” is pretty pricey but for $35 you can wander the exhibits hall to your heart’s content, and that’s where all the good stuff is anyway.  Obviously, I opted for the latter.  Upon entering, I was handed a reusable shopping bag and guide the size of the September issue of Vogue, filled with floor plans, vendor names, schedules, and coupon books.  I must have had my lost look on because soon after I walked into the hall I was asked if I needed help finding something.  Really, I was just taking it all in: bright lights, billboard-esque signs pronouncing the presence of Ebsco, the Smithsonian, Scholastic.

It was no surprise that I gravitated towards the publishers section of the hall.  Tables upon tables were set up with galleys and new releases and autograph lines for the authors and illustrators who had come for the occasion.  This is where my heart is.  I know that I should be trying to make connections, learn new technologies, but it’s still about the books for me.  I’ve been out of the reading loop for so long due to school that I couldn’t get enough of all the new titles.  Without thinking I was at every publisher’s YA & children’s table.  My shopping bag was quickly filling with free books.  No wonder people love coming to this!

While I did spend most of my time in the books, I  eventually wandered over to the other half of the hall. It contained database and library service providers, for the most part, as well as many tech booths.  I talked to people at Overdrive Media and Mango, a language program used by the Chicago Public Library system, trying to get a little more information on our online and tech services.  I am the CyberNavigator, after all.  Overdrive, if you aren’t familiar, is one of the big providers of e-content for libraries: ebooks, audio book downloads, video downloads, etc.  One of the problems I’ve had at the library is fielding questions about getting ebooks onto Nooks, Kindles, and tablets.  I’ve touched an iPad a few times, but that is it.  I have absolutely no experience with ereaders. I’ve looked at help pages and made handout that I hope will be helpful, but when it comes down to it, I have no idea how to use the things–and neither do most of the people who work in my library.  In spite of my personal dislike of ereaders, I am feeling a growing need to use one, simply so I can help others with them.  I never thought I’d see the day where I actually looked at a Kindle prices with the thought of buying one (cue the shiver up my spine), but it’s come–the thought, not the purchase.  Ideally, I’d just get to play with someone else’s for an afternoon and be done with it.  I don’t get that many ebook questions, after all.  I can see myself eventually getting something like an iPad mini–a multi-tasker device, on which I could use GalleyCat to review titles before adding them to my library’s collection.  Is this a slippery slope?  I hope not.  I feel I will always be a reluctant ereader.  Still, it’s not my job to like the things, but it is my job to be knowledgable of them, and that lack is what’s really getting to me.  It will be an agonized post indeed, if I ever break down and get one–for the public good, you know.

In the meantime, I will be more than content to spend my 4th of July reading through the stack of actual books acquired from my very first ALA conference.


 I hear the next one’s in Vegas…


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