I know there have been and are going to be changes in the personnel that oversee the annual convention. To that end, I would like to offer some suggestions so that the problems that plagued the conference in Boston do not occur as we gather in 2014 outside of Washington, D.C.
1. Whoever is in charge of assigning rooms for the sessions needs to understand that some folks will draw huge crowds and need to be placed in rooms of sufficient size. Too many of the Boston attendees were shut out of the sessions they wished to attend because of poor planning. Putting the luminaries of literacy in rooms that held 100 or 200 was not smart planning. Putting a workshop with 10 round tables in a room for 100 was not smart either. If the new folks do not know who will be a draw, perhaps someone could provide a list of the leading figures in literacy? This was not an occasional problem, so I do believe that the overcrowding situation was the result of poor planning. If it was because there were not sufficient numbers of large meeting rooms, then this is yet another problem that needs to be addressed.
2. Someone from NCTE needs to be able to speak to hotel or convention center staff about their behavior. At the ALAN breakfast, we had at least 25 people who did not get ANY food (and someone from NCTE decided we needed a buffet for over 300 people which is yet another major error in judgment). When we asked for food, the response was not polite or professional. One of our authors was spoken to in a very unprofessional tone which I witnessed. As for the folks who never got food, I was one of them. An additional problem arose at another session when a representative from Scholastic Trade Division refused to exit the room she was using for a session when her time was over. As a result, our session, scheduled to be in that room, began more than 15 minutes late.
3. The room for the ALAN Workshop was not set up when we arrived to get things ready. I spoke to convention center staff multiple times that morning, none of whom seemed to know how the room was to be set up. We had the requests for AV that were not fulfilled. The lighting was poor (we were told it was because they could not turn on more lights due to the AV screens). We eventually used an adjacent room for the book distribution and autographing as nothing had been set up.
4. Scheduling sessions in different locations with 15 minutes to get from one place to another takes a toll not only on participants but also on presenters. On Friday, I had to dash from convention center to hotel and back to convention center and hotel. Given the crowded meeting rooms, this was not a simple task.
5. Getting food continues to be a huge problem during the conference and the workshop. Most of the time, we simply went without lunch during the day. Those of us who are actively involved in more than one event do not have the luxury to find a place to grab a bite to eat. Instead we subsist on power bars and water.
Kent, I am aware that there were thousands of people in attendance at the conference. I know the time and effort that goes into the planning and implementation of conference proceedings. I have coordinated (on a much smaller scale) conferences for more than 20 years. I appreciate the work that is done behind the scenes. I particularly appreciate Eileen Maley who was always on hand after the ALAN Workshop began. I appreciate the obstacles that simply arise on site. However, the situations of meeting room space allotments and food shortages/changes are both problems that did not have to arise with more careful planning. I hope that NCTE 2015 addresses these issues well in advance.