This post is part 2 of 3, it’s about our first hand experience of #ALA12
So after what can be described as a pretty gruelling journey, I arrived in Anaheim, safe and sound, and super excited about the days ahead for librarygame.
A good chunk of our time prior over the past few months had already been spent defining and refining what would be the documentation people receive when they’re ready to discuss a formal relationship with us.
In the lead up to the trip itself we were all hands on deck trying to unify and finalise these documents. Steve who worked on the original Librarygame illustrations, worked with us to illustrate some of the more abstract concepts and Sam had the onerous responsibility of pulling it all together while I was still mid flight.
The moment I was within my first WIFI signal, I checked dropbox and downloaded the freshly uploaded documents; flicking through them while waiting to board the plane to Santa Ana, was actually quite exciting. The Librarygame adventure seemed very official at this point and so did the responsibility of representing it well.
One part of the documentation we worked on, covers the technical setup and the other contains the contextual underpinnings of why Librarygame exists in the first place. We very much view these documents as snapshots of our design thinking. We’re sure there will be many more iterations of them, but for now they’re serving us well.
Documenting a system in development, where you haven’t quite finalised the business model or adopted the vocabularly of your customers is actually pretty hard. You’ve got to bear in mind, that we’re delivering a product that is very bespoke, so saying something that doesn’t quite pan out exactly as we’ve formulated isn’t great. In a sense they have to be quite generic but not the point of being irrelevant or mundane and they have to be quite specific without giving away everything or tying us down too much down the line.
The first night seems like a bit of a blur now, but I’m pretty sure I went over to see Dave, who’d already arrived there the day before for a quick meeting. Dave’s quite the well networked, well liked and famously bearded individual in library world so I was already saying ‘hi’ to people there on the back of sitting next to him and this was a theme that subsequently continued throughout the conference!
Back in my hotel room, I was pretty tired, but I decided to check out what I’d be doing the next day, turns out, not much- thankfully! The main bit of the conference, if you weren’t part of the existing committees / working groups didn’t start till the Thursday / Friday which was a relief as jetlag was running amok with my system and I had a few meetings lined up to prepare for.
Not dissimilar to SXSWi, ALA has its own session scheduler on its website, it’s not as pretty, but it was fairly functional and informative. To its credit, it was a million miles better than the clunky web registration for ALA membership, and it featured a pretty decent search function. It also did a really good job of suggesting sessions based on my interests that I’d set earlier in my profile. It was also a good idea to get a sense of who was attending the sessions. So +1 for its social features and having an abundance of information there to check.
The only truly overwhelming thing about it were all the acronyms for the various working groups and what not! It would take a good deal of familiarity with the breadth of ALA’s activities or maybe a seasoned ALA veteran to explain it all to you. I don’t claim to have even skimmed the surface but it was nice to see how library folk organise themselves and talk to ALA staff firsthand. I guess that’s step one on the journey.
The first day, I pretty much had to myself and I avoided any queues by registering in the immense building that is the Anaheim Convention centre, apparently housing 815,000sq ft of exhibition space. holy cow. by comparison RITH’s first office was a paltry 350 sq ft office if I’m not mistaken, and the current one is a more respectable 1000sq ft.
Speaking to friends
One of the advantages of being in a timezone so far away from your own is that it lets you connect with friends you have in that timezone at the start of their day! One friend I really wanted to speak to was Alex Kohlhofer, creator of Weewar, a serial entrepreneur, a maker and someone I’ve relied on for advice over the years. The conversation I had with Alex that morning sharpened my mind and sparked a few directions. Alex having lived in the bay area for a few years had some suggestions on how we could tailor our pitch better on the site and predominantly segment it for the different people we were targeting (I made copious notes to work from when we tweak the content). Alex also made a few connections for me which I’m very grateful for. Having never sought external investment for librarygame, its good to learn the lingo and learn how we should perfect our pitch if we’re going down that route.
Speaking to the RITH/Librarygame office
The eight hour time difference is truly annoying. Despite having spent a good few years working with clients in the states and having parents who live in a timezone different than my own. Its still not something you get used to easily. In the work context, when you’re temporarily on the other side of the world, and the UK is ahead of you, it has the curious effect of disorienting you. I’m a massive advocate of increasing the bandwidth of communication at work, and this particular time zone difference meant I could only have conversations with Sam at very specific times during the day and catch up with what’s going on in the office. At RITH we have several projects on the go at once, and I particularly like knowing whats going on in each!
So not having that is something I’m not used to (I need to get over that). So I either had to be up super early in my morning around 6-7am (the only way I could catch Sam, Alison and Gary in the office) or get online mid afternoonish to catch them in their evening. It’s something to bear in mind, we haven’t had that many enquiries from the west coast, maybe there’s a psychological timezone barrier at play?
The Exhibition Floor.
It’s actually nigh on impossible to express how huge this floor was, without taking wide angle shots from multiple locations, its hard to show it. I’ll let it be said that it would take you a good few minutes to get from one side of it to the next at a brisk space. It was absolutely teeming full of representatives, everyone from the major Library Systems vendors to comic book artists to people who make statues for libraries (admittedly some of those were pretty creepy).
I guess here lies one of the more valuable parts of the whole experience that I’ve told a lot of people about since coming back. Being on the exhibition floor itself allowed me to do a couple of things!
Two observations about the Tradeshow part.
The third and final part of this series will focus on the sessions / networking / opportunities, and what the outcome of going to ALA was for librarygame 1 and 1/2 months on.