Archive for the ‘ALA Conferences’ Category

Planning for Annual Conference

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

The March issue of American Libraries is shrink-wrapped with the preliminary program for the 2009 ALA Annual Conference. We on staff get issues of AL a bit sooner than they are in mail, but you’ll have yours in a day or so.

In between reference calls and staff questions, I’ve been paging through the program.

First, I checked that the program being planned by the committee I’m staff liaison to is there and accurate. It is (p. 79 … top of middle column). And it’s even in the right program track (on p. 41).

Then I noticed that there, on the inside of the back cover, is a short planning calendar–and better yet, a blank page facing it. The planning calendar was a feature of the preliminary programs when I first started attending annual conference, long before joining the ALA staff. And I’ve missed them. Yes, I have created them in any number of planning tools, but this one is immediately available as I page through the booklet. Handy place to note what catches my eye now so I can see if I can shoehorn in an extra or two, once I know the schedule for what I must do.

I looked at the field trips being offered by Camp ALA. Because the conference is in Chicago, I probably won’t be using Camp ALA this year, for the first time in years. If you are thinking of making your trip to conference a family vacation, know that kids enjoy Camp ALA and that the staff are wonderful and caring. Good destinations for the field trips, too.

What else?

  • A great line-up of speakers between the division presidents’ programs (p. 10) and the Auditorium Speakers Series (p. 3) including several of my favorite authors
  • 2009 Empowerment Conference for library support staff (p. 52 … good speakers … I’ll see if Val and Jessica would like to go)
  • Scholarship Bash at the AIC on Saturday, Book Cart Drill Teams on Sunday … starting to look like I should get the kids exhibit passes, which reminds me that one of the nice things about an ALA conference is that it is family friendly
  • Theme for the Membership Meetings: Libraries in Hard Times (p. 48)
  • Forty (!!) pages of program listings … though some are awards receptions and special dinners and events, including the FRTF 40th Anniversary Gala … these will take more time to sift through. Some catch words: disaster preparedness, metadata, information literacy, influencing legislators, planning, partnerships … surely there’s something for everyone.

Yes, plenty of reasons to make me eager to attend, even after decades of “going to ALA”!!


2009 Midwinter Report from Keith Michael Fiels

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Just in time for Midwinter, it’s the 2009 Midwinter Executive Director’s Report (127kb, PDF), summarizing recent accomplishments and upcoming events. Some of the ‘highlighted’ stories include:

  • AL Direct, Special Tough Economy Issue
  • Libraries and the Economic Stimulus Package
  • Tough Economy Toolkit
  • Building Statewide Coalitions for All Libraries in a Tough Economy Panel Discussion
  • Add It Up: Libraries Make the Difference in Youth Education and Development
  • ALA and Univision Radio Partner on First-Ever PSA Campaign to Target Latinos
  • Registration Opens January 20 for AASL National Conference
  • William J. Brennan, Jr. Award for Judith Krug.

And here’s some good news from the report:

“ALA Membership through the first quarter 2009 stands at 67,045, a 2% increase over the same period last year. Personal membership renewals are a key indicator of the membership ‘health’ of the association. Through November, personal renewals are 8% ahead of last year. In addition, new memberships are up by 3%.”

What’s Happening at Midwinter (2009 Edition)

Monday, January 19th, 2009

It’s that time of year again, when we’re all gathering in a cold place during the North American winter. If you’re heading to Midwinter this week, you naturally want to know about everything that’s happening there. To make sure you don’t miss any of the big stuff, check out Mary Ghikas’ biannual “What’s Happening” list. Here’s your Midwinter 2009 version (169kb, PDF).

Here are some interesting numbers that kick off the document.

“As of January 16, 2009, advance registration for the 2009 Midwinter Meeting was 5,840 – compared to 5,833 at the same point for the 2008 Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. This included 671 first-time Midwinter Meeting attendees, compared to 371 in Philadelphia on January 4, 2008. (Note: In 2006-2007, ALA began asking conference participants to self-identify as first-time attendees.)

Ever wonder what that number includes? As of January 8, the total included 4204 regular
members registered, 231 student members, 60 trustees, 61 retired members 144 nonmembers, 78 former members, among others. California was most heavily represented, with 452 registrations, followed by Colorado (359), Illinois (352), New York (336) and Texas (268). There are registrants from all 50 states, from 9 Canadian provinces (a total of 53 registrants), from Puerto Rico, and from the Virgin Islands.

As of January 9, 2009, there are 96 international librarians from 17 countries attending the Midwinter Meeting in Denver. For the second year in a row, there will be an orientation for international colleagues. International attendees are coming from all across the globe – from Australia to Qatar to Nigeria to Denmark.”

It’s Been a Tough Start to the New Year at ALA….

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

The last two weeks have been a sort of “perfect storm” of online-related problems at ALA, and as the person here who probably does the most tracking of what’s said about us online, I think I’ve pretty well heard everything you have to say about that storm.

Except what we want to say. With the holiday breaks (ALA was officially closed on December 26 and January 2), it was difficult to coordinate some of the discussion, but now we’ve had a chance to talk about some of these things internally, and we want to update you on decisions we’ve made to try to fix some of the problems.

The first issue that came up was in a blog post by Jason Griffey, in which he praised ALA’s willingness to try something new and accept YouTube submissions of questions for presidential candidates.  He then questioned why we wouldn’t accept videos from non-members or anonymous posters. While we still won’t include videos from anonymous users, we’ve changed the guidelines to accept submissions from non-members for consideration. And actually, we hope non-members *will* submit videos, as well as members. The deadline to post your question is January 16 (see the instructions here), and we encourage those of you who are inclined to participate in the election this way to ask your questions, whether you’re a member or not.

The second issue came up on the ALA Council email list when councilors began trying to plan their schedules for Midwinter. Even though we’re on our third vendor for the planner and we’ve requested changes to what was the default service, clearly this tool still isn’t what it should be. We got some valuable feedback from Nicole Engard and Jessamyn West that noted other concerns, such as a notice that the site recommends Internet Explorer and security issues around making the password the same for everyone and then posting that password on the page itself. Mea culpa (us-a culpa?) on both counts.

We’re going to put this issue to rest once and for all by working closely with the Website Advisory Committee to research and outline exactly what members need and then create it. As some of you know, we’re currently beta testing ALA Connect, which is our new collaborative work/online communities site built on open source software called Drupal. Since each conference will be its own community in Connect and it already uses your ALA login and password, it makes sense to put the event planner there. Naturally, this is going to take some time, especially since we haven’t even launched Connect yet, but we’ll shoot for having a new planner ready for Midwinter 2010. We’ll keep you posted about progress over on the ITTS Update blog, which is also where you can track what’s happening with Connect.

The third issue that piled on top of the event planner happened on Monday when we opened registration and housing for Annual 2009.  I saw at least 27 tweets, not to mention complaints on Facebook and FriendFeed, plus a desperate plea from Karen Coombs on her blog (did I miss any – let me know). We’re truly sorry for the frustration this caused everyone, and it’s not going to happen next time. We’re still talking to Experient about this one since they’re the company to which we’ve outsourced this function, but we’ll be taking steps to make sure that the confusion, busy signals, and frustrated clicks don’t happen in the future.

We’re also going to talk about how to communicate better (differently) when something like this happens again. For example, I was thrilled to see Lorraine Squires tweeting help for the revised start time and Anne the Librarian retweeting that info. Don’t think we didn’t notice that, and thank you both for helping. In fact, thank you to everyone who cared enough to post about any of this in order to get our attention. Consider it gotten.

With Midwinter just over two weeks away,  hopefully we’re sailing into calmer waters, but let us know if you run into choppy water and we’ll try to help.

ALA 2009 Annual Conference Registration Opening changed

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

The opening date for registration and housing for the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, July 9 – 15, 2009 will now be on Monday, January 5, 2009. This is a change from our originally published date. The ALA offices now will be closed on January 2 (see prior post). Therefore, we delayed the opening because we want to make sure we have all our staff available to answer any questions or solve any problems you might have. January 5 will also be the date the Bundle buyers will be able to go into the system and make their housing reservations and sign up for any pre-conferences or additional events.

Thanks for your patience regarding this change. If you have any questions about it, you can contact Deidre Irwin Ross, Director, Conference Services.

Apply for a Travel Grant to the ALA Annual Conference

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Other bloggers are discussing the cost of attending an ALA Annual Conference. I’m going to help you do something about it!

Last year I prepared a list of all the travel awards from ALA and its divisions and round tables. This year, I’m happy to say that there is near one-click access to the entire list on the new website. Start at the home page,, click on “Awards & Grants” in the left navigation, then on “Publications, Research & Travel” next to the picture of the open wallet in the middle of the page. The listing you’ll find has all the travel awards in one place.

The time to get your application together is now, as for most of the awards the deadline is the first business day in December. Thousands of dollars in travel awards are available to ALA members and interested professionals through the generosity of vendors and other sponsors. Check out the requirements for these grants. Apply for yourself, or nominate a member of your staff or a colleague.


Midwinter Registration on the ALA Website

Monday, August 18th, 2008

It has been brought to our attention that we said information on the 2009 Midwinter Meeting, to be held January 23-28, 2009 in Denver, would be posted on August 15, and that date has passed.  So what’s happened?

Lots, as it turns out.

ALA–both staff and the volunteer web developers–has been working for many months on a major revision to our very large (70,000+ pages), complex Web site.  At the Annual Conference in Anaheim members had the opportunity to see the new design.  This design may be previewed at a staging site.  As part of the transition to the new site, we “froze” the current website, except for the news feeds on the home page, as reported in a press release and on this blog.

But before freezing the site, we did publish information on the Midwinter Meeting, and this information is accessible three ways:

  1. Through the logo link in the upper right quadrant of the current home page;
  2. Through the preview site: starting at, click on “Conferences & Events” in the left navigation, click on “Upcoming Events,” then 2009 Midwinter Meeting, bringing you to Midwinter site; and
  3. Directly (bookmark this, if you bookmark anything).

The functionality at the staging site is limited, as we are working behind the scenes to transfer and reorganize content from the current site to its new structure.  Some paths, such as that indicated above, work as intended, even if some intermediate pages are still skeletal; other paths do not work at all; and yet others do not work as intended, but allow us to understand what needs to be adjusted.

In summary, registration for the “bundled” registration will be available September 2-30, and regular registration opens October 1.

Annual2008 Report (State of the State?)

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

For Midwinter and Annual each year, Keith Michael Fiels prepares an update of ALA activities for Council and the Executive Board. Here’s his latest report. Dates and locations for Council and Board meetings are available on the Annual 2008 wiki.

The Unofficial Guide to Annual 2008

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

picture of Mary GhikasI guess the history is that Mary Ghikas, Senior Associate Executive Director of the ALA, used to put together an informal snapshot of numbers and events for each conference as an insider’s guide for staff. But word leaked out about its usefulness, and the document would get forwarded around to Council and other groups, so now it’s become the unofficial guide to conference and we post it here for everyone, staff and members.

So without further ado, here’s Mary’s 2008 Annual Guide (175kb PDF). Give it a read-through, put it on a flash drive, download it to your laptop, print it out if you need to, but it’s one of the most helpful documents you can take with you to conference.

Introducing the ALA Conference Materials Archive

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Last year, as part of the ALA 2007 Annual Conference wiki, we set up a section for conference presentations, podcasts, and other conference content for use by registrants afterwards, and for extending the content of the conference to others. Meanwhile, the ALA Website Advisory Committee took up the challenge of finding ways to ensure that conference materials are more widely available, particularly as sessions are no longer audio-taped.

The upshot is a new the ALA Conference Materials Archive, on a wiki at The wiki already includes links to last year’s materials, along with links to similar material from some of ALA’s units. The goal is for all collateral conference material to be linked in some way from this wiki.

So, if you are a speaker at the ALA 2008 Annual Conference in Anaheim, here is the place for you to upload your handouts, or to publish links to your material, if it is resident on another site. Posting materials prior to conference ensures immediate access by attendees — waiting until after the conference means missing a valuable opportunity to share their knowledge and insights. And if you are interested in “going green,” then placing your handouts here will help! Once you add your materials to the wiki, please note this during your presentation (add “view or download more information at” to your last .ppt slide, for example).

The wiki is pre-loaded with program titles (taken from the final AC 2008 program book listings) and is organized by day/time. Full instructions on using the wiki, including the attribution license, and a suggested convention for organizing materials and links, appears on the wiki.

Now, if you will not be with us in Anaheim (still time to change your mind!) or if you have one of those inevitable conflicts, know that there is now a place to find the conference material, this year and into the future.

Please know that you can always contact the ALA Library ( for assistance with locating more about a particular program.

Karen Muller & Valerie Hawkins