Some time ago, there was a little back and forth between librarians and bloggers on Twitter. The bloggers were commenting that ALA wasn’t as good as BEA and the librarians were upset because they felt that their comments were disparaging.
Please remember that ALA is the annual conference for librarians and we take it seriously. I am also a blogger and I know the feeling of wanting all the ARCS but I’m also a librarian who attends ALA for enrichment so please be respectful. Bloggers and librarians have a common goal which is to get the world to read so hopefully we can all live in harmony.
What is ALA?
The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world, providing association information, news, events, and advocacy resources for members, librarians, and library users.-ala.org
There are two conferences every year, Annual and Midwinter. Annual takes place in June/July and Midwinter is in Jan/Feb.
What Happens at the Conferences?
The conferences are about 4 days long-Friday through Monday and is held at a big conference center. You may notice that the conference repeats cities: Chicago, Vegas, Florida, Boston, Philly. This is because 8,000-20,000 librarians attend and these cities have facilities large enough to accommodate us. This year, annual is in Orlando.
During the conference there are educational sessions for members/library workers and an exhibit hall. You must be an ALA member to attend the sessions but anyone can visit the exhibit hall. An exhibit hall ticket costs about $75 for all three days. Visit ala.org for more info. Click to register and click the link that says, (This includes Exhibits Only and anyone not wishing to join at this time)
If you are a blogger who just wants to go to the exhibit hall, purchase the exhibit only pass. That will give you entry to all exhibit hall days for one flat fee.
The Exhibit Hall
The exhibit hall is divided into two sections, vendors and publishers. Vendors are usually selling library products but you can score some great free stuff such as: lip chap, bags, t-shirts, candy, buttons, hand sanitizer, etc. I know it doesn’t seem very exciting but when it’s free, it’s like winning the lottery.
Now for the Important Part-Publishers Row!!!
Almost every publisher is there from HarperCollins to indie publishers. They bring ARCs to give away and the beauty is that you don’t have to stand in line unless it’s a highly coveted ARC. For example, I ran and stood in line for 30 minutes to get the ARC of Cress. This rarely happens. They sit the ARCs on tables or the floor and you walk by and grab one. Extra Tip: Bring a work mule such as a husband, boyfriend, wife, girlfriend, or friend to carry more books and to get those books that publishers only allow one per person.
There is usually no schedule for ARC releases; you just have to walk back and forth. You can frequently pass the big publishing houses or you can ask the reps. They will tell you what ARCs they are giving away and when. Extra Tip: Do your homework. If there is a specific ARC you are looking, know who the publisher is and ask if they are giving it away. Sometimes they keep the really good ARCs under the table.
There is other coveted stuff that publishers only release at certain times such as a bag. I stood in line for the Throne of Glass bag. Extra Tip: Publishers usually have bags sitting out and up for grabs. Bags are HIGHLY desired and quickly gone. If you see they are all gone or if there is a bag you’ve had your eye on for a long time, such as Throne of Glass bag, ask the rep. Sometimes they are hiding under the curtained table. Extra Extra Tip: If you see someone with an awesome bag, ask them where they got it. Sure they’ve been asked 100 times already but they get numb around 52.
How Am I Supposed to Carry all These Books?
The exhibit hall usually has a coat check for $2-$3. Since you technically aren’t allowed to bring a wheeled bag on the floor, check your bag and dump your books throughout the day. It doesn’t cost extra to do this. The coat/bag check is usually downstairs where you pick up a cab (the opposite side of where you enter).
When you hit the exhibit hall floor, head for the DEMCO booth. DEMCO is on the vendor side but they give out a huge blue bag. Vendors give bigger bags than publishers.
Take a backpack to give your shoulder a break.
Don’t forget your work mule!
There is a post office on the exhibit floor. The books pictured below cost about $50 to ship from Vegas to Chicago with the media rate. The bad news is that I stood in line for a total of 4 hours throughout the conference. Extra Tip: If you are staying at a hotel, use the hotel’s post office. Sometimes the convention center has a FedEx, use this one instead.
Authors and Signings
Most of the big authors are at ALA. Unlike BEA/BookCon, you don’t have to get a ticket to meet an author. If an author has a book coming out in summer or fall, they will be there.
Authors sign in-booth. There is a schedule for author signings. It’s not up yet but if you visit ALAAC 17 there will be a list that usually posts one week before the convention. If you are serious about it, you can print a map of the exhibit hall with publisher booths. There’s usually an app that allows you to create a schedule. I usually create a schedule on the calendar on my phone, it works just as well.
More popular authors will have lines. I think the longest line I stood in at a conference was for Judy Blume-1.5 hours and Mary E. Pearson-1 hour. If you bring a work mule, they can stand in another line if there are two authors signing at the same time. When you are finished, take your mule’s place in the other line.
At ALA, some publishers will give the book the author is signing for free (the published books). The most notorious publisher that makes you pay for books is Scholastic-$3 paperback; $5 hardcover. These are great prices but come on Scholastic, you can spare a free book!
Make sure you have cash. Some publishers don’t accept credit/debit.
You can have authors sign a book you already own. They’ll sign anything. Extra Tip: I know sometimes we get excited about meeting authors but please don’t take a long time to gush. There’s a line, people! Extra Extra Tip: Get a book signed by that author that only have two people in their line. You never know, they might be famous one day and the book is free.
The Exhibit Hall is More Than Just Books
Book Buzz Theater-There will be author panels and signings.
Pop Top Stage-More author panels and signings
Two Final Thoughts
If you stay ’til Monday, publishers don’t want to carry all those books back so they give books away by the butt load. They also sell books for a fraction of the cost but you will need cash. HarperCollins and Penguin give all their books away for free even HC. They usually let everyone take 5 books but there is ALWAYS a long line. Hover around their booth around noon.
Bring your own water because you might get dehydrated and it’s very expensive if you buy it in the exhibit hall.