A Report Back on the Library Conference

I’m slowly getting back to normal after the MLA/MASL conference Sunday and Monday. When I first signed on as Vice President of the Maine Library Association, I’ll admit I didn’t completely understand all the things I’d be in charge of taking care of. One of the biggest things I didn’t see coming was just how complicated it is to run a big conference. (Even for values of “big” that are 250 people or so.) Planning for this first started almost a year ago, and it’s been a long and winding road to get to where I am now, with the conference in my rear view mirror at last.


It was a crazy busy weekend, however. Sunday was a 17 hour work day, starting at 6am setting up the conference site and finishing at 11pm when I delivered our keynote presenter (Eli Nieburger) to his hotel. In addition to just trying to be present to help people as problems arose, I presented 5 different times (on cataloging, academic libraries, MLA’s business meeting, resource sharing, and social media tips).

For a person who doesn’t relish socializing, it was quite the weekend. I thought it might be interesting to go over some of the things I went through over the course of it. (This is by no means exhaustive. I’ll just list the first few things that come to my head)

  • Sunday morning, a big line was developing at registration, so I stepped in to help move things along. It was a good idea in theory, and I do think I helped, but I didn’t realize how many people I’ve met over the course of my 7 years in Maine libraries. Many of those people were in line. They would come up to me and cheerily greet me, and I really ought to have known their names. All their names. And their faces. Except I’m bad with names *and* faces. (Short aside to show just how bad I am with faces. Freshman year of college, I went on a blind date with a girl and we really hit it off. Spent like 4 or 5 hours with her on the date. And for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what she looked like after that date. I knew she was blonde. I knew generally where she lived. But that was it. I spent the next week smiling as cheerily as I could at every blonde girl I saw, just on the off chance it was her. Folks, if I can’t remember what a girl looks like–a girl I was really attracted to and whom I spent an entire evening with . . . I think I definitely have a problem.) So I had to continually admit to people that I couldn’t remember their name, something I hate admitting. I began to get flustered, and then that really messed me up. I started switching people’s names in my head. I gave the Dean of Libraries at the University of Maine the registration packet that belonged to the State Librarian. I know and work with both women, and it’s crazy I was that off-kilter. Thankfully, people were understanding. I still feel bad about it, though.
  • Some of the panels I presented on were perhaps even more useful to me than they were to my audience. I came away with some really great ideas for things MLA can be doing in the future to help librarians of all types, and I’m excited to try them out. My presentation style as a librarian is pretty much the same one I have as an author. It’s helpful that I’ve been on so many fantasy panels at writing conferences–the practice on those definitely transferred over to the library side. (Then again, I haven’t read the evaluations of the panels I was on yet. That’s one nice thing about writing cons. You never have to see what people thought of your presentation . . .). In this case, it really helped that I had picked my co-panelists. They were fun, easy going people who also really know their stuff.
  • Yay food. I was pretty impressed with the offerings the Cross Center in Bangor had for us. I’m used to conference food that’s pretty middle of the road–or worse. But we had everything from whoopie pies to chocolate fondue. It was all tasty, plentiful, and I ate way too much. (Stress + buffets = bad idea for Bryce.)
  • I didn’t have much time in the vendor hall, between everything else that was going on, but I did duck in to check things out. I was walking up and down the aisles, I turned, and suddenly I was face to face with a pig. A big, fat, very much alive pig–right there in the hall. Apparently people were being asked to kiss it? I never did have the chance to find out more about it, but that was a first for me. I wonder if I can see a walrus next time.
  • The keynote by Eli was really fantastic. Thought provoking and entertaining–everything I’m looking for in a keynote. (Interested to see what he talked about it? Here it is:)

It was a crazy few days, and it’s over now. I’m very glad it went as well as it did, and I’ll never go to another conference without thinking of the time and effort that has to go into a conference to make it all come off without a hitch. I can’t imagine what planning a WorldCon or a Comic Con would be like.

I came home yesterday afternoon, and I still hadn’t gotten my 2,000 words written for the day. The temptation to just blow it off was very great. My brain was pudding, I had slept horribly the night before, and the last thing I wanted to be at the moment was creative. It took me over 2 hours to churn it out, but I got it done. That right there is the value of specific goals for me.

Anyway. Here I am on the flip side. Glad the conference is over. Many many thanks to all the people whose hard work went into it. Now, to get ready for a trip down to Pennsylvania at the end of the week. Huzzah!

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