ASSOCIATES (vol. 3, no. 2, November 1996) - associates.ucr.edu
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*Thoughts On A Conference* by Gene Kinnaly Library of Congress Washington DC 20540 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 accomplishment. 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 difficulty. 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!