ALA Annual Conference 2012 (Prelude): Preparation, Reflection, and Regeneration

Providing a friend with a brief coaching session to prepare her for a job interview in the workplace learning and performance (staff training) field recently, I jokingly concluded by telling her, “That’s it. That’s all I know. I’m completely drained of information now.”

And she, acknowledging how much I read and write and collaborate with friends and colleagues to keep up with the never-ending flood of trends and information we all encounter, snapped right back: “I don’t believe that. You regenerate yourself faster than anyone else I know.”

Although she isn’t here in Anaheim for the 2012 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference, I’m thinking of her this evening as I prepare to immerse myself in what will be my fourth conference this year—my fourth opportunity to meet with tremendously diverse groups of colleagues, turn myself into the training-teaching-learning version of a sponge, and once again engage in invaluable acts of professional and personal regeneration.

The conferences I have already attended this year—the New Media Consortium Horizon Project Advisory Board retreat, the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, and the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) International Conference & Exposition—have been exciting. Exhilarating. Inspiring. Overwhelming. And, let’s be honest, fun. They do far more than offer an opportunity to regenerate; they are the social and intellectual life blood of any trainer-teacher-learner.

They require immense and intense periods of preparation. They demand the same level of focus that any successful learning opportunity demands. They provide opportunities to be with some of the brightest, wittiest, most engaging people any of us have the good fortune to know—face to face as well as through the conference backchannel, as so frequently happens in our onsite-online world. And when we follow our own advice to prepare for those physical and virtual encounters, engage in them without wearing ourselves out, and set aside time for the most important part of the experience—time to reflect and absorb all that we have seen and heard and learned—we find ourselves more fully understanding and appreciating my friend’s observation about regeneration and all that it implies, for regeneration is among the most important and fulfilling obligations we have. To those we serve. To those we admire. And to ourselves.

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