Maybe it's just the aroma of freshly-minted galleys in the air, but I'm excited about conference season.
This weekend, the American Library Association is having its annual MidWinter Conference in Boston and you can bet I'll be there with bells on. ALA MidWinter hasn't been in Boston for several years; the last time, I was still in library school and a librarian coworker of mine actually told me not to bother going- can you believe that? Now, MidWinter is different from ALA's big Annual Conference in that there are many, many fewer programs- it's mainly a business/committee meeting- but still. It's always worthwhile to attend, even it's just for the publishers' programs and the exhibits. I'm looking forward to all the socializing- there are tweetups and a LibraryThing event and all kinds of opportunities for hobnobbing. Bring it on!
In the midst of all the excitement, a group of bloggers headed by Trish of Hey Lady Whatcha Reading? has put together a day-long mini-conference just for book bloggers following on the heels of this year's Book Expo America (BEA), on May 28. BEA is the big publishing-industry trade show and conference, open to librarians as well as people in the for-profit side of the book industry. I regretted not going last year, when so much was going on for bloggers but it just wasn't possible. So as soon as I signed up for the blogger con, I realized that I might as well sign up for BEA while I was at it. So now it looks like I've got a pretty good week coming up in May after all!
What this means for my usual conference schedule is that I'll probably be skipping the Massachusetts Library Association's annual conference, which takes place about a month before BEA. I don't have an employer that pays for conference expenses and my personal travel budget is limited to about one of these things a year. I've been going to MLA for the past three years and find it to be a very rewarding event. The networking is great because everyone's local to me and MLA's programs are excellent- a miniature version of ALA and over the years I've learned a lot and made some good friends there. I'll miss it but it's the right decision for me this year.
The first big conference I attended was 2006's conference of the Public Library Association, held in Boston a mere subway ride from my home. I attended great sessions on everything from business topics to new releases to "Bollywood, Bhangra and Books," a session about Indian movies, music and reading that helped guide me into a new-to-me area of media. The reader's-advisory sessions about genres that I don't read are my favorite things because they give me basic information and the tools for further exploration. After PLA I started watching Bollywood movies using the suggestions from the session and it opened up a whole new world. Since then, I try to get to at least one session on a genre I don't know well so I learn something different and new every time.
When I can get to ALA's big conference it's a good time, between the library sessions, author events and exhibits. It's in Washington this year, which makes it at least a possibility. I went to ALA in Washington three years ago and it was a blast. It's not useful to me for networking because it's just so big, but it's like a carnival of books and reading and library information. And it's amazing how many people I managed to bump into, despite the size!
Sometimes I go to the Association of Jewish Libraries' annual conference as well; I went last year and got a lot out of it. AJL is the conference that's most directly related to the work I do so it's definitely worthwhile! I don't know if I'll be going this year; it's being held in Seattle over Fourth of July weekend so I have some questions. BlogHer also has an annual conference, held this year in New York. I would love to go but I'm not sure about the budget. A couple of years ago BlogHer held a mini conference in Boston and I would love for them to do that again! Readercon is a local conference on science fiction and fantasy that I'll surely attend as it's a 20-minute drive from the house and very affordable.
And you? Do you attend any of these conferences? Or do you attend other professional and/or hobby-related gatherings every year, or when you can? What do you like about them? What do you not like? I would go to every single one of them if I could; there's always so much to learn and nothing does more to inspire me than being with my peers and friends who are just as excited about this stuff as I am!