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Do ALA Right: . . . and Night, by Kirby McCurtis

Angie told you how to make the most of every minute of your DAY at ALA, but y’all know some of the best networking, PLN building and unfortunate karaoke video evidence (Hi, Sophie!!) comes out at night. How do you know what parties to go to? How do you get invites?

Every great party I have ever attended at a conference, I got to by following Kirby McCurtis (@kirby_mcc) around. You guys know that Kirby is one of the best, right? She’s a killer storytime provider, social activist and friend. She is heavily involved in ALA and has impressed the hell out of a lot of really important people who might want to hire you someday. She is also more than willing to introduce everyone talented she knows to everyone important she knows. And she can dance. Basically, you need to cultivate her friendship, and then ask her about literacy outreach to teen moms, and then be in awe.

We asked her to tell us how you get into the best parties at ALA. Here’s what she said (GIFs, as per usual, are my own addition):

HOW TO DO ALA BY NIGHT, by Kirby McCurtis:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!! No, not Back to School for all you readers with kids or Christmas/Hanukkah for all the “kids at heart.”  It’s Annual Conference time! Whether this is your first conference or you are a vet, remember one thing and one thing only: Ain’t no party like a library party. For reals. If you haven’t had the time of your life at at least one conference, where you woke up the next day with sore feet and no voice, then you have not been “conferencing” right. But have no fear! Me (Kirby) and Angie are going to give you a sneak peek at our social calendars for Vegas and you can join in the fun.

Angie and I agree that social success at conference comes down to two things:

1. Running your mouth and 2. Listening. That is it. No secrets other than talk to folks and listen to them. If you have something in common, fantastic! If not, move on.  Fake is not fun, and trust me–your kindred spirit is out there in the crowd.

I am heavily involved in ALA–I am on Council, NMRT board, and a few committees. Basically, for me conference is WORK time. I’m typically power walking from one meeting to another, trying to pop into a Conversation Starter or a Program as time permits. That means night time is my social networking time. I will go out every single night I’m in town, starting Thursday. This is the only time I can connect with folks that don’t have the same focus within ALA that I have and I cherish this time. If large groups are intimidating to you, bring a buddy. If you don’t think you will know anyone there, think of it as the perfect opportunity to meet someone new. And BE FLEXIBLE. This is what my schedule looks so far, but of course new invites can be accepted at any time 🙂


Thursday June 26, 2014

8:30 pm All Conference/ALA Think Tank Pre- Party Pub Crawl

This is the Conference kick off party and EVERYONE is invited. This is the only event that costs money (tickets are $42) but you get a heap of goodies for the cash, including:

  • Free Drinks
  • Drink specials
  • Menu discounts
  • Free appetizers
  • No cover charges
  • No lines to get in

If you have ever been the Vegas in the summer, and tried to hit a bar or club on the strip you know the no cover charges and no lines aspect of this deal is completely worth the money. Party starts at Blondies (Miracle Mile, Planet HWD)

Friday June 27, 2014

10:30 pm Urban Libraries Dance Party, Vince Neil’s Tatuado (Circus Circus)

This dance party happens every year and is always a good time, whether you are on the dance floor or not. This year’s host is Urban Libraries Unite, a group dedicated to reaching out into the community with creative tactics. I will be out on the dance floor so find me if Drake comes on.


Saturday June 28, 2014

9:00 pm Annual After Hours Party

If you’ve ever heard about a  Mango Languages party but didn’t get the invite, do a little happy dance, because this year you don’t need the VIP invite. Mango has joined with my favorite PAC EveryLibrary and Treehouse for the ALA14 After-Hours Party at The Arts Factory in Las Vegas.


Open bar and DJ courtesy of Treehouse and Mango. Bring your badge! Enough said.

The Arts Factory is conveniently located between the new strip and the old strip in the thriving Las Vegas Arts District. It’s public transportation and cab friendly. Donations for EveryLibrary are most welcome at the door.

Arts Factory Las Vegas
107 E Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89104

Monday June 30, 2014

5:30 pm Library Games

First there were the Olympic Games, then the Hunger Games became all the rage. Combine the two and you get The Library Games. Audience participation and voting will be crucial to the outcome, so make sure you are there!


8:00 pm Libraries Build Communities Social

Join Librarians Build Communities to enjoy laughs and conversation at the Laguna Champagne Bar on The Palazzo casino floor!


Do ALA right: Day, by Angie Manfredi

Ninjas, ALA is coming.

ron panic

You may be a first timer, hoping you can do enough networking to make the expense worth it. Or, you may have been to many conferences but feel like you always miss out on the cool shit everyone is talking about on Twitter the next morning.

We reached out to two geniuses of DOING ALA RIGHT, and they gave us their secrets to killing ALA.

Angie Manfredi (@misskubelik) is a woman who leaves ALA every year with no regrets. She knows EVERYONE at EVERY publisher. She has in depth MOMENTS with amazing authors. She goes home and is a ROCK STAR to the kids at her library. How does she do it?

HOW TO DO ALA BY DAY, by Angie Manfredi:

During one ALA Annual conference I spent just about two and a half hours waiting in line to get Rick Riordan’s autograph.  (When I actually got up to meet him, I almost wept with excitement but that’s a story for a whole other day.) Now, I am sure I could have spent that time in a meeting or a roundtable discussion or a workshop.  In fact, to many people the idea of spending that long just waiting in a line while so many other professional development activities are happening might seem nothing short of wasted time.

Yet these two and a half hours were invaluable to my library.  I came back with a signed Rick Riordan book to use as an end-of-summer prize and the sheer excitement of this HUGE incentive kicked up our summer reading participation for the entire month of July, with our patrons reading more than ever in an effort to win the book.

I often tell this story when people ask me for tips on how to get the most out of their ALA experience or how to “do ALA right.”  Why?  Mostly because it shows there is no one right way to “do” ALA.  But also because how it illustrates some of the biggest benefits I’ve ever reaped from ALA have come from walking the exhibit floor, an activity you might hear dismissed or disparaged.

I’ve served on committees and spent my days in meetings.  I’ve attended program after program.  These are experiences I cherish and experiences that make ALA unique.  But I list along with those experiences my exhibit floor experiences, which have helped connect me to publisher and vendors in a way I truly believe makes me better at my job.  I think this is the kind of networking and growing as a professional that I can’t do anywhere else.

How can YOU gain these benefits too?  Here’s a few tips that have helped me over the years.

1. Talk, talk, talk!

The people in the booths want to talk to you.  They want to tell you about their books and their programs.  In fact, they are there to talk to you.  Please do not think of the booths as a place you go to load up on free stuff.  If you do that, you might walk away with free stuff but you will never make connections. And the free stuff pales in comparison to learning people’s names, finding out what they read, and having them see YOU as a person.  Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had at ALA are with the people working in the booths.  They’ve read a lot of the same books you have and they relish discussing them in depth.  Oh, the pleasures of just talking about books!  Take advantage of this chance, it’s way more valuable than free stuff. (even if free stuff is books.)

2.Share what you do!

The reps working in booths also want to hear what their books actually do and mean to people.  Have you made a cool flannelboard based on one of their books?  Tell them about it, show pictures.  This is what THEY come to conference for and THIS is how you meet and connect with people.  Did they publish a book that makes your story time rock?  Share that with them.  Do you have a teen who gushed and loved a book?  Explain how and why.  You never know who you’re talking to – it could be someone who worked directly on the book or someone who is looking for exactly this kind of feedback as they work on other books.  This is how they connect with you as a person and a practicing librarian. This is how they come to know you and this is how they’ll remember you. (and yes, you should have cards with your info to hand out.

Once I spent fifteen minutes rhapsodizing to a booth rep how much I loved the book Essex County by Jeff Lemire.  At the end of my reverie, he pointed to the guy next to him. “This is Jeff Lemire,” he said calmly.  I gaped.  “Hey. that was cool,” said Jeff Lemire.

rainbow vomit

(How I imagine Angie coming face to face with authors -C)

One year when Jon Klassen was signing, I carefully cut a small piece of red paper to look like a hat. This was a simple take-home craft I’d done for my story hour kids when we read I Want My Hat Back I brought this one all the way to ALA. When I pulled it out and posed with it to show him just how much I loved his book, how much my kids loved it, how I made it real for them – he laughed with sheer delight.

And what did Jon Klassen do next, you ask?


Authors, illustrators, editors, publishers – THIS is what they want to know their books do. WE are the ones who do it and we should share it not just with our peers, but with them too.

3. Do things on your terms

Sometimes the best times to talk with people, to browse slowly, to go to the Demco booth and have them demo things for you is during sessions.  But I’m not telling you to skip sessions to go to the exhibits or to a signing.  UNLESS that’s what works for you.  UNLESS that’s a decision you make for a certain time or a certain reason because you think you’ll get the most benefit out of it.  You’ll get the most out of ANY aspect of ALA, exhibits included, if you do it on the terms that work for you and your objectives.

4. The buddy system works

Do you have a friend or colleague who has been to ALA before? Do you have an online network you’ve never met in person?  ALA is your chance to make all that gel in real life.  I’ve had some of my best experiences wandering the exhibit floor with colleagues – it makes everything less intimidating and more fun. Are you on social media?  Ask to meet your social network in real life!  Ask someone you know who has been before if they want to take a walk around with you.  Ask if they know booth reps and can introduce you or have tips about what works for them. Or take another ALA newbie with you and just start walking and talking.  I’ve even been helped by friends who aren’t present: “My friend Kelly says this book is just amazing.  She reviewed it on her blog and was tweeting about it and I can’t wait to read it.  Do you have any advance copies?” Not only was this a true statement but it, again, made me into a real person who has real colleagues active in these conversations.  It makes me more than just another pushing face shoving books into a bag – it makes a connection they’ll remember.

All of my conference experience begins and ends with the same advice: just try to be a person.  Better still: try to be the person you really are, the person you are when you love your job and you love librarianship more than anything.  That shines through.  That makes people remember you.  And that’s when the fun really starts happening.

cat dj

(This is the fun starting -C)

Even if you find yourself standing in front of Rick Riordan unable to form complete sentences… (ah, story for another time, as I said.) Please feel free to ask me any ALA related questions (I’ve been attending Annual since 2006 and have only missed one annual conference in that time) I didn’t answer here or about any other thing!  I hope to meet up with many of you face to face at our Guerilla Storytime sessions as we shake, shake, shake our sillies out.


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