ALA Midwinter 2016 in Boston

I’m currently writing this while sitting in the Boston airport waiting for my flight back to Baltimore. I spent the past 4 days in Boston at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Boston in my life, so based on what I knew I figured it would be a good location for a conference. Of course I would have preferred it not be in January. Luckily we didn’t have any real weather issues.

At any rate even though the weather was not too awful aside from the torrential rains Sunday afternoon, it turns out Boston is not that great of a city to go to a large conference in. I’m sure it’s perfectly fine for smaller conferences that take place in the Hynes, but for something as large as the ALA conferences where we take over the BCEC, which is not in the center of the city plus several hotels which are it makes for an annoying conference.

They always provide shuttle buses, but in my experience these always take way more time than it should. Between waiting and riding the shuttle between Copley Place and the convention center it took me almost an hour to get between meetings. I could have walked it faster. I only like going to conferences where I can easily walk between the convention center and whatever hotels the meetings are in. Acceptable cities based on my experience are Seattle, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, DC, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. Unacceptable are Chicago, Las Vegas, and Boston. Although sort of walkable I hated Anaheim and Dallas for other reasons. I’ll let you know for sure about Orlando in June, but I’ve heard it’s hell so I’m not looking forward to it.

Because of the getting around issues on Saturday I felt like so much of the day was wasted and that it wasn’t a super productive day. My one committee meeting Friday and all the stuff I did Sunday were productive and useful so those were much better days. I also got to see some new products demo’d from vendors that look really interesting.

In the midst of all the getting around issues on Saturday I lost my new gloves somewhere, which you would think would be a bummer. However almost immediately after losing them I managed to replace them in such a serendipitous way that made me so happy that I’m almost glad I lost them. As I was walking to grab lunch after my meeting before catching the shuttle back to the convention center from Copley Place I realized I didn’t have much gloves. I spotted a Marshall’s across the street and figured they would probably have something to replace the gloves I lost, but I need to walk to the end of the block to cross the street. As I was doing that I stumbled on a Nordstrom Rack on the side of the street I was already on. That’s where I bought the original pair of gloves, so I thought perfect I hope they still have them. They did have exactly one pair left in my size and they’d been marked down a couple of times so they only cost me $10. It was the best experience of losing something that I’ve ever had.

Other than that I as always got to meet up with some far flung librarian friends. I always enjoy conferences to meet up with people that I only really ever get to see at them. I’m always sad that we don’t get to see each other more often. I had dinner in the North End on Friday night, which if you’re not familiar is Boston’s Italian district. It was within walking distance of my hotel, which was nice. We had some delicious Italian food for dinner and then got dessert from Mike’s Pastries.

Saturday I finally got to meet up in person with a Twitter pal. We’ve been trying for a couple of conferences now, but her schedule is always so crazy at these things that it’s hard for her to find free time. We wound up having dinner with a couple of other people she knew and then someone else’s coworkers. It was a fun night and nice to meet a couple of more new people.

Sunday night I didn’t have any plans so I wound up having dinner with my friend Alison, who is always great company. If I can make other plans I try to not just have meals with friends from home who I see all the time, but her plans fell through and we were both around so it worked out. I really wanted some clam chowder. I was in Boston after all. Plus it’s almost impossible to find clam chowder in Maryland. Everywhere serves Maryland crab soup and maybe cream of crab, which is more similar to clam chowder but still not the same. Since it was within walking distance to our hotel we wound up at Union Oyster house, which claims to be the oldest operating restaurant in the United States. It’s also right along the Freedom Trail, so it’s a restaurant that certainly caters to tourists. As such the quality is as mediocre as one might expect from such a place. I guessed that would be the case going in, but it was within walking distance of our hotel and it had clam chowder and plenty of fish options for entrees, which is what I was in the mood for. I had clam chowder and swordfish. The food was middling, but since I had already figured it would be I wasn’t particularly disappointed. Plus I learned some stuff reading the back of the menu, so I call it a success.

Even though there were some annoying things dealing with getting around on Saturday, all in all it was a good conference. I’m always happy to visit with my librarian friends. I’m sad so many of them are skipping out on the annual conference in Orlando this summer. Although I don’t blame them. If I wasn’t committed to going I might skip out on it too. I’m sure I’ll try and make the most of it though.

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