Today I Bought a T-Shirt: The ALA Midwinter Exhibit Hall, Part One

By , January 28, 2013 11:33 am

by Anna L. Endtert-shirt

A wrinkled t-shirt, as it turns out. This is a side effect of my shirt’s afternoon spent crumpled in a free ALA bag with other library swag and material. Today, I made a field trip to the ALA Midwinter 2013 Exhibit Hall.

Now, having just recently been to my first AALL Conference and experiencing that exhibit hall, I was curious to see how ALA does things. I was also looking for some perspective about the library profession generally since my focus has been on law librarianship. It was time to learn more about the larger world of linking people and information.

This post includes my observations about visiting the Exhibit Hall. Stay tuned for Part Two where I’ll report on my discussions with Thomson Reuters about its citation management tool Endnote and ProQuest about the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

My first (and perhaps most obvious) observation was that ALA Midwinter is a big operation: there were over 400 exhibitors. And unlike AALL, many of the exhibitors were showcasing books for sale and hosting authors signing books rather than focusing on software and other online services (although there were many exhibits focused on eBooks). Some of these vendors were selling goods, and some of these goods were rather interesting. Take the Horror Writers Association, which describes itself–via a handy bookmark–as “the only global organization dedicated to horror, the people who create it, and the people who love it.” The book covers were not dull.

My second observation was that vendors are vendors. I spent some time talking with representatives from ProQuest, Thomson Reuters and Springer and it was interesting to interact with them outside of AALL where the focus is on legal resources. My experience was much like AALL in that some vendors seemed to know their products better than others. It also seemed as though the vendors I talked to wanted to focus on what they had to offer generally as opposed to what specific products and platforms can do. Perhaps the vendors were catering to such a wide variety of librarians that focusing on subject-specific resources would not have been especially helpful.

Finally, I visited the ALA Store because I wanted to get a feel for the kinds of publications that ALA is marketing to its membership and the topics that librarians are interested in now. It’s probably not much of a surprise that many of the resources available dealt with shrinking budgets and an uncertain job market. But again, my goal was to learn more about the profession generally, and this was time well spent. Librarians, collectively, have concerns about doing more with less and career longevity, but they also remain focused on customer service and connecting patrons with the information they need. Here is a sampling of some of the books I saw:

I’ll be back soon with Part Two.

exhibit hall

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