ALA Annual Conference Insights with ALASC and Leigh Milligan

iStudent Blog

Published: March 7, 2019 by Havilah Steinman

The American Library Association’s Student Chapter here at the iSchool hosted a wonderful event about the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference earlier this week. The conference, which will take place from June 20 to June 25 in Washington, DC is an excellent opportunity for students to make new connections, broaden their perspective and above all have fun with other like minded librarianship professionals! 

Leigh Milligan, lead librarian at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital and president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Special Library Association, presented at the event and shared her insight with students as a previous attendee of the ALA conference.

Milligan described the basic components of the ALA conference. These include educational sessions which are classes on a variety of ALA topics, and the exhibits hall which is an open space where library vendors give away books and other items. Milligan also advised new conference attendees to take advantage of the orientation sessions hosted, which give an overview of the entire conference. 

Milligan also recommended checking out the Conference Scheduler on the ALA website, and in years past there has also been a mobile app. Milligan commented, “This helps you plan out what sessions to attend in advance, gives you time to walk from one session to another.” Milligan also emphasized the casual feel of the sessions. She advised, “If you get to a session and you’re not into it, you can leave and go to a difference one.”

Another excellent feature of the conference is the ALA Job Placement Center. Workshops on cover letters, resumes and interviewing are hosted for attendees of the conference. In addition, the conference includes a career fair, which Milligan commented, “felt like library speed dating!” The career fair specifically helped her learn about open positions, and work on communication skills with librarians. She even was able to hand deliver her resume to hiring librarians libraries at the conference!

Milligan shared that she was definitely overwhelmed by how much free stuff was given out at her first conference. She advised attendees to ask themselves how the items would benefit themselves or their library before jumping to grab everything. If you’re still worried about the incredible amount of information covered at the ALA Conference, check out Milligan’s blog post Ten Conference Tips for a First Timer, which is sure to put you at ease. Another great resource specific from one of our previous blog writers is A Week in My Life at ALA Annual Conference, which gets you up close and personal on the conference itself!  

She also commented on the importance of self care during the conference. Milligan advised taking breaks between sessions instead of taking too much on at once. Attendees should explore the city as well as the conference, and remember to have fun! Due to the conference’s location in Washington, DC, and changeable weather of the East Coast, Milligan encouraged the classic librarian look of a cardigan during their time at the event. One of our awesome iSchool professors, Patty Wong, hosted an event entitled Surviving and Thriving at Professional Conferences, where she also offered great insight into how to have the best experience at conferences in general! 

If you’re unsure if you will be able to attend the conference this year but don’t want to miss out on all the fun, take heart! Milligan has written the blog post, What to do when you are #ALAleftbehind, which gives in depth instructions on how to stay involved with the conference even when you’re not there.

Last but not least, if you do attend the ALA Conference this year be sure to attend the iSchool reception! This event within the conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet faculty, alumni and other students. In addition, students are invited to present a poster at the iSchool reception! The deadline to submit a proposal is April 30. Check the iSchool alert email for more details or contact iSchool Student Services with further questions. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the ALA Conference from the perspective of a conference veteran.


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