Posted by: Maria | June 29, 2008

ALA 2008, day three

I just walked out of a session, shaking with anger and righteous indignation.

I went to the LIRT session this morning about energizing library instruction. When I walked in and saw people blowing bubbles, that should have been the first sign that something was amiss. I sat down and paged through the sheaf of handouts and tried to not worry that there was some treacly poem in there about love. I tried not to worry about the powerpoint slides flashing on the screen before the session started. The slides were full of tidbits of non-interesting trivia–I seriously did NOT come to the session to learn that the number one product that Wal-Mart sells the most of is bananas–and there were also some embarrassing grammatical errors on the slides as well. There was one slide in the presentation that said something about losing weight or losing inches, but I assumed–or I hoped–that is was some sort of lame punny jokey gimmicky thing about instruction. I tried valiantly to counter the resistance I felt building steadily inside of me. C’mon, I told myself. Give it a chance! Try to have fun! Have a better attitude! There were so many red flags pointing to intellectual bankruptcy, but still I remained, forcing myself to give it a chance.

And then! I noticed a pamphlet on the floor. It had fallen off the seat when I sat down. I was totally stunned and appalled that is was a pamphlet selling diet pills. That slide about losing inches? Not a joke. It was an actual pitch for a series of weight loss products being sold to me at a session at a professional conference. I looked at the back of the pamphlet, where the sales person’s name was listed, and it was a woman’s name with the same last name as the speaker. I suspect that it was his wife, and that the speaker–Andrew Sanderbeck of People-Connect Institute–thought it was perfectly fine to try to sell weight loss products at a session at a professional conference. HE WAS MISTAKEN. Please, tell me: on what PLANET is it acceptable to allow a program speaker to sell WEIGHT LOSS PRODUCTS to an audience of professional adults at a professional conference?

I registered an extremely strongly-worded complaint to one of the session organizers. She claimed that they didn’t know that he was going to hand out those pamphlets, and that I should disregard it and throw away. I could not BELIEVE that this was her response, which was wholly unprofessional, unacceptable, and inadequate. I quickly scribbled an equally strongly-worded comment on the evaluation form and thrust it into her face.

Yet another piece of evidence to add to the file of why the ALA conference is not a good match for me. I came here to learn, not to be insulted and offended professionally. I went to that session to learn about improving the way I do library instruction. I did not go there to receive a “bubble wand.” I don’t appreciate being patronized. I am a professional and intelligent adult, and I don’t care to be associated with a group that did not find it unacceptable that the program speaker saw this session as a chance to sell us diet pills. I can’t believe that this actually happened.



  1. Wow, that’s appalling! I was considering attending that session, and now I am very glad that I did not. It is disappointing how often “patronizing” and “intellectually bankrupt” can be used to describe sessions at library conferences.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Gretchen. When it appeared that I was the only one sputtering with outrage, I started to feel like I was crazy. Like, certainly I wasn’t the only one who found this unacceptable, right? I do hope that other session attendants were also offended and indicated this on the evaluation form. LIRT needs to know that this was completely and totally NOT OKAY.

  3. Wow!


    I would advise a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” strategy. Surely you – who take the idea of making library instruction more vibrant, and who take your profession and your professionalism so seriously – would make a far more compelling presenter than this goofball who mixed airy-fairy nonsense with hucksterism.

    How do jokers like him get on the agenda at all? I’d guess because few folks such as you and E create competition for him.

    Maybe you could spend some time, now, considering how you might make this conference better by presenting, moderating, or facilitating something next year. It could not only make the conference better, but bring a bit more excitement (and anxiety for the first year – after that your confidence will soar) to the ensuing months.

    I speak from experience – ableit in a different field – and it helped change my work life.

    good luck…and keep the spirit.

  4. […] one of the most exciting parts of the conference, and no, not just because of the food? After the disaster that was LIRT’s program, I was so disappointed and demoralized that I didn’t bother to […]

  5. What?!

  6. Yep, K.R., it’s true. This actually really truly happened.

  7. What an interesting post…but sorry Maria, I firmly disagree with you. Working at an academic library in New York, I have attended quite afew ALA conferences and I found nothing wrong with the presentation at all…except for the blowing bubbles.

    The company that distributed the brochures sponsored the event and I was very pleased that there was no sales pitch at all at the event.

    The info was there, and there were a few slides in the opening (which by the way, I liked the trivia and the quotes)from the sponsor. My opinion: So what, who cares.

    Bottom line: The speaker was excellent and I got alot out of his presentation.

    I would agree with you that it looks like ALA is not a good match for you.

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