Suzanne and I have been in Chicago since last Thursday. We came because the American Library Association is having its annual meeting. Since Suzanne is a member librarian, she wanted to come check it out and since I have nothing better to do, I was up for it as well. I usually love conferences. I have been to them as an attender and as a visitor with Suzanne. When I'm the attender, I enjoy going to the sessions to hear people read the papers they've written based upon recent research. And, it's great to meet (or at least see) famous scholars whom I have only heard of or read their books. When I'm a visitor, it's fun to be in another town, see the sights, and hang out with no real responsibilities.
Despite my usual enjoyment of conferences, this one has provided more than its share of headaches. First, the public transportation system of Chicago has proved impossible to figure out. So, we've had to drive into town for the conference every day and pay $16 for parking. Now, we are staying WAY out in the suburbs with some of my family, so I don't fault the ALA conference for that. But, on Friday, which was the first official day of the conference and the first day of general registration, we walked into the enormous McCormick Place conference center along with some other of Suzanne's co-workers and found a madhouse. For some reason, ALA had decided to set up the registration area in a small corner of the second level. So, by the time we arrived at 10:00 a.m., they were experiencing "overcrowded" conditions that put the building in danger of breaking fire codes, thus there was a crowd of about 400 people who had to wait at the bottom of the escalators for space to clear up in the registration area.
Please understand, not only are there many thousands of members of ALA who attend this conference every year, but there were also free passes given away by the book publisher and library supply vendors who put on a trade show during the conference. So, people like me had also showed up with our free "vendor pass coupons" ready to register, but we faced a 3 hour or more wait. How could this happen!? Why not put the registration in a larger area? Why not put it on the main floor where there are plenty of exits? Once a problem arises, why not set up some temporary registration tables on the main floor to speed up the process? Why not set up roped-off areas to create an orderly line instead of several gluts and bottlenecks of hundreds of frustrated people?
Many questions remain and many frustrating stories could be told. Let me offer one of each. I would guess this conference facility is made to provide meeting space for anywhere from 9000 to 12,000 people (it's very likely those are conservative estimates). Why, then, is the "food court" (actually a cafeteria) only able to seat about 150-200 people at once? Especially when there are really no other fast-food or other restaurant establishments within walking distance. The story is actually kind of amusing. After waiting for about an hour to ride up the escalator to registration, the group was told that it was safe for 100 people go up. At about the point 90 people had been counted off, the escalator came to a sudden halt. Of course, the thing was not made to convey 90 people of a very sedentary profession all at once! My wife, who happened to be up at the top of the escalator at the time (fortunately, she had registered the day before) heard one of the McCormick employees exclaim, "Why are they letting all those people on at once! Get them off! Get them off!"
boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."