As promised, here's what I found most valuable at ALA, and why:
1) Friday's Unconference - Although the program wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I got a great answer for my library facebook page dilemma: We need to create widgets so that students can import them into their own online spaces if they choose. This idea came from the wonderful Joyce Valenza, a librarian at Springfield Township High School in Pennsylvania.
2) NMRT Discussion Group: “Getting Published in LIS Journals” - I suspect that the people who attended this meeting are the ones whose names I will be reading in the library literature in the coming years. Those who participated were obviously determined to produce high-quality scholarship useful to librarianship. Taking part in this discussion was a great motivator, even though I am not on a tenure track.
4) ACRL's Colleges and Junior Colleges (CJC) Section Hot Topics Discussion - The group size (approx 15 people) for this discussion was perfect, and I suddenly found myself in a room of people with identical concerns and frustrations about libraries in community colleges. Although we were working with variety of user populations, it was exhilarating to be in a room of people with the same set of problems.
5) Web 2.0 meet the Standards for 21st Century Learners - At the time the Distance Learning Section of ACRL was set to meet at one of the northern hotels, I found myself still at McCormick Place on South Michigan Avenue, which is why I ended up at this session. Luckily it was a good one, and I got to see a number of tools I hadn't used before, such as FotoFlexer, Pageflakes, and netvibes's widget directory.
6) Social Software Showcase 2009 - Smart people demonstrating tools and technologies on the horizon. Need I say more?
7) Lastly, rather than point to an organized event I want to describe how amazing it is to be surrounded by active, thoughtful librarians from all over the country who are interested in discussing issues of the profession at every opportunity. I've heard that ALA is a good way of recharging yourself professionally, and it's true. The interactions I had with other librarians were at least as valuable as the lectures.