I have been going to ALA since 2013. As a professional librarian this is nothing of real note, ALA is part of work and I happen to work for a library that enjoys sending me. What I have noticed in the past two years however is more and more bloggers are going.
Things I have heard bloggers state while at this conference: “why are there so many librarians here?” “I’m just here because I couldn’t afford BEA.” “Since BEA is moving, I’m just going to do ALA instead.”
Here’s the thing: ALA and BEA are not interchangeable.
ALA is also not meant for bloggers to post their hauls, to do giveaways, or to be rude to librarians while at the conference, a conference that is meant for librarians. The original point of the exhibit only pass from ALA was for local librarians to bring in teens, or a local librarian who couldn’t afford the whole conference.
I came home from San Francisco, location of the most recent conference, to a post from a blogger who was very concerned about the looks that librarians were giving bloggers at ALA. This made me chuckle for various reasons. Mostly however that while at the conference, some of the rudest people I talked to, where bloggers. I get it. Conferences are rough. You’re hot. You’re tired. Your feet are killing you. Conferences are exhausting. My roommate knows that when I get bitchy it’s not because of her, it’s because I’m exhausted and need to lash out at someone who still will love me.
However, during my multiple times at ALA, bloggers have camped out in lines. They cut lines. They didn’t understand why they could only have copy. They were grabbing books just for giveaways (which was made clear when they had more than one copy of book) and confused to why people were upset and generally did not respect librarians. I mean, they’re just free books, right? The amount of ARCs that popped up in the #booksfortrade hashtag, while still at the conference, sickened me.
Conferences like this are more than that to many librarians. Last year at ALA, I saw a librarian on the verge of tears because she worked for a small rural library and her kids never get things like that. Librarians are often juggling panels and the conference floor. How are they supposed to go to a panel and that awesome signing when people have been camped out in that line for two hours?
This isn’t to say that all bloggers are horrible. Of course they’re not! Many don’t go for the giveaways and actually go because they homeschool or because they’re teachers and they aren’t using it as a “faux-BEA.” I wish I could say I was joking, but I see so many tweets about bloggers who are concerned that BEA is leaving NYC and they will comfort themselves with going to ALA. But they aren’t the same. ALA isn’t meant for bloggers. It’s meant for librarians.
ARCs lately in the blogger world seem to be the holy grail and my friend Lauren wrote a great post about why she hates ARCs and I honestly agree with it. Do I use ARCs for this blog? Of course I do. Do I also use them at my job? Yes. They are who sends me to ALA, not my blog.