Attending ALA Midwinter 2015

I recently attended the ALA Midwinter 2015 conference in Chicago ( My work at ITHAKA is a great fusion of my two professional interests: UX and libraries, and this was my first chance to attend a conference for librarians.

It was quite a different experience from the UX conferences I’d been to. It seems like there are at least two kinds of UX conferences: The pure-training kind, where the program consists of sessions where you can learn about stuff. The other kind offers professional development, but also opportunities to further the agenda of the organization. Think UXPA – in addition to listening to talks about UX, you can also meet with other leaders (at the chapter or international level) to talk about the profession.

The ALA is huge, and there seem to be a ton of opportunities for librarians to get involved with the ALA. Much of the sessions were committees and interest groups getting together to talk about whatever they were interested in. That seemed to be the focus – in contrast, UX programs seem to be oriented around the speakers themselves. You pick and choose sessions based on who’s speaking and what they’re speaking about.

The sheer volume of sessions on the program was overwhelming. For any timeslot, there could be dozens, and the timeslots all overlapped with each other. On top of that, you might have to go to an entirely different hotel to get to a session you wanted to attend.

I’m glad I went, though. It was fantastic to immerse myself in the world that librarians live in. There are plenty of folks in that world interested in user experience, so I got to talk shop a few times while I was at the conference.