A little over two weeks ago I got to attend my first ALA Annual conference. It was an exciting experience… and so exhausting. I was there not just as an attendee, but as an author. Lucky me! I was thrilled to be representing three of my publishers: Charlesbridge, National Geographic Kids, and Nomad Press.
Why exhausting? I spent four days on my feet about 10 hours a day discussing all things BOOKS. It was awesome!
If you haven’t been to an ALA conference yet, you should go. It is definitely something to see if you love the literary world.
So what did I learn in my first adventure into ALA?
1) ALA is HUGE! Seriously. The room is massive and is FILLED with exhibits from every type of book imaginable: children’s (PB, CB, MG, YA), trade, educational, self-published, Adult books of many different genres, graphic novels, and even self-help books. There are places to buy benches for your library, consultants to help you plan your technical needs, and also representatives from the Library of Congress and NASA.
My recommendation: Go in. Take a deep breath and get your bearings. It’s a lot to take in all at once.
This gives you an idea of the massive size of the convention area. This is one of their empty rooms. It was actually twice this size. The other half stretched under the walkway I was on. See? HUGE
2) Use your Conference Directory
Yes, it’s a massive tome in and of itself. But it has all of the information you need. In fact, take a good look through it and make notes of things you want to do and people you want to see. There is a comprehensive list of authors who will be signing and if you know where they are you can get in line… EARLY!
That will save you the time of seeing a huge line, wondering who is there, and walking around to see that you missed the one awesome kidlit author that you definitely wanted to meet. (Yes, that happened to me a couple of times)
3) Get a COGNOTES every morning
This is the newspaper that the conference puts out. Every morning at the top of the stairs, people are standing their handing these out. Many people (like me) don’t take one. That is not a good idea. This is a GREAT source of everything that is happening that day.
4) TAKE THE FREE BOOKS!!
Every publisher is handing out books for FREE. They are just stacked on the tables and you can take them. It’s like being a kid in a free candy store.
People kept asking me “Would you like a book?” UM YES!!
This is just one small stack of the 20 books we came home with!
5) Find the Book Buzz Theatre, the Pop Top Stage and the Graphic Novel &Gaming Stage
These stages host various authors and editor speakers talking about fascinating topics. I was thrilled to be on a panel with Anastasia Suen and Chris Barton talking about STEM books for kids!
6) Take time to meet up with author friends
With author Miranda Paul at the We Need Diverse Books Booth
Meeting author Sylvia Liu for the first time
7) Spend quality time with your editors
With Alyssa Mito Pusey of Charlesbridge Publishing
8) Talk to many wonderful librarians about your books!
Playing BRAIN GAMES at the Nat Geo Kids booth
Whew! Are you tired yet? And I didn’t even get to go to any of the hundreds of fascinating workshops and programs put on by amazing librarians, editors and authors.
There were so many things to do and see, you can’t possibly get to them all. So here is a short summation of some of the highlights of the conference:
For an amazing wrap up, I give you ALA Annual’s very own video. Go to this page and click on it: http://2016.alaannual.org/
The ALA Archives has a great summary of many of the wonderful presentations here: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/tag/alaac16/
Some fabulous images from ALAAC16 shared by School Library Journal here
Matt de la Peña gave an awesome 2016 Newbery acceptance speech. It is a must-read! You can find it on the Horn Book Website here
So are you game? Plan to attend the next ALA conference?
Here is my final piece of advice : Try to pick a few events that you want to attend and then fill in the rest of the time just walking around and seeing it all. But whatever you see and do, just drink it all in. After all, its ALL ABOUT BOOKS!!
***** Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 25 books, mostly about STEM, because, well, STEM ROCKS! You can find her at her website: www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com