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Libraries Ready to Code librarian offers tips for ALA conferences

Note: As we are on the cusp of ALA’s 2018 Annual Conference this week, Stephanie Frey from Georgetown County (SC) Library System takes a look back at ALA’s  2018 Midwinter Conference and offers tips for making the most of your Annual Conference. Keep reading for more information on the Libraries Ready to Code Youth & Technology track at ALA 2018.

As a part of the ALA Libraries Ready to Code project I was able to attend the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver.  Along with meeting with other members of the RtC cohort, I had the chance to participate in many Midwinter Meeting activities.  I’d never been out to the midwest or a library convention and was unsure of what to expect besides massive amounts of people. After much consideration, I found that each of these elements led to me have a fantastic time at ALA Midwinter, helped me deal with how huge and overwhelming an experience it can be, and enabled me to get the most out of the conference.

Members of the Libraries Ready to Code cohort meet at ALA’s 2018 Midwinter Meeting in Denver, Colo.

Sit in the Front

I cannot stress this enough: sit up front in panels you attend.

Normally I tend to sit in the back at events. ALA Midwinter already had me so far out of my comfort zone that I decided to give sitting up front a shot, and I got so much more out of it. Sitting up front put me in contact with the most excited and energized people; their energy and sheer glee was contagious. Everyone had so many ideas and was eager to get right into solving whatever problem was thrown our way. At the beginning of each session we were handed sticky notes to keep track of our ideas, and every time it was the groups in the front rows who had forty or more sticky notes crammed full of ideas. With so many ideas flowing, I had so many different epiphanies on my own programming.

For each panel I found the same and some new, eager faces sitting up front ready take away everything they could learn from the experience. It was so much easier to make friends, get to know my cohort and get so many ideas going.

Exchange Ideas

ALA Midwinter puts you in the proximity of other librarians, so many other librarians. Not only were these people eager to present ideas, they were extremely friendly, too. It made it so easy for me to share my own ideas, experiences and challenges, as well as contribute to theirs.

The strength and best benefit of being around other librarians is how the format encouraged everyone to share how they handled a variety of problems common to all library branches, such as pulling older teens into coding activities, attracting students to return and finding online resources for the right age groups. Finding that everyone else was facing the same challenges and finding their own ways of powering through them was empowering. I discovered that some of them used grant money as paid internships to incentivize teens to run their own programs; some encouraged parent involvement to get students to return; others introduced a wealth of other resources, including Google’s Applied Digital Skills courses.

The convention environment was very welcoming to just throwing ideas out there. We bounced so many unpolished ideas at each other, which made it the perfect place to collaborate. I ran into one librarian in every panel I attended, and by the end we determined we needed to do a collaborative project together using Google Docs.

Set Goals

ALA Midwinter was huge; there were hundreds of people to see and the list of panels went on for pages. As a member of the RtC cohort, I was provided with a list of program recommendations, and it helped immensely. Using these suggestions as a guide, I was able to plan my weekend. I was also able to glean plenty of fantastic information, and even more fantastic contacts, by interacting with other librarians interested in the same kinds of programming. I discovered things like Citizen Science Projects, HOMAGO (Hang Out Mess Around Geek Out), and a much simpler way of getting data by having patrons mark a single statement that they feel most applies to them. Having my schedule planned ahead of time made it that much easier to focus on collecting data instead of focusing on where to get the data.

ALA Midwinter was an amazing event. Seeing what people are doing in their own libraries and sharing ideas with others was such an empowering experience. I hope these tips are helpful if ALA Midwinter Meeting or Annual Conference are in your future.

ALA Annual 2018: Libraries Ready to Code Youth & Technology Track

Don’t miss the beta release party for the Libraries Ready to Code Collection on Friday evening (5:30-7:00 p.m.) at the interactive Google space on the exhibit floor (#4029), where you can preview and give your expert librarian feedback on the pilot Collection using the latest devices.  

‘Bridging the Tech Knowledge Gap: Empowering Your Community Through a Seamless Youth Experience (YX) Design”Friday, June 22, 2018 (9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.)

Speaker: YX students and Dr. Mega Subramaniam, Associate Professor and Associate Director for the Information Policy and Access Center (iPAC) at the University of Maryland.

Libraries Ready to Code: From Concept to ProgramFriday, June 22, 2018 (1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.)

Speakers: Libraries Ready to Code cohort library staff and leadership team – Linda Braun (ALA learning consultant), Marijke Visser (ALA Washington Office) and Nicky Rigg (Google)

Libraries Ready to Code: The Inside ScoopSaturday, June 23, 2018 (10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.)

Speakers: Libraries Ready to Code cohort library staff and leadership team – Linda Braun (ALA learning consultant), Marijke Visser (ALA Washington Office) and Nicky Rigg (Google)

Leap into Science: Cultivating a National Network for Informal Science and LiteracySunday, June 24, 2018 (2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)

Speakers: Tara Cox, manager of professional development at The Franklin Institute, and Karen Peterson of The National Girls Collaborative Project

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Marijke Visser

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