Friday, July 04, 2008

Post-conference ruminations

After any ALA Annual Conference there is a lot of chatter throughout the blogosphere as conference goers ruminate over their experiences. I have to admit to surprise regarding the number of people vocally dissatisfied with the conference venue, conference location, the length of a city block, the weather, and lastly the accommodations in Anaheim. Some reports have been rather harsh ranting about Disneyland, tourists, lack of restaurants, and even complaints about available bars in the area.

I will be the first to admit I was not thrilled with my hotel, but it was convenient to the conference center and next door to an ALA hotel on Gale's shuttle bus route. The conference center was spacious and included several shaded outdoor areas, as these photos display, where attendees could gather for gossip (oops, networking) breaks, phone calls, lunch, or even a nap. Only one of the five days in Anaheim had temperatures above the mid-eighties, so the outside venue was welcome.

When I arrived on Thursday afternoon it was necessary to walk to the conference center and register. Yes, it was hot. But it was hotter in Ohio when I left that morning. Yes, it was a bit of a hike from my charming hotel to the conference center. But the walk was welcome after five hours sitting on my behind in an airplane. Yes, I was a bit frustrated that on my return trip to the hotel most of the restaurants did not open until five. But I grabbed a value meal at a local Subway and beverages at the 7-11 across the street. A plethora of restaruants were in the resort area, in fact ALA's Dine Around series chose Thai, Italian, Mexican, California Cuisine, and good old American for participants. Anaheim was not unlike any large city, there were good, bad, and generic chain restaurants for all.

Walking was an option between all but a few of the conference hotels, specifically the Disneyland Hotel. And yes, the size of a city block was astronomical. Those are not things a conference committee can control. I enjoyed the Anaheim venue and was reminded how magical a family vacation could be, especially with the excitement Disney creates in it's smallest fans. Watching the children bounce with glee in the morning as they crossed the street to the park made me smile.

Yesterday's AL Direct noted there were upwards of 22,000 in Anaheim; down from the 26,000 + in Washington, DC last year and up from the 18,000 + in New Orleans. I am not convinced the location is solely responsible for this decline in attendance. There are other factors to consider. Not a contented flyer, I hesitated due to the sheer amount of travel time involved (a statement that will undoubtedly make any west cost librarian shake their head in pity). Then there is the economy, cost of travel was significantly higher (and not only due to location) and many libraries are facing budget cuts making funds less available for professional development. A relative newbie to the large converence experience, I may be a bit naive. But I felt this conference had a bit more to offer in sessions and content than DC last year, and New Orleans the year before; none of it had to do with the location.

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