ALA New Orleans: A few thoughts in preparation

Some of you may remember a flurry of posts back in 2004, offering good advice for people attending ALA. I pulled together some of those (and some other related lists) and even added one tip of my own, in Perspective: Good Advice: Making Some Lists in the July 2004 Cites & Insights. (OK, I might have added more tips during the blogging–but I didn’t have W.a.r. back then.)

I haven’t seen similar sets of advice this year, and the stuff from 2004 still makes perfectly good sense; that portion of the HTML page (down to “Suggestions for Presenters”) fits on both sides of a single sheet.

So there’s the first thought: Those tips from 2004 are just as valid this year. I’ll particularly stress “don’t overschedule” and “you will walk miles every day”

I haven’t been back to New Orleans since Katrina, but I have been back within the last two years. From what I remember of the convention center/downtown area, what I’ve read about the situation these days, and what I know of ALA’s arrangements, I will suggest a few specifics:

  • You’re going to walk half a mile to get from the exhibits to the front door anyway. Add another mile to that, mile and a half at most, and you can get to many or most hotels, lots of restaurants, the French Quarter, etc. In other words: You may need the shuttle bus if you’re heavily loaded, but I think of “the sliver by the river” as a walking town, at least in daylight or in groups. For an average walking pace (say 3 miles per hour), most places you’d want to go aren’t more than 30-40 minutes from the CC’s front door, and many of them are closer than that. (Nothing wrong with taking cabs, but they may be in slightly short supply, particularly on the big flight days.)
  • Which emphasizes another point: Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re able to walk a few miles a day, plan on walking a few miles a day. You’ll get more out of the town and the conference.
  • And wear comfortable clothes! Figure on it being 90/90: 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) or above, and 90% humidity much of the time. One time when ALA was in New Orleans, a general call went out to scrap the coats & ties (and equivalent stuffy clothes for women). Maybe that call should have gone out this time as well. You’ll have a lot more fun when you’re not dying from the heat and damp.
  • Sure, the high-end restaurants will mostly be open, apparently including Commander’s Palace. If that’s your thing, go for it: New Orleans depends on tourist/convention money, and always has. But, you know, those less fancy restaurants mostly have good Nawlins food as well, at considerably lower prices; you could put some of the difference toward maybe slightly overtipping the people who are trying to recover. (It’s real easy to figure one dollar out of every four on the bill…) (OK, I’m prejudiced on this one: I’ve generally been happier with the “ordinary” meals I’ve had in NO than with the hotshot restaurants, although they sure do fancy service at those expensive places. To my taste, the everyday NO places do food that’s maybe 80% as good as the top places, at 50% of the price,and with a whole lot less attitude. I like the neighborhood places, the semi-dives, and for that matter some of the heavily-localized hotel restaurants. Of course, I’m doing another gumbo exploration anyway, so I may not be the best judge here.)
  • If you’re volunteering on one of the two special days, good for you. If you feel the need to take one of the tours that features unrecovered areas, that’s fine too. But if you just want to enjoy the conference, enjoy getting together with all your twice-a-year face-to-face friends, enjoy good food, and enjoy New Orleans for what it used to be and the pieces that have returned: You know, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You’re part of what will bring (most of) New Orleans back: Visiting Money, Having a Good Time. If anybody tries to lay a guilt trip on you, ignore them.
  • As at any conference, show a little common sense. I don’t know if post-Katrina French Quarter is still a 24-hour-a-day frat party (as one local cabbie described it at 5 a.m., as we were passing all these drunks leaning against lightposts in that 24-hour drinking town with “sure, take the drink out on the street” laws), but you know, you really don’t have to see how many Hurricanes you can drink. Going out alone most anywhere at 3 a.m. is rarely advisable in any city. And, for what it’s worth, it really doesn’t hurt to tuck your badge into your pocket when you leave the convention center or your meeting room–although, if you’re swinging one of those freebie bags, chances are your status isn’t going to be any big secret.
  • Finally, and most important: Laissez lez bon temps roulez. Let the good times roll. New Orleans needs ALA. New Orleans needs you–to come, enjoy yourself, eat, drink, and spend money. And, to be sure, visit the exhibits, take in some programs, and wave or stop for a chat if you see me. [No, I don’t know any French. I’ve been to New Orleans often enough to know that motto, though–even if I did have to check the spelling.]

2 Responses to “ALA New Orleans: A few thoughts in preparation”

  1. stevenb says:

    Walt – all good suggestions – especially the reminder about taking off the conference badge when you walk the street. I had two things to add to your list – perhaps for the gentlemen. I don’t normally use handkerchiefs, but I am packing three or four. They are quite useful in hot, humid towns for wiping the brow after a walk to a meeting. No one wants to offend by dripping sweat on to others in a crowded meeting room. My second suggestion is really related to the first. I’m going to bring a supply of the moist wipes you can get in the supermarket (there are varieties for hands and other body parts – sometimes found in the baby products or paper goods sections) to help with those sweaty cleanups. They can also be quite refreshing after a walk. I certainly have no plan for anthing other than casual attire – and a sport coat only for a presentation. Maybe one last presentation. Check to see if your hotel has a pool. If it’s going to be hot and humid a swim at the end of a long conference day is a great way to cool off. You may not think about bringing swim trunks now but you’ll be glad you did when that pool looks really tempting.

  2. walt says:


    Good suggestions. I’ll add a detail related to “moist wipes,” based on years of our own experience–caution, brand name coming up:

    Wash’n’Dri, and specifically Wash’n’Dri, are also extremely handy as spot removers–for cleaning up that whatever that hit your shirt or tie or pants or… as you were dining. They don’t get everything, but if you squeeze them to saturate the spot and rub lightly, they do remarkably well. (My wife always carries them; we’ve saved more than one occasion on cruise ships when someone had a little oopsie at our table–including us, of course.)

    They’re more expensive than most towelettes, and we certainly use other brands (to freshen up, for example), but to the best of our (incomplete) knowledge they’re the only ones that do as well at stain removal.

    Since you’re likely to reach a restaurant or bar after a long sweaty walk, there’s another suggestion if you have room for it (or a purse): a small bottle of hand sanitizer (Purell or any of the house brands). Not to wipe your face or anything, but to clean your hands without access to towels. Pretty cheap at most stores, especially if you find house brands acceptable.

    [As for sport coats for presentations: I’m the moderator for the LITA Top Tech Trends session, and I was planning to wear a coat & tie for that, but I’m having second thoughts, wondering whether it’s worth carting/wearing even my lightest sport coat across the country. Don’t be surprised if I show up shirted but uncoated.]