Today started with registration. SM and I decided to get to the Convention Center early to beat the crowd that was arriving today. This was a good move. By mid-morning the line was out of control.
My first official meeting of ALA was the OCLC Enhance Sharing Session at 10:30AM, so after getting our conference bag and all the stuff, SM and I enjoyed the free wifi in the Convention Center for a bit before finding the meeting room. This particular meeting I had offered to take notes for the facilitator (since I’d be taking notes for myself anyway, why not send him a copy), so I had to make sure I arrived in plenty of time to get set up and comfortable. It was an excellent sharing session for this particular cooperative program, and had one of the largest numbers of attendees I’ve seen at it (I’ve been attending this sharing session for several years now). Lots of good questions, and even better, answers to those questions. The best kind of sessions always include answers. I had a brief meeting with the session facilitator about some questions my institution had about the program, and got answers for those too to take back with me. An excellent beginning to my ALA.
After the sharing session, I was meeting my best friend from library school for lunch. BF and I both went to library school to become catalogers, so we spent a lot of time together, especially since we started the program at the same time. We had at least once class a semester together, sometimes more. We make a point to have a reunion at every ALA so we can catch up. This time, we both had Friday afternoon open, so we had lots of time.
We wandered down NW 7th Street to a restaurant named Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. OMG. Authentic delicious Mexican food. AUTHENTIC Mexican food, people. It was FANTASTIC. I had a grilled salmon fillet with a stew of tomatoes, garlic, onion, capers and olives, and guacamole on the side. They have an option of ordering tacos, with 7 varieties to mix and match for however many or few you want. BF chose three tacos, and devoured them all. To make it even better, their tortilla chips were fresh, with a great seasoned salt on them, and their salsa was a smoky roasted chipotle. We were both in heaven. I do believe I’m going to have to come back on a future trip. Their menu looked fantastic, with a selection of ceviches and antojitos (tapas) that looked really good. I had a hard time deciding, and ultimately our server recommended the salmon. Good call on his part.
We both had plans to attend a forum at 4pm, so after lunch we took a walk and fortified ourselves with some iced coffee. Unfortunately, the forum was not what we expected, so we slipped out between panelists. BF headed to another session, and I found myself an outlet in the Convention Center and decided to enjoy the free wifi for a bit before my reception at 6:30.
I signed up to be a mentor for the New Members Round Table (NMRT) this year. Surprise, surprise, I’m doing more mentoring. Conferences are hard to navigate; they can be extremely overwhelming. I know the value of having someone to give you helpful tips and suggestions about how to get the most out of it without killing yourself. I’ve done this enough that, just like for NASIG, I feel comfortable taking on that role. I “unofficially” mentored my best friend SE at the ALA Midwinter conference, and she told me that I was very helpful and she was really happy for the advice. So I figured if I could do that for her, I could do it for someone else too.
The NMRT set up a reception just for the mentor/mentee pairs to help us find each other. With almost 20,000 (yes, 20 thousand) librarians at ALA, finding people is like hunting for a needle in a haystack if you don’t have concrete plans to meet up. My friends and colleagues and I all text each other to find one another or randomly meet at various sessions. I’ve gone whole conferences without seeing a single colleague. After having some difficulty finding the hotel (it had changed names and I foolishly had not noted the new name on my schedule), I arrived at the reception to find that my mentee was already there. We sat and chatted for awhile, talking about the best way to “attack” the overwhelming experience that ALA can be for a first timer. Unfortunately, there were no snacks, so by around 7:30ish I was quite peckish.
I called SM to find out where she and a some friends who had arrived only a couple of hours earlier were so I could meet up with them. They had gone to RFD (Regional Food & Drink) on NW 7th Street not too far from the convention center. They have quite a large selection of beers, and pretty standard pub fare. While talking to SM, my friend AC walked up. Since neither one of us had eaten, and she was hungry too, we headed out to meet up with SM, JM and TP. By the time we arrived, they had finished eating, but were enjoying the beer selection and decided to stay for awhile longer. I ended up ordering some fish and chips, purely because JM said they were tasty and the batter was a beer batter made with Rogue Dead Guy Ale (one of my favorite Pacific NW beers!). The fish was crispy and well cooked, and not too greasy. And the beer I had washed it down nicely.
After eating, JM and TP wanted to head back to spend some quality time together (their toddler is with grandma and grandpa this weekend!) and SM was tired, so we started walking in the direction of everyone’s hotels. I had talked about meeting up with my friend B for pints at Kramerbooks, and AC wasn’t tired yet, so we continued on. B and her roommate for the conference JN met us there. I hadn’t seen JN since Midwinter, so we had a nice chat catching each other up on all our personal gossip.
Knowing we all had an early start on Saturday, we didn’t stay long. But it was wonderful to have the opportunity to reconnect with friends from all across the country. Hopefully there will be more of that over the course of the weekend.