Saturday, June 30, 2012

ALA Anaheim

The last time ALA was in Anaheim, I left mid-day Sunday to fly to San Antonio for ISTE (worst idea ever, for the record, don't do it). So I had sort-of dreaded going back, but even with the mile-long blocks and chain food, it was all good this year, probably because I didn't have to up-stakes mid-conference.

I don't bring a lot of paper home with me, since recycling seemed like the rule of the day after Council, but I am the kind of geek that would like to save everything. But this IS the 21st century, musn't it all available online somewhere? I did bring back some paper -- the resolution School Librarians and Libraries Are Critical To Educational Success, which it was thrilling to see supported by both academic and public librarians -- and the proposed changes to ALA Conference (think more closely located campus, everything captured electronically, with themed strands and fewer sessions at the same times). I also have some numbers I jotted down on attendance -- Anaheim 16,231 (11,850 + 5,381 exhibitors) versus New Orleans 18,061 (12,792 + 5,269 exhibitors). I know the treasurer gave use a three-year breakdown on figures including Exhibits Passes at Council II, but I think I recycled that document. I need to find it as it seems germane to #arcgate.

I have been under the weather with a post-conference bug, but my feed reader is dominated by one topic. I have only one thing to say about #arcgate. A few midwinters back, I had a couple of roommates. One was a school librarian, another a college student. Neither needed to be at Midwinter for committee work, but both came, taking days off work and school. To get ARCs.

They practically moved into the vendor booths for the duration, wrangling invitations from the publisher's reps and carrying away bags after bags of books (including a couple for me, which was kind as I was busy running from meeting to meeting). But as I drug myself out of bed at 6:45 one morning, I remember looking at their recumbent bodies and thinking this was not fair. But It's not fair in a human decency sort of way, but neither are many acts of discourtesy and rudeness that cannot be legislated against.

I think it's interesting how this is playing out. For the organization, isn't it all ultimately about attendance? That bottom-line metric used to negotiate everything from conference rates at hotels to, most relevantly, pricing for exhibits and sponsorships. And more exhibits only badge-holders figure increases that overall total. So even if you, as a librarian and active organizational member, are offended, I am not sure that selling an $25 exhibits-only pass to any random "blogger" is dissimilar to the organization in revenue terms. You, in your meetings, require all that AV set-up, and pitchers of ice water, and hard candies in dishes. And there seem to be too many options, too many half-empty rooms.

I took 17 ARCs during the exhibits opening Friday night, few enough to send in a box FedEx described as small, but enough to cost me $45 to ship. If my past pattern holds, I will buy about half of the titles. Which is much better odds than if I just see the book in a catalog. And, frankly, I buy almost all the books Little, Brown sends me, because they are particular in what they promote. And I've found once you read something, you want to be able to recommend it. So I do think ARCs are a good investment for publishers in terms of both selling books and generating buzz.

All told, I was in the exhibits those first 30 minutes and then for another half-hour on Sunday afternoon. On my second trip in, I got one other ARC. It was one I knew a friend particularly wanted, and the rather illustrious, Printz-honor winning author was standing right there to inscribe it for her. And there was no line. I had to get to a meeting.

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