This was my first ALA as a member of council. And you know what, I actually really like it. I blogged a fair amount about my experiences at this conference over at my work’s blog. In that process, I realized that there’s a lot about council I would have liked to have known, even before being asked to run for election, so I decided to do a series of posts over here on the topic. I plan to address how one gets to be on council, what it’s like as a new member, how votes are cast, what ALA looks like as a conference once you’re on it, etc etc. If there’s anything specific you’re interested in finding out more about, let me know in the comments. I’m totally new to it, but if it’s within the realm of things I can comment on, I’m happy to do so.
So, to kick it off, I thought I’d look at a general overview of how council sessions run and what obligations a council member has at conferences. I’d heard horror stories about excruciating debate on the floor and no free time at all, and (at least from my perspective) that wasn’t the case at all.
The overview: the business of council happens in three sessions + an ALA-APA session. There are a huge number of other meetings you can choose to attend or not, and many are things that would be really good to attend, but the meat of council takes place in about 10 hours, and most of those are complete in the morning before lunch. Again, there are lots of other meetings that make sense to attend (orientation, forums, membership meetings, executive board elections, division meetings, etc), but those are all extra beyond the required council meetings.
This picture is from the area I sat in for council. There are four screens and a podium. Two screens are for transcriptions. Two are for letting everyone know which document is being discussed/voted on/etc. Much of the council sessions are built around getting reports from various places within ALA. In the case of this midwinter, much of the debate around resolutions took place in the third council session. I really found the debate to be fascinating. Some of it did go on and on, and of course it’s frustrating when people are taking time to reiterate a point that’s already been well established or is counter to your own thinking, but overwhelmingly I really enjoyed hearing what intelligent, passionate, and thoughtful people had to say about issues facing the field. People in council really cared about what they were standing up to talk about, and that showed.
The thing that was most striking about this conference, for me, was how different it was from ALAs where I had divisional duties, and ALAs where I mostly went to learn. In such a large conference, there are really a number of smaller ones, and this particular smaller conference was a whole new animal to me. I’m looking forward to learning my way around this one as I have the “other” ALAs before.
So, details forthcoming in future posts.
Another thing that may be of use to some: my husband and baby came along for this conference. They won’t be going to annual, but at 8 months Leif is still just a little too dependent on some of the things only I can do to leave for a week, and it was a lovely location for all of us to go to. So, for folks in a similar situation, this is how we chose to handle it:
- We all went for the whole conference. I packed a larger-than-needed suitcase so we could take a bunch of familiar toys and books.
- I went to all required meetings and a handful of optional-but-useful ones. John and Leif had daddy/son time during those periods. They played in the room with the toys and books, went on walks around town, and sometimes met me over at the convention center.
- Once I had met my commitments, or had a little free time, we’d meet up for a meal or to hang out. We made sure to have two good blocks of time to do vacation-type things (we went to the zoo and the beach) so that it wasn’t just like John was solo babysitting the whole time.
- We flew out the day after my last meeting. Being on the west coast, the only flights that left with enough time to finish my last meeting and get to the airport were going to be red-eye flights, and that was just a step too far for the little one. It was also a step to far because in addition to conference responsibilities, I still had mom duties, and Leif doesn’t let us sleep through the night yet. Giving us an entire business day of travel gave us the energy to endure when Leif needed super-entertainment to make it through the last leg of the flight home.
All that being said, ALA with the family is a very different conference from ALA without the family. I’m going to appreciate being able to go to everything and all the socials next time around, though I also really enjoyed getting to see my family so much at this one. If you’re thinking of traveling with a little one and want to chat over any logistics, feel free to get in touch!