With the annual conference of the American Library Association in New Orleans less than three weeks away, I am again looking at notes from the first conference I attended. Much has changed since Dallas 1979.
My memory of the conference is a little fuzzy in some aspects, but I do clearly remember that most of the presentations were scattered among the conference hotels, some of which were not downtown. I was not staying downtown either, as the ALA conference service put me in a hotel by the airport. Getting into the city took me an hour or more every morning. The buses sponsored by Gale Research were inadequate for moving librarians around the city, and I often saw buses pass stops because they had no room to add passengers. I was late for a couple of programs. Perhaps my story has grown with years, but I am sure transportation was a problem.
I appear to have only attended six programs in four days, which sounds rather inattentive until you see that four of those programs lasted three hours or longer. As a newbie, I must have made some bad choices. One meeting I attended focused on what types of telephone service libraries needed to connect to remote databases, like Dialog; the speakers agreed that packet networks (whatever they were) were most economical.
I attended a program sponsored by the Professional Ethics Committee titled "Ethics of Providing Legal and Medical Information." A Dr. Erlen from the University of Texas at Dallas Medical School told us that librarians should stop interfering with the doctor-patient relationship and should refrain from providing medical reference. Michael Reagan of the Glendale Public Library refuted the doctor's position and reported that more reference librarians were starting to assist clients with medical information. My old notes suggest I was pretty upset by the doctor. Medical information must have been my focus at the conference, as I attended another three and a half hour program on wellness, holistic medicine, and community health information networks.
I also attended programs on young adults, information and referral networks, and government documents. I think I may have attended keynote speeches but did not report on them. I think I heard Isaac Bashevis Singer, but I am not certain.
I was overwhelmed by the exhibit hall, which I visited every day, trying to see all the book publishers' booths. There were many of them, and I collected dozens of their catalogs and brochures. My suitcase was tightly stuffed when I left town. The irony is that my book budget was small, so I bought very few books from those heavy catalogs.
Twenty-seven years later I will arrive in New Orleans with a laptop, digital camera, and an assignment to blog for LITA. I hope to leave with memories and ideas, not heavy catalogs.