ASSOCIATES (vol. 3, no. 2, November 1996) -

Table of contents

                    *Thoughts On A Conference*

                           Gene Kinnaly
                         Library of Congress
                        Washington DC 20540

I have been fortunate enough to have attended a
number of conferences now; the COLT conference in Miami
Beach a couple of years back, the Virginia Library
Association Paraprofessional Forum's conference last
year, and the Computers in Libraries conference for the
last three years.  I have enjoyed each, I feel I have
learned much, and I feel that the time and expense
associated with attending these conferences was time and
money well spent.

So why couldn't I leave it at that?  Why did I feel
the urge, even the *need*, to switch from the role of
merely attending a conference to actively planning,
organizing, and participating in a conference?  Did I
have *any* idea what I was getting myself into?

Well, no.  I didn't.  I knew it would be work, and
I'd probably be doing things I hadn't done before, and
working with people I hardly knew.  But I simply felt
compelled, after last year's wonderful VLAPF conference,
to join VLA and the VLAPF board, and to work to help make
this year's VLAPF conference the best yet.

Now I know this won't come as a shock to those of
you who have been organizing and participating in
conferences for a while, and it probably won't surprise
anyone else either, but there's a *world* of difference
between attending a conference and helping to organize a
conference.  I attended last year's VLAPF conference, and
I helped organize this year's conference -- I enjoyed
them both, but they were very, very different.

This year, the conference was a *lot* of work --
constant, and tiring, and demanding.  It was also *well*
worth it.  To see people pull together to get the job
done, and then to see the results of that hard work, and
to hear the compliments, and to *know* that things are
going well -- what a tremendous feeling of

Of course, not *everything* went according to plan.
We had a slight mixup in a room reservation when the name
of an attendee's library, Joseph Healey, was somehow
substituted for the name of the attendee, Alyce Curran.
This would not be a problem in a commercial hotel, but in
a college dorm, with shared restrooms, it *could* have
developed into an embarrassing situation.  The dorm *is*
co-ed, but by wing or by floor, not by individual room.

When Alyce showed up at the dorm that Sunday night,
she was first told that she didn't have a room -- and she
didn't, under the name of Alyce Curran.  Then, after a
little investigation, the error was found, and she *did*
have a room.  After she was given the key and sent on her
way, the reality of sending Alyce to "Joseph's" room set
in, and someone was sent after Alyce to bring her back
downstairs while a search for a more appropriate room was
started.  Fortunately Alyce was a very good sport about
it, and we were able to relocate her without *too* much

And then the room where I was to give a talk on
netiquette was switched the morning the talk was
scheduled to be given.  I had already taken the handouts
to the right building and the right room ahead of time,
only to find the room set up with 12 chairs, and I was
expecting 50 attendees for my class.  I spent the next
half-an-hour racing around, alternating between trying to
get someone from the University of Richmond to (quickly!)
get some more chairs in there, to trying to fight back a
monumental panic attack.

And after I was assured that more chairs would be
set up, and when I was sure all was well, and after I
made it to the opening session with minutes to spare, one
of the first general announcements that morning was that
my session was being moved -- halfway across the campus!
And my session was next!  I was *so* glad that the
morning's keynote speaker concluded her remarks a few
minutes early, 'cuz I needed every minute I could get to
go back to the first room, gather up my handouts and make
my way to the auditorium of the library.

But these were, in the grand scheme of things,
relatively small problems.  I guess one grows to expect
a problem or two with a conference, particularly one that
covers two days, has dozens of sessions and roundtables
and over 470 participants; when you add in considerations
like lodging, and meals, and coordinating speakers and
rooms, and arrangements for the conference social --
well, I'm starting to get tired all over again just
thinking about it!

So, have I learned my lesson?  Am I *crazy* enough
to get involved in next year's conference?  Didn't the
Army teach me *anything* about volunteering??

The answers are no, yes, and apparently not.  I am
continuing to serve on the VLAPF board, I suspect I'll be
volunteering to conduct another session, and this time
around I won't have the excuse that I didn't know what I
was getting into.  This time, I *do* know -- and I
wouldn't miss it for the world!