Sunday, January 4, 2009

Your guide to ALA

Registration opens on Monday for The Annual American Library Association Conference to be held this summer in Chicago -- July 9 - 14. Those of you who have been to ALA before, go head and ignore this message and move on to another one.
If you have never been -- here's some of the things I've learned. (searching through my files to find my usual ALA information -hmmmm.)

These are thoughts off the top of my head, with no order of importance:
1) You need to click on this link. That's where ALA posts most of the information the ordinary conference-goer needs to know about the 2009 summer conference in Chicago in July. Hotels (location/ prices), registration form, and eventually the tentative schedule of events.

2) During the first few minutes of open pre-registration, I have a feeling that the publishers and exhibitors are online making reservations. Which means that, by the time the rest of us think of it, a lot of the rooms are already booked. I was on the waiting list for a while for the hotel I really wanted last summer, but finally did get in Probably because the publishers overbook and then let rooms go when they don't need them.

3) No, there is not ONE single conference hotel that most people stay in. You can choose from inexpensive to very expensive, all that the nice conference rate. Most are about $200 per night, so don't faint from sticker shock because the normal prices of those rooms in downtown Chicago are over $400/night.
The Headquarters is the Hilton -- but it's halfway away from everything. Although free ALA busses run during the day, keep in mind the possible expense of taxis home during the evening from any event elsewhere.
There is one hotel next to the convention center -- but the same thing applies. It's convenient during the day if you want to rest, but inconvenient during the evening if you want to party.
All the rest of the hotels are in the Chicago Loop and are nicely located near everything. Plus you have that free ALA convention bus to take you to and from any meeting at any hotel and at the convention center. Those are the hotels I'm aiming at. (see ALA website for list and map)
--All of the hotels have internet, some wireless some high-speed. Plus there are two Internet rooms at the convention center.

4) What days to plan for?
If you are not a librarian, you don't need to get there for the Pre-conferences on Thursday and Friday. Arriving Friday or Saturday morning will ensure you the full weekend at the exhibits. And it does take two days to walk the exhibits, especially if you want to attend meetings, too. Since I wear both a librarian hat and a writer's hat, I go frantic during this time going back and forth.
-- Friday evening is the Booklist presentation, always an interesting event. Last year the first ever Audio awards were given out then. See Odyssey (sp) awards.
-- Exhibits open early Saturday morning. I never make it to the grand opening. (food and goodies being handed out at booths.) They close about 5 pm Saturday and Sunday. I forget when they close on Monday. Goodies are handed out at various times during the day, so you might reach an exhibitor who has run out and doesn't plan to offer more until mid-afternoon -- or Sunday.
--Should you get an Exhibits Only pass, or should you register for the whole conference, or should you get a one-day registration, or should you ask your publisher to sponsor you with a publisher's pass to the exhibits? It's up to you. The regular registration allows you to enter any meeting. Sitting in and listening to the discussions of Best Books for Young Adults committee or the Notable Books committee, etc. is interesting. You never can sit in with the Newbery/ Caldecott/ Prince/ or other award committees. They are private. If you are interested in other author presentations besides ours, you will need a regular registration, not just the exhibits pass. On the other hand, if you've already gotten your publisher to agree to sponsor you, you can move around anywhere with THAT pass, too.
-- There are various luncheons where they give out awards to people. You have to pay extra for that. Sunday evening is the Newbery/ Caldecott Banquet. This is a bit dressy and a lot of fun -- especially if you loved the winning books and would like to come cheer for the authors/ illustrators. (see Fuse #8's blog and my blog about that event. Others, too) It's going to be difficult for this year's winners to follow the wonderful program that last year's winners gave.
-- The exhibits are not as crowded on Monday -- a lot of the working librarians and the general public, who came to get author's autographs, go home. Which means you can now go re-visit some of the exhibits that you would like to examine more closely. Why? It's a good way to see what publishers are producing -- what appeals to them. Think about what you might have you could send to them. Ask them if they are accepting submissions. (some are not, right now) But, of course you know that you do NOT carry your manuscript with you and thrust it at them. Unfortuately, most editors are NOT at the booths on Monday and the Marketing people who are there might not know the answers to this question.
--The exhibits are about one third book (and audio/video) producers and one third electronic/ computer/ technology services and one third furniture salesmen. With some program suppliers thrown in the mix.
-- If you overload yourself with goodies, there's a post office inside the convention center so that you can mail them home.
-- Get an Author Badge. They are available at the Walk-In Registration booth. Now, I know you-all will be pre-registered, but once you have your ALA stuff from the pre-registered area, get thee over to Walk-In and get the Author badge. People LOVE to talk to authors. Plus, with that author badge on your nametag, you can go anywhere.
-- meetings. Do go to the ones where publishers talk about their latest books. (you'll also get a goodie bag from them with some of those books in it.) Listen carefully as the editors explain just why these books are good ones. It gives you clues as how to improve your own writing.
-- If you are interested in the Siebert Award (for best non-fiction) and the Geisel Award (for best EAsy Reader, which does include nonfiction), then try to get to the ALSC (Asso. of Library service to Children) annual meeting on Monday, about 10 am. Last year Mo Willems gave the funniest speech, as he tried to accept the award using an easy-reader script.

What else would you like to know?

-wendie old

1 comment:

laurasalas said...

Hi Wendie--Great info you're sharing here and on the NFforKids list! I have a ? for you. I don't know yet if I can go to ALA. Totally depends how finances are closer to the time.

For a by-then trade-published (for the first time) author/poet who's REALLY bad at small talk and schmoozing, can you tell me what you think the benefits of going are? I'm trying to figure out what my goals would be there, if I end up being able to go.

And if I do end up being able to, will there even be registrations and hotel rooms available closer to the time?

Thanks for any thoughts you can share!