Perspective from Clint Rudy, 2018 VLA Conference Chair

Hello everyone!

I wanted to start by thanking everyone who participated in this year’s conference.  Special thanks to Todd Elliott, VLA Past President, Lisa Varga, VLA Executive Director, and the entire Conference Committee as well as all of the volunteers.  It is truly a team effort to make something like this successful.

One of my priorities for this year’s conference was to solicit feedback about the entire conference experience.  This involved several surveys (online and in person), thought boards, and small group discussions.   Now that we have had time to review and analyze the information, I wanted to take the time to share a few things about the conference planning process.  I had no idea how many details, decisions, and “no win” situations were involved.  

Things I learned as Conference Chair:   
Conference Venue:  There are very, very few locations in Virginia that are able to accommodate an event our size.   This means that the conference experience will almost always involve limited parking, lodging spread across several hotels, limited meal options, crowded rooms, limited seating/tables, and lots of distance between all of the above.   

Sessions:  This year’s theme was “revolution” and the committee was very strict about selecting sessions that met the defined selection criteria.  The committee is generally limited to the proposals submitted, but did make an effort to try to recruit additional proposals from outside Virginia and outside “library land.”  Once a session is selected, the committee has no control over the actual content of the session or presentation style.                  

Food:  As mentioned above, there are very, very few venues that offer the desired number of dining options in a very close proximity.  The food options from the venue itself are often much costlier than most people expect.  VLA subsidizes the difference between the cost of your meal ticket at the actual hotel cost.

Options:  With almost 600 attendees, it is super challenging to try to meet the needs of so many people with diverse interests and needs.   Each option considered comes with risks of conflicting with other things, associated costs, marketing, etc.  The philosophy is to try and provide as much as possible to as many people as possible while also being inclusive to everyone.     

So, my take-aways from my own experience:
Expect lots of walking, arrive early (if you can) to account for parking, plan food/dining options ahead of time, submit session proposals and aggressively encourage colleagues to do the same, research the hotel/conference center/surrounding area ahead of time, force meaningful interactions with new people, choose the options that meet my needs and ignore the rest, and, most importantly, LEARN AND GROW.      

I hope you will also consider volunteering to be part of a VLA Committee or Forum, or a future Conference Committee I learned so much about the conference planning process and have even more respect for anyone involved in planning large events.

Thank you!