Alberta Library Conference: Jasper 2010

Oh wow, what a weekend!

April 29 - May 2 marked my first ever Alberta Library Conference in Jasper (as put on by the Library Association of Alberta with the help of a whole lot of other groups). This conference is for libraries of all kinds (mostly geared towards public though, with a smattering of academic and general topics) and for librarians, library technicians/assistants, directors, board members and trustees etc.

Let's skip to the end. It's was sooo much fun and I totally want to go back next year!!

Ok, back to the beginning...

I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing. It was my first library conference, actually my first conference in ten years. Plus, of the four recently graduated library students going, I was the only one without a 'real' job (beyond my usual part time/short term contract positions). What was I supposed to wear? What would it be like? Could I really bear more people talking at me after all that time I had just spent in school? Would I really learn anything, considering I'm not public library focused? Would those partying librarians accept me despite the fact I don't drink? Plus, could I really afford to stay at the Jasper Park Lodge?

A fellow librarian gave me some advice on twitter:

"My Jasper advice is don't expect to learn much, drink lots (vendor parties), go to the dance, enjoy the view."

I'm going to subsequently quote my tweets from the event, the hashtag of which was #alc2010jpl if you want to follow along. Not many people were tweeting though.

I really had no reason to be nervous, it was significantly awesome.

The road trip out was pretty, and the company was lovely. We arrived at gorgeous JPL, with it's fantastic view of the mountains. I do know (personally, professionally and by appearance only) a lot of librarians, so it was nice to spot familiar places, even though there would be over 700 attendees. We got settled, then headed into Jasper (like a 5 minute drive from the lodge) to get supplies (nylons, snacks, warmer clothing...). I've never been a huge fan of the town of Jasper, it's quite small, but quaint. Jasper's real draw is the outdoorsy stuff, the views are fantastic!!

"Made it to jasper. I have a feeling these librarians know how to have a good time!"

Later that night, we managed to consume platefuls of food (gotta get your moneys worth out of the gourmet buffet). The food was really good. There was always a lot of options, and salad and dessert with every meal. I actually ended up eating a lot of the vegetarian options as they were really tasty too. And yes, three desserts with every meal has likely lead to an extra 5lbs around my middle. Oops.

The first night, there was a first timers reception (which included free drinks and door prizes). We also wandered around the vendors section (which meant not much to me as I don't have a regular type job yet, but I appreciate the free bags and pens). The evening closed with another reception (aka free drinks) and some schmoozing. I'm not a great schmoozer or a drinker, but I did chat to one of my librarian heroes, and that marked the point for me where I left behind the nerves and just went with the flow of the whole event.

"Met a lot of people I know and some new people. The food is good, the company better. And the view is amazing. Yay Jasper!"

A word about the dress code: there was none. It's a casual conference, so jeans are ok. Some people dressed down, some people dressed up. It didn't seem to matter either way. We used one of our library heroes as a barometer, and ended up dressing to code.

And how about a word about our accommodations. Three of us stayed together in slumber party central, which was your regular hotel room, but in a row of joined cabins instead of a high rise hotel. One lucky member of our group was put up by her library in one of the more private cabins that included a sitting room and fireplace. Jealous much?

After too little sleep and much annoyance with the 3-girls-one-shower-no-ventilation-damp-bathroom-no-mirror situation, it was back to the main lodge for more food. And the first keynote speaker. Evan Solomon (of CBC fame) was the perfect opening speaker. Though links to libraries were tenuous, he was humourous and charming and generally a very entertaining way to start the day.

"Culture is a set of instructions and the library is where we keep the manuals for future generations"
"Evan Solomon is an entertaining speaker. are his CBC shows that entertaining too?"
"Schools and are where ideas begin. Simple but profound message." 
"Social ingenuity must come before technical ingenuity."
"Let's have a gathering place for great ideas that tell who we are in a language everyone can understand."
"Leadership is caring about the nobodies - libraries welcome all."
"Parliament is like high school with money." 

The rest of the conferency bit of the day consisted of two hourish long sessions, with another filling lunch in the middle. The first session I saw was about open education (sharing resources etc online for free), which was interesting in itself, though more could have been said about practically applying this to libraries.

"Just used an ipad!"

After lunch I went to a session put on by two library directors from two faith-based university colleges in Edmonton. I was particularly interested in this session, as one of the speakers was my practicum supervisor (and likewise one of my heroes) and the other speaker was one of the people I wanted particularly wanted to speak to (librarian hero in the future?). The session was great, they used a Mythbusters theme to bust some myths about Christian colleges (ie. they are not bible colleges, instead they provide quality undergraduate and graduate education in a slightly different atmosphere than the university, and no, you don't have to be spiritual to work or attend classes there). I also met a really inspiring librarian at the session. Indeed, our paths crossed the again that evening and will likely again. Librarians rock!

After the sessions, I went for a beautiful walk around Lake Beauvert (and yes, it is indeed beautifully green!). It's a 3.6 km walk, and I went pretty slow, stopping often to take (121) photos. How many photos of mountains do I need? It was soooo beautiful and sooo quiet and peaceful. I felt like I was the only person in the woods. This walk was one of the highlights of my entire weekend. **

"Great sessions today on open education, then mythbusting Christian colleges. And I went for a walk around the lake. Beautiful!!"

After chilling for a bit (including reading the complimentary Edmonton Journal and using the free internet, yay JPL), we had dinner, the highlight of which was our tablemates, a lovely older couple from the board of a small rural county library system. Then my fellow library students headed to the pool while I teamed up with a couple other younger librarians and we once again walked around the lake. This time we saw deer and elk around the lodge both before and after our lovely walk.

And then one of librarians convinced me to crash a party. There were always parties going on in the cabins, some were open, some weren't. Oops. It was thrilling and most interesting to glimpse what the important librarians did at the conference, though it was quite uncomfortable for a lowly student dressed in their hiking attire. This falls under the category of 'what happens in Jasper stays in Jasper' but I will say it was quite interesting to be a fly on that wall for half an hour!

The next morning, the speaker was Max Valiquette, who discussed youth demographics and culture. I have to say, I wasn't initially interested in the topic but it was quite fascinating! What another excellent way to start a Saturday morning bright and early!

"Max valiquette is teaching us about youth culture. So far - fascinating..."
"Modern library is not about books - it's about learning, experiencing, understanding."
"Self directed learning, media literacy, libraries need to/are changing (I'm so excited to be a part of it!)"
"Less need for central branch - they want info now and where they are - don't need knowledge repositories now - need gateways" 
"What libraries do is more important now than ever!"

That morning, I also had the chance to talk to an old high school teacher who I spotted the first day (who is now a rural board member), and a guy I went to junior high with (who is director of a rural library). Libraryland is a very small world!!

My first session was about facility planning for an electronic information literacy (teaching library skills) classroom. I had actually heard this talk as part of a class last summer but didn't realize it until it had already started. I could've left, but I actually enjoyed the presentation and learned from it. After lunch I learned a bit about copyright, and then saw a session about roving reference. That session was particularly interesting because I happened to be visiting that particular college library when they had just started roving reference in 2008, so it was neat to see how the experiment turned out. I'm still not sold on the idea, but principles from it are relevant and very important to incorporate in regular reference (such as you don't have to be chained to the desk, go to the students if they need you!).

"Interesting sessions on electronic classroom facility planning, then copyright, now off to roving reference. Too cold for a walk."
"Well look at that, my 2000th tweet was about interesting speakers at the Alberta Library Conference in beautiful Jasper!"

I relaxed for a bit, then joined my friends for the final banquet. We had dressed up a bit, and the food was a bit fancier. As usual, our meal company was superb and it was a great time. After some photo ops, we headed into the dance.

** Remember my gorgeous walk around the lake? Well, I had heard from a bunch of other guests that there was a mother bear and two cubs wandering around the golf course part of the grounds near the lake. One of my librarian heroes saw me walking and taking pictures (I had indeed noticed a runner on my walk but didn't know it was her). At the final dinner, she asked me if I'd seen the bears that were a mere 100m by me. Um. No. I missed seeing the bears!! I walked right past them and didn't notice!! Regretful for sure, but I was by myself and bears terrified me as a child so likely that would have made me quite anxious. Imagine, 100m from bears and I didn't even realize it!

"Apparently walked right by three bears on my walk around the lake yesterday. Yikes!"

Now I know people think librarians are boring, but let me tell you, set up a dance floor, turn down the lights, crank up the music and provide free alcohol, and well, look out! It was sooo much fun. I also had the chance to introduce myself to a famous local Edmonton blogger, and chatted with Stephen Abram, a VIP and very well known man in the North American library scene. We had a very interesting discussion about librarians and library technicians and how awesome all the library staff of Alberta was. For the rest of the evening, we danced the night away, and got to share the dance floor with many of our librarian heroes. It was a good time, well worth the blisters and sore knees the next day!!

Sunday, after little sleep, we checked out early, ate our final gourmet breakfast and headed home.

I didn't think I would enjoy ALC, but I did. I didn't think I would learn anything, but I did. I got to have fun with librarians I knew, librarians I just met, and the VIPs of library land. I certainly met many awesome people. I got to know my fellow students a bit better. I got to walk and wander in amazement through beautiful places.

Would I go next year? Yes, most definitely. It is a bit pricy, and who knows where I'll be working (and thus if they'll pay for it or give me the time off). One of my librarian heroes and I pinky-swore we would do a session next year, and I have faith it'll happen one year if not next year.

It was a great weekend. I highly recommend the Alberta Library Conference in Jasper.

"Ok so the Alberta Library Conference in Jasper was awesomely fantastic. See you all there next year!!"


  1. Wow, it sounds like you had a fantastic time! I'm rather hesitant about going to any conferences as I really suck at talking to people I don't know.

  2. No worries, they're all cool library people - super friendly folks!!


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