Last year, I went to ALA Midwinter for the first time. It was big news for me: I was an Emerging Leader with a nice scholarship from ALSC. It was exciting, challenging, and a total honor. Despite the fact that I’m a lousy traveler who gets homesick for NYC after even a weekend away, I found ALA to be rejuvenating, inspiring, and an all-around wonderful experience.
Paying for ALA Annual was very hard on me. Though I had the ALSC scholarship, stayed in a Super 8 motel with 3 other librarians, and rarely dined out, it wrecked me financially. Now, even paying the ALA membership is a strain. I dropped out of YALSA, not due to lack of interest, but because I just can’t afford it anymore.
Most of me just wants to obnoxiously whine about how unfair this all is: I’m constantly on the verge of another mass-layoff scare (which puts me in a precarious situation year after year), I pay NYC rent (albeit in Queens, but, like the cool part), and as a newish librarian, I don’t make enough money to shell out this kind of money twice a year. Why am I paying money in order to do more library work? But it’s more than all that. I have a number of ALA responsibilities (including being a mentor for a new group of Emerging Leaders) and I’m wary of working on them remotely without touching base with real, live people at Midwinter. I’m truly sad that I won’t be around any of the Midwinter energy. I love coming back to the boroughs, not only with many ideas and a renewed look at librarianship (OK, that sounds cheesy as hell, but it’s true), but also a sense of validation. Front-line public service librarians rarely get a good old pat on that back, and being an Emerging Leader and attending conferences gave me some recognition. I was surprised about how much I needed someone to tell me that I was doing a good job and that the work I was doing was important.
This isn’t a rant against ALA. ALA has been good to me. I need these conferences. I need the mental recharge. I need to step outside my little library world and see what else is out there. Otherwise, I end up lacking in perspective and ending up with some sort of intellectual stagnation. Without actually attending the conferences, I feel disjointed from the committee obligations I have.
Worst of all, I feel like all my friends are having a giant party and I wasn’t invited.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid