Wednesday, July 03, 2019

#ALAac19 : I went, I saw, and I was overwhelmed!

Supreme Court Justice Sonia SotomayorThis year, I attended my first American Library Association Annual Conference. Yes, my first! I spent more than two decades involved in the Special Libraries Association and made that my primary affiliation and conference home. While I had been around the edges of a couple ALA Annual Conferences, I had never fully immersed myself.  This year, I dove into the deep end!

The conference was June 20-25 in Washington, DC with most of the events being on June 21-24.  There was too much happening for me to blog during the conference, so my hope is to catch up this week, including a post on digitization vendors. So stay tuned.

I want to note the size of this conference, because most people have no idea how mammoth it is.  This year, the total attendance was 21,460 participants. That was higher than 2018 (17,599 in New Orleans) and lower than 2017 (22,702 in Chicago).  It was also lower than the most recent annuals that were held in DC.   The 2007 conference in DC had 28,499 attendees and 95+ exhibits.  In 2010, the conference was again in DC and had 26,201 attendees.  Participation in the ALA Annual Conference does vary based on location, with some locations being more desirable than others.  While 21,460 is lower, the conference is still huge given number of rooms needed for sessions, the number of hotel rooms used, the sheer number of concurrent sessions, etc.  It is a conference where you cannot see or do it all, even if you never slept.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Let me tell you about one session.

Many authors speak at ALA and this year Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was one of them. Justice Sotomayor is the author of My Beloved World, Turning Pages, The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor, and the forthcoming Just Ask!  She was a warm and engaging speaker, who wandered the ballroom as she spoke. She shook hands with people and had her photo taken with those who asked her questions (questions were submitted in advance).  As you can see from the photo above (she is off in the distance in a white jacket), there was security present, whom she said was there to protect her from herself!  However, she did note that no one should make any sudden moves.

From her talk, one thing stood out to me and it was in response to a question.  Justice Sotomayor said that how she writes legal briefs has changed since she has been writing children's books.  A children's book need to be focused in terms of topic and pages. Her legal briefs have become shorter and more focused, according to her law clerks and she seemed quite pleased with that.

While I have not read any of her books, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her talk about herself and her books. And I pleased to know that someone who is so down to earth is serving on our Supreme Court.

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