A Snapshot of Annual Before Annual

Annual is big. Really big. I knew this when I took on the task of improving the “Event Planner” folks use to plan their conference schedules, but until I had to work on standardizing all of the data, I didn’t really understand HOW BIG.

Logically, you kind of get the numbers. Legend has it that at their height, Midwinter had approximately 2,000 distinct sessions, while Annual had around 2,200 (I’ve also heard 2,500 but can’t fathom that so I’m sticking with 2,200). It’s no wonder it’s impossible to make sense of the program and participants feel like it’s raining sessions.

I have some better numbers to report this around, though. The first version of the Conference Scheduler that was integrated into ALA Connect was for Midwinter 2011, and there were just over 1,100 sessions. That’s still a lot, but it’s a far cry from 2,000. Most of those were committee meetings because Midwinter is generally considered the “business meeting,” although that’s changing and we’re seeing a lot more discussion group activity there.

Having just launched the second iteration of the Conference Scheduler in Connect for Annual 2011, I can tell you that we’re down to just over 1,600 sessions. Some of that decrease comes from committees holding virtual meetings outside of conference, and some is from sections and round tables holding “all committee” meetings where several groups meet in a big room at once instead of each requesting a separate room and time.

Just for comparison as the Association moves forward, though, here are some specific numbers for Annual 2011:

  • 693 committee meetings
  • 348 presentations/sessions
  • 196 discussion groups
  • 46 forums/updates

Keep in mind that there’s some overlap between these categories, so the numbers are kind of fluid, And while there are just over 1,600 sessions in the Scheduler right now, that number will grow as we add all of the author signings and more informal social events (have one of those to announce? send it to me!).

That also doesn’t take into account all of your meetings with vendors and friends, and every presentation you want to go to will still be scheduled at the same time on the same day. But I”m intrigued to see where these numbers go.

I also wonder how to quantify hallway discussions, which are usually the best part of a conference. In case you haven’t walked an ALA conference lately, we have a lot of hallways. In fact, I think a vendor should give away pedometers so we can have a contest for most steps walked on the Annual campus. I’m not sure who would win – some staff members, Executive Board members, or those of us who constantly get lost.

Having manhandled every one of those 1,600+ session records, I can definitively say that there is something for everyone at Annual. Next I want to think about how we get a better snapshot of Annual After Annual, especially to figure out how we can help facilitate all of the stuff that happens but doesn’t show up in the official categories (ie, committee meeting, presentations, etc.).

All of which is a roundabout way of announcing that the 2011 Annual Conference Scheduler is officially open. Let us know what you think about it!

6 Responses to “A Snapshot of Annual Before Annual”

  1. Ann PErrigo Says:

    Getting lost at ALA? Some convention centers are easier to navigate, but–oh I pray it wasn’t NOLA!–once I searched for a meeting room for almost an hour, and by the time I found it, the session was over. Sigh. That convention was most frustrating for me! Recently they’ve been pretty good!


  2. Mary Ghikas Says:

    Actually, Jenny, I think 2,500 was pretty on target for Annual. The programs/sessions number seems to have increased slightly — and the number of committee meetings has decreased as people have adopted alternative ways of working and meeting. Great work on the Scheduler!


  3. Sue Kaler Says:

    I tried the event planner yesterday and pulled up meetings in San Diego as well as in New Orleans. Do some things still need deleting? Thanks.



    Jenny Reply:

    Hi, Sue —

    You should only be seeing sessions for Annual in New Orleans, so could you please send me a screenshot of the problem? I’m at jlevine [at] ala.org .



  4. Sue Kaler Says:

    Hi Jenny,

    I can’t seem to replicate the problem today. Maybe it was just a fluke.





    Jenny Reply:

    Okay – thanks, Sue. We’ll chalk it up to a forthcoming full moon, but please let me know right away if you experience this problem again (or any other one).



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