How Not to be a Total Tool at Conferences

I am so backed up on blog posts it’s pathetic. How do other bloggers bust out one post a day? I would die to death. I wish I had the schlitz, but I don’t.

I recently attended School Library Journal’s Day of Dialogue. In many ways it was *awesome*: I got to listen to Sharon Creech, Libba Bray, Walter Dean Myers, Jon Klassen, Eoin Colfer, Rebecca Stead and so many other amazing authors. I also got to listen to two separate fifty-somethings have long cellphone conversations right next to me. Were their houses on fire? Had their children just broken both their legs in a tragic t-ball accident? Nope. They were having totally banal, nothing, boring-as-dirt conversations. They didn’t take the call outside, they didn’t care that an author was addressing the audience, and they didn’t seem to be bothered by the nasty looks I was shooting them.

What the h-e-double-toothpicks was going on? How did I end up librarian-crazy town? What would possess a person to pay money to attend an event, take off from work, trek all the way down past 9th Avenue and then ignore the entire presentation? I have no idea. Beyond the two talky twins, I witnessed several other baffling behaviors.

I hate to blog angry, but maybe we all need a refresher on how to behave at conferences, meetings, and presentations.

  1. Get off the phone. Seriously. Put the day aside to participate in the event at hand. If you can’t do this, maybe you shouldn’t show up. Often these places are packed to the brim with librarians, so chances are you’re right next to someone who doesn’t want to hear about your family or work issues. Silence your phone. PUT IT AWAY. “BUT,” you announce, “I can’t turn my phone off! I have kids/coworkers/bipolar hamsters! They depend on me. I HAVE RESPONSIBILITIES THAT A PINK-HAIRED SMART ASS LIBRARIAN LIKE YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND!”
    Whoa. You’re right. I’m so sorry about your hamster. I have cats, myself, and they’re just like part of the family. That’s why I put my phone on vibrate. If one of the cats calls, I scoot out of the room all graceful-like just like a little pretty princess and take the conversation outside. Let’s face it. You don’t give a crap about my cats. You’re selfish like that and you deserve to be. I fully accept that you’d rather hear what Candace Fleming has to say about non-fiction than listen to my fat mouth yapping away.
  2. I get it. It happens to me too. I go to these librarian hootenannies and I see tons of people I haven’t seen in forever (like, in a week) and I am tempted as hell to recap every last mildly entertaining library anecdote. “Wait until I tell you what Mr. Miller did this week! It’s a real wacky story full of belly laughs and guffaws, heart wrenching moments and family fun and I need to tell you right now this very second and I can’t wait because it is so hilarious.”
    No, it’s not. I promise you, it’s not. I tell Mr. Miller stories all the time and they’re not that great. I understand the urge to tell them, but I guarantee that you can wait until a better time. These events are usually full of tons of breaks. If not, you all need to high-tail it to the ladies’ room. It’s made for good library gossip.
    There’s nothing wrong with the occasional aside or whispered comment, but when it dissolves into a full-blown gab-fest, you need to show some restraint. You would think that in a room full of children’s librarians, there would be an understanding that we all need to use our inside voices when the important grown-ups (i.e. not me or you or your friend) are talking. Keep it down, take it outside, or feel the kind of shame that comes when one of your own kind shushes you. It’s not cute. Let’s keep it cute.

  3. WE ALL WANT THE NEW REBECCA STEAD ARC. Do not push or shove me to get it. I’m a five foot tall girl who rides the subway every day. I might push back and I’m stronger than I look.
  4. Don’t be like me. I have a short attention span and am easily distracted. I have two reactions to rude audience members. One is of total sarcasm:

    The other is built of absolute rage:

    Neither is very pretty or becoming. During the most recent SLJ Day of Dialogue, I was near two women who would not stop yapping. The conversation went on way too long, they were too loud, and I was getting really impatient and cranky. Right when I was about to bust into, “ARE YOU CHICKS F*CKING SERIOUS?”, my friend politely leaned over and said, “I’m sorry, ladies, I can’t hear.” Boom. Done. The ladies apologized and kept quiet. My friend didn’t lose her temper, get unnecessarily sarcastic, or draw attention to the situation. She did way better than I would have.

We’re all guilty of some of this crap. I wish I knew why we did it: Why we think it’s OK to disrespect authors and other librarians or why we try to get away with shenanigans we wouldn’t tolerate from our patrons or students. I do know that we’re better than this and it’s got to stop.

Thank you for listening to me during what I think is my first mean librarian post. Do you have any librarian-related pet peeves? Or is everyone just way less irritable than I am?

~Love and Libraries, Ingrid

14 thoughts on “How Not to be a Total Tool at Conferences

    1. You got it and you go. Thanks for being angry about it and doing a much-needed rant. I despair with the nattering that goes on and on and on…by professionals no the midst of presentations. These are the same folks that go ballistic when a patron is yapping on the cell phone while in the midst of a reference transaction at the desk. My new conclusion: people are so self involved that they have lost 1) politeness/civility and 2) they have no ability to self-monitor/self-reflect

  1. georgia

    Thank you,thank you, thank you for saying all the things that go through my head at every conference and meeting. I somehow feel much better after reading your rant.

  2. Sarah

    I want to whip this post out and shove it in people’s faces when I’m at conferences so they can read about what total tools they are being.

  3. Natalie

    I find librarians and teachers make the worst audiences. It drives me absolutely bananas. I feel your pain and I’m impressed you restrained yourself…I wouldn’t have!

  4. My pet peeve: walking into a conference room several minutes early and finding ALL of the aisle seats taken. Every. Single. One. So, everyone has to step over them to fill up the middle. Grrrrrr. Move to the middle of the row so that people don’t have to step over you! It’s common courtesy.

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