My Experience at ALA

This past weekend (June 22 – June 24) I attended my first ALA convention in Washington DC. Being a first timer, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for it, but I was definitely excited!

Arriving an hour before the floor opened on Saturday, my friends Alexa, Morissa, and I stood in a calm line of about 100 people while we patiently waited for them to let us in. When 9:00am rolled around it was a calm wave of people checking badges as we descended the escalators down to the exhibit floor.

Within 1 hour I had filled my backpack and a large tote bag with books. It became so heavy, I had to transfer them to tote bags and check them in. We were so exhausted from all the books we were carrying, and the walking around, that we left early.

By the end of Day 1, I had a full backpack and two full tote bags. It was honestly painful walking the two blocks to the hotel next door to retrieve my car. Poor Alexa was also drowning in tote bags and a full backpack as we made our way to the car.

Here is what my day 1 haul looked like when I got home:

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For Day 2, I learned from my mistake and brought a freaking suitcase to haul everything back. I still had my backpack and tote bags, but fortunately I didn’t need to dump everything until about 11am that day. The plan for Sunday was to avoid the massive amount of books that we received on Saturday and stick to the most important ones:

  • A Heart so Fierce and Broken
  • The Burning Shadow
  • The Starless Sea
  • Tiger Queen

We not only got everything that we were looking for (SUCCESS!) but everything else that we were “trying” to avoid. And by trying, I mean accepting every ARC or book that was handed to us with minimal resistance. It was hard to say no! It was also hard to avoid asking or taking one that was being given away. Getting ARCs is never this easy and it was too hard to pass up on hundreds of them being given away.

While I didn’t get every book I wanted to (and there were SO many that I wanted to get), I got about 98% of them and for me, that is a crazy success.

After Sunday, with the amount we had accumulated, Alexa and I agreed that we were absolutely going to skip Monday. Which meant we missed out on probably 100 more books, but we had accrued almost 100 each and it was too much. Which is something I never thought I would say.

Here is my weekend ALA haul:

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The most surprising thing for me was 1) THESE WERE ALL FREE (wtf) and 2) It was so calm and easy. In my experience with book conventions, it’s always a massive struggle to get books, especially ARCs. Everyone is fighting over them and it’s pretty ruthless. At ALA it was as easy as saying please.

One shocking experience I had was at the Harper Collins booth, where they displayed titles of books that they brought with them to give away during the weekend. All you had to do was walk up, name the titles of books you wanted, and say thank you. That was how easy it was to walk away with six titles from them. Same with Penguin. And Macmillan.

As the convention wore on, some publishers became a bit more reserved in giving out books since a lot of people in attendance were readers and bloggers – which I understood. The point of the convention was the give out titles to librarians and book sellers so they can order the books. While bloggers are important, we weren’t necessarily the priority.

Overall, the experience was very relaxed for all the ARC drops and giveaways, with the exception of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. That was probably the most chaotic part of the entire convention as hundreds of people were trying to get that book. Thankfully, being the first person in line as directed by one of the Penguin reps, I snagged a ticket. Originally, the signing line would be first come, first serve, but since people were lining up 3 hours early, (sorry) they had to change the plan. Everyone in line when tickets were handed out were guaranteed a book.

Skipping Monday was a hard decision, but leaving the convention with almost 100 books meant that I wasn’t going to have space to store them, much less read them, if I went for another day. It also saved us some gas and parking money!

Compared to BookCon, ALA was a calm, easy convention. It wasn’t hard to secure the titles you wanted, so long as you got there first. Nor was it an aggressive, blood thirsty mess. No one was hurt in retrieving books. The only disappointing thing was missing out on a title you wanted. But hey, you can’t get everything you want.

If ALA wasn’t in Chicago next year, I absolutely would go again in 2020. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can afford a vacation like that or the shipping costs for all those books. While it’s promoted as the Librarian conference, everyone is welcome to join ALA, as stated on their website. If you’re looking for a relaxed convention with books, friends, and cool displays, check it out! I will definitely try to go again soon.