My First - and BEST - Conference Ever

Submitted by Dana Willbanks, NYLA Communications and Marketing Manager

I started working at NYLA in June of this year and was told from day one to start preparing for the annual Conference and Trade Show.  It was impressed upon me in the interview (and pretty much daily from there on out) what a huge deal this event was, how excited the attendees were for it every year, and how little sleep I would get (this point was stressed more than everything else combined).  I was also told in a not-so-thinly-veiled way that the NYLA conference is a totally different animal than any other statewide conference, and as such that it was not something to be taken lightly.  But I had attended conferences and large events before, and had helped plan (albeit very peripherally) a couple of similar conferences for another nonprofit, so I brushed those warnings off and dismissed them as overly exaggerated.

I could not have been more wrong.  Everything I was warned about – and much, much more – quickly came to pass.  Attendees and exhibitors misplaced room reservations, events tickets, and colleagues (the first two of which we were able to quickly resolve, the latter not so much); an unfortunate combination of user error and technological incompatibility caused slight delays in a couple of workshops; and to get to one of the hotels we were faced with a near-vertical incline (okay, fine, the hill wasn’t THAT steep, but it certainly felt like it halfway through the conference).

Luckily, however, all of the positives I had been told about – and, again, much more – also abounded at NYLA 2015.  I finally got to put faces to the names of so many people that I had only communicated with via email for several months, and all of them were truly delightful to meet in person.  I got to see librarians in action, engaged in everything from speaking passionately on a variety of topics, to ad-libbing presentations to some of the most random and mildly offensive images I’ve ever seen, to singing (and dancing… ohhh, the dancing….) their hearts out at karaoke.  I sat enraptured through an awards ceremony where leaders and advocates for and within the library community were recognized for their commitment and service.  I learned more about Melvil Dewey than I think was necessary for me to ever know in my entire life, even as an employee at NYLA.  And I learned that, even when you’re operating on 4 hours of sleep, you can still somehow manage to stand on a rickety stage in a freezing skating rink in front of a hundred people you’ve met only days earlier and lip sync to one of the best classic rock songs of all time.

Overall, I had a blast at NYLA 2015, and I can’t wait until next year.  Luckily for me, the planning has already begun – we are accepting program proposals, exhibitor registrations are flying in, and we are already fielding questions about hotel reservations and the best place to get coffee in Saratoga.

And, of course, I’m busy selecting my karaoke song for next year – I have a bunch of wild and crazy librarians to hold my own against.