Conference Updates

Moving Beyond Our Box: Why We Do What We Do (the Way We Do It)

Oct 21 2016 - 5:01pm

The NJLA Conference takes the most tremendous kind of event planning . . .

Combining professional development mixed with social interactions, formal and informal networking, food, overnight accommodations, geography and travel considerations, logistics and scheduling and space! And not to mention, just like with wedding and other party planning, always keeping in mind the infinite and wide range of needs, preferences and expectations of all of your guests, speakers and organizers. Add to the pressure that the annual conference is one of only two primary ways that NJLA makes any money with which to operate (the other is individual and institutional membership dues). It certainly takes a team effort to put together a large-scale three-day, statewide event, and we’re pretty lucky to have some of the best team players around.

All of that being said, every year there are a lot of questions about why we do what we do to organize and plan for our annual conference. In light of thinking and moving beyond the box, we want to make sure the process as transparent as possible and answer some of those questions from our membership. 

How Do We Do It?

Most conferences start years before the event date. NJLA leadership -- typically Pat Tumulty, the current and/or incoming NJLA President, and one or more chairs of the Conference Committee, working directly with a professional conference contract negotiator -- starts planning for the annual conference with a thorough review of venue options in and around New Jersey. As you may have heard, our venue options are limited! The ideal venue is one that:

  • Is located in NJ (In the past, we’ve even held a conference in the Poconos!)

  • Can offer dates that do not conflict with other professional events (like ALA, PLA, especially during a year when they are local to NJ) or with religious or federal holidays

  • Has substantial enough parking to accommodate attendees, vendors, and guest speakers

  • Has reasonable options for overnight accommodations, preferably on-site (that meet expectations in terms of quality, quantity, and finances for our members)

  • Has space that allows for an exhibit hall with 80-100 vendors, luncheons, keynotes that draw larger audiences, the NJLA Store, and at least 8 smaller breakout program rooms -- simultaneously

  • Has space that allows us to comfortably accommodate attendees at all of the above events, and a layout minimizing the proximity of attendees to vendors and both to event spaces

  • Meets an affordable price tag for our non-profit association

Why AC?

In the most recent past, the last 10-15 years or so, many NJLA members and conference go-ers experienced some really great events at Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch. Unfortunately, as we realized that we were outgrowing the exhibit space, program rooms and parking lot, we also recognized that space and room rates were much higher than many other venues across the state. Our conference negotiator conducts research each year about potential venues, and currently there are only a couple left that meet our requirements: all located in Atlantic City, NJ.

In addition to those requests that NJLA has when selecting a conference venue, the venues themselves have requirements for those groups that they allow to use their space. One of the most important things for many venues is something over which NJLA has very little control: we just don’t book enough overnight stays. Most venues make their money not from the price we pay for the space, but for those rooms that get booked and other money spent inside the venue (like food). If we don’t secure enough rooms, by hotel standards, they simply do not approve our request to have them host our event. In addition, those that are willing to host NJLA, like Ocean Place, require that a certain number of overnight stays get reserved or our organization has to pay the difference for unused rooms (this is called attrition). Year after year, we often just don’t book enough hotel rooms to be cost-effective -- for us, or for them.

Why Harrahs?

While planning for the 2016 NJLA Conference, there was one venue that was eager enough for business that they were willing to offer some pretty great concessions. Other venues that may have fit the financial bill rejected our proposal (because of projected low quantity of room reservations). Those one or two willing to host our event were proposing a steep price, or few-to-no additional concessions.

Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City was in the midst of constructing a brand new Conference Center, planning to open a few months before our preferred conference dates, and at that time were looking to book, well, anyone. We were offered a number of various discounts (many of which could be passed onto individual members) AND no attrition for the hotel! And just as good, the space that the new Waterfront Conference Center could offer was hard to beat. With over 50,000 in square footage that was completely customizable, the NJLA Conference was ensured plenty of centralized vendor space, room for sponsors to be visually highlighted, bigger breakout rooms for sessions, luncheon and keynote space, and plenty of room for both formal and informal networking and social engagement. The venue boasts a variety of food options (for food style and price point), newly renovated hotel rooms, plenty of parking -- and an indoor, temperature-controlled pool! Plus, this space provides room to grow our event, allowing us to finally be able to potentially consider collaborations with like-minded organizations. (Professional development and collaboration are both major features of NJLA’s current strategic plan.)

Full Steam Ahead!

Most conferences aren’t perfect. We aim to provide the best possible experience to all of our conference attendees, and sometimes we fall short. However, despite a few flaws at our first year at a new venue in 2016, we learned some valuable things about our members and our ideal space, and we look to build on our success for years to come, no matter what part of the state in which we end up! The 2016 Annual Conference was one of the best financially for our association, particularly since AV costs were down significantly from previous years. Currently, in late 2016 as I write this blog post, we are in the midst of reviewing and approving locations, dates, concessions, and contract terms for 2018, 2019, and 2020, and the NJLA Executive Board has already approved the Conference Committee negotiating a new three-year contract with Harrah's Resort.

The bottom line is that what Harrah’s is able and willing to offer checked off just about everything on NJLA’s list for an ideal conference venue. NJLA truly believes that the opportunities presented at the Waterfront Conference Center contribute to an enjoyable, memorable, and overall high quality conference experience. NJLA will continue to survey potential venues throughout the state, so that we always know that we are getting the best bang for our buck, and the best resources available to accommodate our greatest professional development experience. Now that Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center is seeing great success nationally, they are certainly not begging for business. However, NJLA and librarians pride themselves on good customer relations, and we are excited to continue to work with all NJLA leadership, program planners, and members, as well as to build a relationship with Harrah’s, in order to offer a valuable statewide conference each year.

The best (not to mention, the most fun) way to be aware of or enhance your understanding all of the in’s and out’s of NJLA, especially Conference, is to be an active member of our association through committee work and/or leadership positions. Also, ask questions! The Conference Committee does work hard to share as much information as possible, but we sometimes get so wrapped up in the details that you absolutely *must know* that we forget to share all the backstories. Help us out by sharing any concerns, asking questions, or seeking clarification by communicating with us directly at The NJLA Office can also answer many questions that you may have. We know we can count on your support, dedication, creativity and hard work to make each year’s conference even better than the next! Thank you for putting your trust in us to lead the way.

Kate Jaggers and the 2016-17 NJLA Conference Committee

Day Three of #njla16

May 19 2016 - 10:48pm

Day Three of conference lived up to all of its hype. For those of you that missed it:

  • Though Cory Doctorow's flight was delayed, preventing him from giving our last keynote, he was able to make it in time for some meet and greets and signings. We did not go keynote-less, however! The amazing John Chrastka of EveryLibrary gave a powerful keynote on the importance of us fighting on a political level for our profession. We'd like to thank John for being such an amazing sport and filling in with an inspiring and much needed keynote.
  • The Garden State Book Awards, Past President's Luncheon, and College and University Luncheon hosted amazing speakers like Rita Williams-Garcia and Terry Paul Reese who got everyone excited about our amazing profession (and not to mention the delicious food at Harrah's).
  • Ideas were flying in the Ignite session, one of the most popular conference offerings most years.

And that is only a small taste of what happened on our closing day! If you'd like to see more of the awesome things that happened this year throughout conference, check out our Storify round-ups:

And last but certainly not least, we want to say thank you to all of you for attending, presenting, helping, supporting in any and all ways that you did throughout the conference. Conference is truly only as good as the people who attend, and this may have been one of the best ones yet!

So, until #njla17,

Emily Witkowski and the 2016 Conference Committee

Day Two of #njla16

May 18 2016 - 12:10am

Day Two has provent to be just as great as Day One of #njla16! 

We're about to embark upon our last day of conference sadly, but we just want to remind you again that if you're talking anything conference on social media, make sure you use our official hashtag #njla16. The past two days we have been updating a Storify page which will collect tweets, instagram, and facebook posts that use the official conference hashtag.

Some important reminders for tomorrow's sessions:

  • Registration opens at 7:30 tomorrow morning. At registration you can claim your name badge, luncheon tickets, and an official program.
  • The State Librarians Breakfast is tomorrow morning from 8:00-9:00 in Wildwood 3 and is open to everyone.
  • If you haven't already, download the NJLA Conference App! Available for all of your conference needs.
  • We'll have our second amazing keynote with author and activist Cory Doctorow at 10:10AM in Wildwood 1
  • Tomorrow is your last chance to visit exhibitors and enter the raffles in the Exhibit Hall. Make sure you thank your exhibitors and sponsors, get a free cup of coffee, and find the dice for a great prize!
  • The NJLA Store will be closing at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon, so make sure you stop by before then to stock up on all things reading and libraries!

Until then, here's the amazing Jay Asher loving his opportunitiy to catalogue and process his own book in his former library job:

Emily Witkowski and the 2016 Conference Committee

Day One of #njla16

May 16 2016 - 10:05pm

We hope everyone is having as much fun as we are on Conference Committee at this year's NJLA Conference! From great preconferences, to the awesome new venue, to trivia with Stanley Newman, the first day has been a real success. We hope those of you who were unable to attend the preconference were able to enjoy the awesome virtual preconference we had to offer as well. 

Just a reminder to all that the official hashtag for this year's conference is #njla16. Some of you are already sharing and posting on social media, and keep it up! For those of you who haven't joined the virtual party yet, it has just begun! Plus, there's a great incentive: Each day we are going to update a Storify page which will collect tweets, instagram, and facebook posts that use the official conference hashtag. If you are posting and sharing content, you may just see your name immortalized on our Storify page. For Day One highlights, follow here:,

We hope that everyone contiues to enjoy themselves at the lovely Harrah's Resort. Some important reminders:

  • Registration opens at 7:30 tomorrow morning. At registration you can claim your name badge, luncheon tickets, and an official program.
  • Don't forget to download the NJLA Conference App! Available for all of your conference needs.
  • Tomorrow we'll have our first keynote with YA author Jay Asher at 10:10AM in Wildwood 1
  • The Exhibit Hall will have its Grand Opening at 11AM. Make sure you thank your exhibitors and sponsors, get a free cup of coffee, and find the dice for a great prize!
  • The NJLA Store will officially be in full swing tomorrow, so stop by for all things library and book-related (plus everything in between).

And remember, if you have any questions, swing by the registration desk o find someone with an "ASK ME" pin on and we'll point you in the right direction!

At least it looks like these librarians are having fun!:

Happy Conference!

Emily Witkowski and the 2016 Conference Committee

Your #njla16 Packing List

May 15 2016 - 3:57pm

Hi all! Hope you're as excited about the next three days as we are on the #njla16 conference committee! We thought you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed, or maybe just overexcited about all of the awesome things that we have planned, so here's some helpful packing tips and reminders we thought we'd share:

  • Don't forget your smartphones, tablets, or other mobile devices (and all associated chargers) because the official NJLA Conference App is here for help with all things conference!

  • If you plan on taking a dip during our Pool Party on Tuesday night after the Awards dinner, don't forget your bahting suit! 8:00-9:30pm at The Pool @ Harrah's.
  • If you pre-purchased copies of our speaking authors' books, make sure you bring them or one of our many signings!
  • Bring money for the slots, or if you like a safer bet, bring money for the NJLA Store where all things libraries and books can be found!
  • Bring cameras and your social media game, because we'll be following everyone's tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram posts each day through our various NJLA accounts and collecting them all for a Storify page of each day so you can relive all of the highlights of conference.

And remember, if you have any questions throughout conference, stop someone with an "ASK US!" pin, or swing by the registration desk where other conference committee members and volunteers can be reached at any time. 

See you at Harrah's!

Emily Witkowski and the 2016 Conference Committee

An Opportunity to Show Off Your (Brain)Muscles

May 13 2016 - 2:25pm

Get ready to put on your thinking caps!

President's Program speaker Stanley Newman has challenged New Jersey’s library community to compete with each other during an evening of Trivia!

Mr. Newman is the editor of the Newsday Daily Crossword, and has devised an hour long trivia challenge of general knowledge and “Deductive Trivia” questions.

Start putting your team of four together today! Teams will also be assembled at the event. Winning teams will be rewarded with prizes!

This event will take place on Monday, May 16th at 8 pm, at Sammy D’s; within the Harrah’s Resort.


If you’ve put off registering for Conference, you can still register on site at Harrah's, so do not hesitate to join the fun!

More Great PR For Conference

May 12 2016 - 3:35pm

We are getting closer and closer to the start of our fabulous annual conference! As we get closer we've seen some more great promotional materials from sections and committees for the different programs that they are sponsoring during #njla16. Check out some of their great work!




Keep the great promotion coming, and we'll see you in FOUR DAYS!

Opportunities to "Tech it Up" at #NJLA16

May 11 2016 - 12:30pm
This years conference has a wide variety of opportunities to engage with and learn about both emerging and current technologies as it applies to libraries. I just wanted to highlight a few examples to peak your interest.
First, I encourage you to visit our exhibits hall on Tuesday and Wednesday and talk with some of our newest STEM related vendors joining us this year including :
  • Nextfab - booth 721 - Nextfab is a makerspace located outside Philadelphia with a not only a truly inspiring facility (anyone looking to start a makerspace?) but offer classes and courses you may be able to bring to your library.
  • SparkleLabs - booth 422 - SparkleLabs is a family owned business from Montclair NJ that produced really fun and exciting STEM education kits which would go great with your maker or project sessions for kids K-12.
  • Lego Education - Booth 520 - Lego Education produces a variety of kits from WeDO to Lego Mindstorms, along with a significant content library of cirricular materials for incorporating their products in making, robotics, or other types of STEM sessions
Then, I hope you will consider attending some of the really unique tech related sessions planned this year covering topics from technology instruction, to social media, to privacy in the digital realm, to the Raspberry Pi. These programs are a great way to delve deeper into some really interested technology related topics and garner some great ideas and inspiration to bring back to your library. Here are some highlights:
"My Kids Bought Me an iPhone": Providing Tech Help to Patrons
Date/Time : Monday, May 16th / 11:10a-12p
Description : The purpose of libraries has historically been providing access to information patrons cannot get in their own homes. Today patrons come to the library looking for access to a computer, the internet, ebooks, and new technologies. With advanced technologies becoming more affordable, patrons should be able to look to the library to fill in the gaps about technology knowledge – how to use a device, how to access ebooks, how to make a webpage, how to code.
Note : This sessions is a virtual preconference session. All conference attendees will receive a link to attend.
10 Raspberry Pi Projects for Your Library
Date/Time: Tuesday, May 17th / 9-9:50a
Description:  The Raspberry Pi is a low cost computer that can be both useful and fun. Already popular in libraries throughout the country, this panel would focus on three types of projects that can be done with the Raspberry Pi in your library: Makerspace, utility, and “gee whiz” ideas that you might never have considered.
Room : Wildwood 12 & 13
Library Paparazzi: Next Level Tips for #LibrariesOfInstagram
Date/Time : Tuesday, May 17th / 3:10-4:30p
Description: Next-Level Tips for #LibrariesOfInstagram: Thousands of libraries are using Instagram. What's next for you in this space? Join in the practical fun with this hands-on session to learn how to use photos for community engagement and integrate Instagram into your library's overall PR & communications strategy. We'll share examples from libraries, museums and archives doing excellent work in this space & you'll leave with ideas you can implement immediately.
Room : Wildwood 8 & 9
Privacy in Libraries in the Electronic Age
Date/Time : May 17th / 4:10-5:00pm
Description: Digital footprints. Borrowing histories. Employer loyalty v. First Amendment rights. These privacy issues and more effect both patrons and staff everyday. Attorney Douglas Zucker will explore these issues and the policies and procedures you need to have in place to protect your public and your employees.
Room : Wildwood 10 & 11
In addition to some of these outstanding programs, we will be also featuring our ever-popular Brown Bag Lightning Tech Talks on Tuesday, May 17th from 12:30-2pm. This year's format will feature a longer form approach, where speakers will present on topics for 15 minutes. This means an even better opportunity to still get some quick tech bites, but with more meat on the bone! These are always a great way to spend a casual lunch and inspire some new ideas, service, or tool you may be able to use or share with others.
Finally, don't forget about the many social events including our Tuesday mixers and Pool party as great ways to network, talk tech, and find out something new while connecting with someone new! Who knows what you may learn, or even what someone may learn from you!
Hope to see you at conference, and for those who know me, I am ALWAYS ready to talk some tech :)
Doug Baldwin and the 2016 Conference Committee

Exhibits Update

May 10 2016 - 1:38pm

We posted earlier about some awesome give-aways that you can win by visiting the exhibitors, including money for your library from RWDSU/UFCW Local 108, a Fitbit from Patcraft, and a copy of Dewane Parker's book Born Dead. In addition, we recently found out that Innovative Document Imaging is raffling off a Lenova Window 10 laptop PC. And that's not all...

Exhibits are where you find all of the latest innovations in the library field, from equipment to design to current titles. Exhibits are where you can meet with old friends and make new ones. Not to mention the raffles, free give-aways, coffee, and ice cream that can all be found in the Exhibitors Hall.

We all use the excuse "We're not the ones who approve purchases at our library" as a way to think that exhibits are not for us, but think again! You never know when you may be in a position to make purchases. Even if you can’t buy you may see something you can recommend to staff who can buy. But the best reason of all to visit the hall is to thank a vendor. Our exhibitors provide a major source of support for our organization. Without the exhibits, we wouldn’t have a conference.

Besides the awesome giveaways and prizes that the exhibitors themselves will be raffling and handing out, NJLA wants you to find the dice! There are at least 24 pairs of dice available to be found each day that look like the ones below. Find the dice, bring it to the Exhibitors Information Booth, and claim your prize!

We're 5 days away from conference, and we hope you're as excited as we are to be All Together Now!


Librarians for a Cause

May 9 2016 - 2:44pm

NJLA’s Urban Libraries section has made a tradition of sponsoring a charitable drive for a local organization in need each year at the NJLA conference. 

This year they have happily partnered with with NJLA’s Diversity & Outreach and the Small Libraries sections, who have joined as sponsors of a Clothing Drive for teens in the care of Covenant House in Atlantic City.   Since 1989, Covenant House New Jersey has been providing food, shelter, immediate crisis care, and an array of other important services to homeless, runaway and trafficked youth between the ages of 18-21.  Their doors are open 24 hours a day for youth in need. 

Covenant House NJ provided us with a list of items their kids are currently in most need of.  We hope that you will consider supporting these kids by remembering this list on your next shopping trip:

  • Belts (black/leather--mens and womens, sizes S-XXXL)
  • Beach towels
  • Small duffle bags (not back packs but more like overnight bags)
  • Plain tee shirts (white, black, grey), Sizes S-XXXL
  • Umbrellas

These items will be collected at the section promotions tables throughout Tuesday and most of Wednesday, May 17th and 18th.  The tables for Urban Libraries, Diversity & Outreach and Small libraries will all be situated in the same general area. 

Covenant House New Jersey:  You can learn more about Covenant House New Jersey’s mission by visiting

Watch for this opportunity at the conference, and remind your friends and co-workers!  And thank you on behalf of the Urban Libraries, Diversity & Outreach, and Small Libraries sections, and of Covenant House NJ.

Need some suggestions on what to buy?

You can always shop locally, or, if you shop by Amazon, you can benefit the youth of Covenant House AND NJLA at the same time, by choosing NJLA as your charity in your Amazon account. Just follow this link to search for NJLA.

For starters, here are some nice basic cotton t’s for women and men: Black, Gray or White, size s-xxxl Black, Gray or White, size s-xxxl


Go in with a friend, and help with some fresh basic clothing items. 



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