Have you attended Mid-Winter? C'mere ...

I have reg'ed and I've bought my plane tickets and I'm *this* close to formally requesting the time off work. But I haven't found a hotel room yet. All of the ALA hotels within walking distance are booked. And I've been too overwhelmed with other things to start looking off the beaten track yet. But there's one thing I need to know:

How is the social life at Mid-Winter?

This is my first ALA conference ... but I've been to a couple of SLA conferences. And as a member of the News Division, I've learned: be close to the hotel the Division suites are in. At SLA, I'm almost never back in my hotel room before 10 pm and a couple of nights, it's after midnight when I stumble back (because of my shoes, not the booze, thank you).

If there are going to be all sorts of receptions and open houses and gatherings after-hours, I want to be within walking distance of them. But if Mid-Winter is a business-only, daytime-oriented conference, I might just bite the bullet and stay out in the (relative) boondocks and do the ALA Shuttle, with an occasional cab for unofficial fraternizing events.

Your guidance/experience would be much appreciated ...


First, don't assume that the nearby hotels are full just because you can't book them through ALA. For example, a quick check on HiltonNet shows both the Hilton GasLamp and the Embassy Suites Downtown as being available for January 9 checkin, January 12 departure. (Most business-class chain hotels won't give ALA all of their rooms because they want to keep us frequent stayers happy.) You'll probably pay more, but...

Second, the social life varies enormously based on: a. How flush vendors are feeling, b. How many vendor contacts you have, c. How willing you are to go around collecting invites. There will certainly be some receptions (some open, some semi-open, almost none truly closed). The only all-conference "parties" will be the Friday evening exhibits reception and, if they do it at Midwinter, the scholarship bash ($$). Division social events, if any, will probably be priced events or, like LITA, no-host happy hours (again, I don't know if we do it at Midwinter).

When I've gone looking for receptions, it's never been too hard to find them--and it's a lot easier if you're perceived as a potential customer. I don't look for them any more (old, tired, all that), but still wind up at one or three most years.

In my experience, Midwinter is a great place to find out about committees, discussion groups, etc., because there are no formal programs (except the President's Program), and it's a somewhat smaller conference. And the exhibits are inherently less crowded; typically, you don't get as many publishers, but you do get almost all the other exhibitors.

Heck, if it's your first ALA midwinter, go to the NMRT (New Members' Round Table) Orientation; I'll be speaking. (A rare pleasure for me: I rarely get asked to speak at ALA--and since Midwinter doesn't have programs, it's even rarer there.)

It's been my experience that rooms open up throughout registration. People cancel or change hotels. Just grab the closest one that you can afford, then keep checking.

I don't know much about receptions. Since I've been working as a volunteer on Cognotes, I get registered as ALA staff, and don't get all the invites that I did when I registered as an attendee. I guess vendors don't see me as a potential customer, but a potential freeloading party-crasher. I want to know the secret to getting invited to shindigs thrown by the major publishing houses.

Walt is absolutely right about the NMRT orientation. It's a very relaxed, no-nonsense intro to conference. I made a great contact my first year--the speaker was an author who ended up coming to the library where I work for a kick-ass LIVE! at your Library program and we're still in touch.

Thank you both for the advice. I suspect that I'm going to cling to each and every NMRT activity there is. And maybe I won't go shelterless for the week ...

Do you know where you are going to stay? I'm a late entry...looking for a place myself.

Not yet ... I need to start looking around soon. Or I may go with my Plan B and be itinerant that week.

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