To Conference (verb)

by Katie Archambault on April 21, 2014

As I contemplate what to pack for Dallas and worry about blinding new and old friends with my pasty winter legs, I can barely contain my excitement.  You see, professionally AND personally, this is one of my favorite weeks of the year.

This post is for conference veterans and newbies alike. A bit of AISL conference advice. Please use the comments section to build on this.

How do you conference?

What to wear? (Thanks Jen Weening—I’m adding this after reading your email to the listserv!). During the day, you’ll find a little bit of everything, from jeans to dresses and heels. I vote for business casual during the day with comfortable shoes as you’ll be doing a lot of walking. I also layer so I’m ready for heat and AC. Bring something fun for the Skip Anthony banquet. It’s your chance to exchange your Clark Kent façade for fun, stylin’ Superlibrarian.


The hospitality suite: when you arrive at the hotel you might find yourself feeling road weary. You probably have a fantastic new book in your carry-on and some comfy pants calling your name. Fight it. Go by your room to drop your bags, freshen up, then head to the hospitality suite. When you arrive there, grab a snack and a glass of wine and get ready to mingle. It might be uncomfortable at first, but putting faces with names and learning who you might have some things in common with (single sex? Elementary, middle, or upper?) can open up doors to meaningful conversation and perhaps even genuine friendships by the end of the conference.  Not your first time? Look for new faces and make them feel welcome. Revel in reconnecting with old friends and putting listserv names with faces, but look for conference newbies to draw into conversations. I really appreciated those that did this for me my first year.

Meals and bus rides are equally valuable. Even if you are an introvert, don’t miss this opportunity to connect. At times, these conversations can be as educational as the workshops that you will attend.

Talk to boys! Men tend to be in the minority at our conference. It’s uncomfortable to be in the minority. Ladies, let’s make sure we’re making them feel welcome and included as well.

 Practical Advice

Carry a notebook or device for note taking at all times. When you’re on the bus and someone starts talking about a fantastic book they’ve read that you or your students might also like to read, write. it. down. You probably think you’ll remember. You might. But if you’re like me and your “brain plate” gets full, these details might fall right off. I also take people’s cards and write on them what it is we discussed and anything that I want to follow up on when I get home. It will help, trust me. Try to sit with someone new on the bus each time. It’s quality time built into your day as you travel.

Bring a camera or device to take pictures. Take a picture of the name of the library before you start snapping away—you might want to email the librarian to discuss specifics later. You will see some awesome displays, new titles, furniture, spaces, quotes, technology, programming, etc.  Take pix of slides in a presentation if they are particularly good or relevant to something you’re interested in. Record all of this inspiration to recreate in your own space or to include in your conference report when you get home.

Take pix of student art to share with your art teachers. Do the same for other student work displayed in the library or on campus that might inspire a class project. Innovative recycling program in San Fran you say? Bring it to your school! I first saw Read posters done for middle and upper school teachers of the year at a school I visited during an AISL conference and that became an awesome tradition at my last school. Reading programs, book displays, ways to integrate book carts into 3D book displays, tech integration…pix are always good to show administrators great ideas in action when you get home.

Use social media to engage in conversation with our colleagues who are unable to attend this year (#AISL2014 @AISLDFW)

Have FUN, but not too much fun. Be remembered for your fabulous ideas, not for your fabulous table dance moves. ;-)

Take advantage of every opportunity offered to you. The planning committee has spent an incredible amount of time and energy thinking through what you should see and do in their town. Even if you’re really tired, push yourself to go on that tour, visit that museum, see that sight. Some of my favorite AISL memories include seeing Niagara falls for the first time, visiting wine country, touring the Country Music Hall of Fame, catching a Rockies game in Denver, dancing the night away with a 360 degree view of the San Francisco skyline, and touring the Naval Academy last year, just to name a few. [Note, I missed Las Vegas because I had a new baby. There are surely some good stories from that one.]

I absolutely love this conference. It is my professional ‘cup filler’ for the year. To avoid information overload, I come back and choose 3 action items to either begin on immediately or to plan for the next year. I keep my notes and refer back to them at least once a year. It’s amazing to see some of the same issues from my first conference in ’07 still relevant today.

These are just some of my suggestions for getting the most from your time in Dallas. What did I miss? Please share comments, questions, or suggestions of your own below. Until then, I’ll pack my boots and sing…

“The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas!”


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