Some of the librarians and bloggers who wrote about ARC’s at the ALA Annual conference convey a sense of entitlement. They seem to think because they are a blogger, they deserve this title first. Or, because they are a working librarian dealing directly with children they are more entitled to receive ARC’s. Some think they paid higher rates to attend conferences so they are entitled to more. Others think they are the only ones paying their way to conference so they are entitled to receive more free books.
I think all of these ideas are flawed. Nearly every person I meet at ALA Conference is paying for the conference from their own money. Some people do a better job than others at sharing rooms, rides, etc. to reduce expenses. The day I left for conference I lost my roommate and needed someone to help split the room costs. I was unable to find anyone last minute, but my colleague graciously helped out instead of leaving me with a heavier bill. I was willing to share but unable to locate a roommate last minute.
We librarians and bloggers need to make conference attendance cheaper and easier on our own. Our employers aren’t paying as much to support our professional development as before. It’s a fact of life and we have to move on. We also should acknowledge those chips on our shoulders where we think others are getting a free ride while we are working harder without help.
We cannot rely on an organization like ALA to further reduce costs because conferences are supposed to earn them money so they can accomplish the goals of the organization. Already they are bargaining for services. All who registered through ALA for housing had free wi-fi – big bonus for me! Next annual all programs will be in the convention centers so we don’t have to ride in cabs to minimize travel time.
We need to find more ways to save in a grassroots way. A faster quick app for finding a cab share, a quick way to locate someone else to dine with so you are not alone, a room-share program that is safe and fast acting. Ways to identify programs that are free. Ways to identify meetings that allow guests to join in when snacking. Of course, if you attend these please use common courtesy and decency. I took photos of the Carnegie dessert dash afterwards where the hotel staff looked alarm like the librarians were going to trample them to get to the desserts and stack plates with 12 desserts high. They were frantically moving the tables to create two lines and trying to set down trays of desserts without forks stabbing their arms. Seriously, folks, were you that desperate? Plus, I saw how much money some of you were willing to shell out at Starbucks every morning and sometimes every time you walked past.
Another way to save money is to find a better way to share ARC’s. Some people frantically grab ARC’s in the exhibit hall only to get back to their rooms and realize they have no desire or intention of reading the title. I have asked housekeepers in hotels what it’s like after an ALA conference and they will talk about the huge amount of paper and books thrown in the trash the final day while packing. Is there a better way to re-use these ARC’s? What if we had a central gathering point for collecting unwanted books at the hotels, airports, and convention centers?
About exhibitor passes. I love them. There is great value in bringing in local people to take advantage of vendors they might never see otherwise. $25 for the whole conference is super-cheap. I could understand a raise in that price, but confess my husband attended on a $75 pass so he could follow me around the exhibit hall carrying my books and slip into some of the big presentations to watch me introduce speakers last year. It was a great deal for us to have him there to help. If he’d had to pay $25 each day, he might not have accompanied me, but he would have found plenty in the city to occupy his time.
Let’s look at attendance numbers, too. Exhibitor passes are counted as part of the final attendance. The number of fully paid registrants and vendors at the recent conference was lower than desired but expected with the economy. With the addition of reduced price exhibitor passes and complementary passes provided by exhibitors, those numbers added up to slightly more than last year’s total. Vendors and exhibitors want to see a large volume of attendees. If you are a reader, you are a customer. Not just a librarian, an author, or a huge purchaser.
Conference venues move around the country. Some places are able to draw in huge numbers of local people who attend for only one-day. Places like Washington, DC and Philly have huge populations able to cheaply avail themselves of the conference. Other places in the west may have more difficulty attracting local people due to travel distances & costs, or simply because the population is lower. ALA doesn’t restrict itself to only the elite markets. It moves around the country to provide more balance. In fact, there is systematic planning to enable more participation across the nation. I’m not speaking for ALA here, just sharing knowledge I’ve gained watching over the last ten years. I know that if the conference is in Chicago, the numbers will be higher. New Orleans will be lower. I appreciate the opportunity to travel to a wider variety of cities and see libraries in different locales. I also appreciate some locales where the hotel rates are $100 or less a day compared to others with $250 a day rates.
But back to the original point I was going to make. Whether you are attending the ALA conference as a librarian, a teacher, a blogger, a reader, or just some bored local who loves going to conferences, you should be welcomed. We do not have a caste system in librarianship. I refuse to think some academic librarian or director of a large public library is any better than a local school librarian. I value all our positions and won’t deem any more worthy. That extends to books. Yes, it would be great if I could just collect everything I want, but life isn’t fair. We learn that in school (hopefully) and we move on.
In education we always know there will be a small number of people who do the wrong thing initially, but their behavior will change. They’ll start to “conform” to expectations, peer pressure will apply, some will master the system and change it. Yet always those numbers are small. When it comes to making changes, the first thing we should consider if whether it is necessary or not. Are publishers offended by the bloggers who pick up titles, read them, and rave about them on their blogs? I don’t think so.
Should librarians find ways to obtain ARC’s when they are busy in committee meetings? Absolutely, if they think it is a significant problem and needs a solution, then that’s a problem that can be addressed. Sometimes it’s through communication. Did you talk to a vendor and ask what they’d been giving out? Some will be happy to ship to you if you ask. Have you asked if the ARC’s are available on netgalley or if they could send you an electronic file?
Do you want that ARC because you are dying to read the story or to score a book? I’m not judging, just asking you to consider your own motivations. I confess to being a book slut and desiring all the books. I could easily be a book hoarder, but I also share widely and try to curb my excesses. I thought about turning on the video camera to discuss my recent “haul” of ARC’s but when I started describing them to my hubby and his eyes glazed over, I thought “Naw! Not that many people would understand.”
Don’t look for me to post videos of hours of bragging which books I obtained. I just don’t see all of you getting as excited about the same variety as I do. That is one area where I expect peer pressure will weigh on the bloggers who did post videos that set off the librarians. You can decide for yourself who is right and who is wrong.