Resources for First-Timers

Are you a First-Time attendee? Find tips below to navigate the conference.


The Basics

Information Kiosk ImageBe sure to wear your nametag to meetings, social events, and on the conference shuttle buses - but not on the street. Always carry snacks, drinks and business cards.

  • Reference the maps provided in the conference program book to find out how best to get around the convention center, exhibit floor - and to find conference hotel information.
  • Take advantage of the free conference shuttles to get between events.
  • Explore your interests - or - learn something new.
  • Take notes during, or just after sessions, while the session content is still fresh in your mind.
  • Take the opportunity to meet people. Pass up listening to music, social media, etc., when you could be networking.
  • Keep updated with: 1) Cognotes, the daily, on-site conference newspaper; 2) the Conference Scheduler; and 3) the twitter hashtag, #alamw18 for last-minute schedule changes or social event updates.

Design Your Conference Time

  • Use the Conference Scheduler to design a customized conference experience: Find the programs, poster sessions, discussion groups, speaker series, parties, etc. that match your interests and expertise, and/or topics key to your position responsibilities and organization initiatives.
  • Be sure to note travel time when scheduling your conference activities. Have alternate events in mind in case you don’t have time to travel, the program you intended to attend is at capacity, the event is not what you expected, or cancelled. With so many people onsite, it's ok to arrive late or leave early if necessary!
  • Allocate enough time for the large Exhibit floor; don't try to see everything at once. You don't want to pick up all the “swag” you see - it gets heavy. But feel free to use the onsite Postal Center on the Exhibits floor to ship items home.

Network & Get Involved

  • You are not alone!  You should ask questions and learn from the thousands of librarians and related professionals from a myriad of backgrounds who are attending the conference with you. These individuals may currently, or in the past have faced the same challenges as you. If so, they'll have acquired the solutions you may need. They may also have the position you aspire to, seek them out as a potential collaborator or mentor.
  • See a panel guest or facilitator you respect. Don't hesitate to introduce yourself - exchange business cards or contact information.
  • If you want to get involved in the association, a specific division, round table, and or committee, attend meetings and introduce yourself to the chairperson, director, etc. Note that it’s acceptable at times to arrive late or leave early committee meetings if necessary.

Stay Connected, Apply & Share the Wealth

  • Make and keep connections!  Make a note on the back of business cards you receive to trigger your memory of the exchange. Send follow-up email messages to the contacts and presenters you meet.
  • Apply your experiences. Take time to review the notes and materials you collect as soon as possible when you return home, and how you plan to use the information in your position/library.
  • Share and discuss the new ideas you learned with your co-workers.

Additional Resources

How to Conference Like a Champ

A helpful and tip-filled blog post by ALSC member Amanda Yother after her first ALA conference.

Ten Conference Tips for a First-Timer from Leigh Milligan

Based on her experience at 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Leigh Milligan wrote an article for INALJ (the I Need a Library Job eResource center) for first-time attendees like her. Thanks to Leigh and INALJ for permission to include her helpful tips here. Read the full article.

A quick overview of Leigh's 10 Tips:

  1. Attend an orientation session.
  2. Bring business cards and network.
  3. Prepare a small 30-second speech about yourself.
  4. Attend career sessions at the ALA JobList Placement Center.
  5. Volunteer at the conference.
  6. Attend meetings for Divisions and Round Tables you are a member of or are interested in.
  7. Attend educational sessions, but also attend something fun.
  8. Use the conference app.
  9. Make time for the exhibits hall, but don’t grab too much free stuff!
  10. Attend socials not just ALA sessions.

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