Monday, November 06, 2006

Program committee, once removed

I have been battling my laptop most of the morning (it's winning) and since Internet connection is a working element, posting about the 32nd Annual ALAO Conference is something I am able to accomplish. Before detailing my reflections regarding the conference, I feel compelled to shed some light on the entire conference planning process. As you read, keep in mind I am a program committee member, once removed, and it may shade some of my post commentary. I was part of the planning committee for the 30th Annual Conference held at the Sinclair Center, ALAO at 30: Positioning Our Libraries, Positioning Ourselves, and the planning committee for the 31st Annual Conference held at the Fawcett Center, Setting the Stage: New Roles in the Library.

Volunteering to take part in ALAO conference planning is fun, rewarding and exhausting. It is a two year commitment, set up as such so each year there are several members with experience going forward into the next committee. Generally speaking, this means attending monthly meetings for a year, some short and sweet, some long and drawn out. How long? Ask any conference planning committee member about their experiences at the May meeting when selection and scheduling of programs and poster sessions takes place. There is plenty of chocolate, patience, and laughter required.

After volunteering to be part of the 2004 committee, and being a complete novice to the process, I learned the 2003 conference planning was already in full swing. The only decision not made by the 2004 committee was the location of the conference. It had been selected by the previous committee. Each year, the first duty charged to a new planning committee is that of choosing the location for the following year. It seems odd to do this a year out, but to get the date we want, it is necessary to plan a year in advance. The program committee is led by the vice president / president elect, so when the program comes to fruition it is the president leading the conference proceedings, and includes appointed members and volunteers.

The conference is a final product of a years worth of blood, sweat, and tears. Nothing ever goes off without a hitch, but often conference attendees are oblivious (I certainly was) when disasters happen and are dealt with immediately. Oddly enough, in retrospect the actual day of the conference is often anti-climactic. And still, it is not quite over. This year's conference committee has one final meeting, a debriefing where they will go over every comment on the evaluation, pass along the recommendations to the next committee, and suffer a bit of withdrawal that the madness has ended.

Bravo! I commend the 2006 planning committee on a job well done. It was a large crowd, I heard counts of 400+ in attendance making it the largest in recent memory, and I know they are breathing a collective sigh of relief. I will be interested in hearing Ann's report and planning committee reflections at the ALAO board meeting next week.

See you at the 33rd Annual Conference, October 25-26, next year in Columbus.

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