Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Questions to Ask Your New Best Friend at ALA Midwinter

Me and my instant best friend, 2001
August, 2000. My freshman year orientation overnight trip to Michigan State. Armed with newly dyed purple hair, my coolest urban decay make-up. and my favorite Squirrel Nut Zippers shirt, I was ready to to take on ADULTING and TURNING EIGHTEEN SOON and while we're at it, THE WORLD! AND maybe hope that someone would talk to me so I didn't have to approach anyone myself.

Turns out, I ended up approaching someone because she was kind of staring at me and I needed that to stop. We started talking about our majors and found out we were living in the same dorm and--gasp-- were accepted into the same residential college that no one else had ever heard of (which has since turned into something amazing; good on you, MSU!). We talked about high school marching band and AOL Instant Messenger. These were the only things I needed in a new best friend under the crushing oncoming anonymity of college. When we moved into our dorm, my room was right across from hers, so it was basically a done deal at that point.

As we get older, it's harder and harder to make friends. Luckily, conferences afford us with the chance to meet strangers with similar interests; see librarians you met online in real life; and shake hands with librarians whose blogs you follow or whose work you love, but have never connected with. Amy at the Show Me Librarian provides some tips on how to put yourself out there at conferences and join the conversation.

Conversely, you can always approach people who look as awkward as you feel and start a conversation with them. The thing about conferences, though, is that everyone wears name tags with their name and place of work on it. There goes your "what's your name? where are you from? what's your major?" small talk equivalents.

Like: "Hey friend, where'd that 2x4 come from?"
Answer: "I found it in the hallway. Its name is Blocky."

That One Study That Shows the 36 Questions to Make Someone Fall In Love is being shared all over the place by everyone's most whimsical and/or creepy friends. It's pretty fascinating to me. But what if you hate "weather's nice, huh?" but don't want to ask a total stranger "what's your most traumatic memory?" (AND YOU SHOULDN'T WANT TO, PLEASE.)

Here's a few DONT's I've possibly learned the hard way:
1. DON'T ask prying questions about someone's job search
2. DON'T ask a library "futurist" how we can ever possibly look to the future when we're so hell-bent on self-preservation as institutions unless you're into walking away mid-lecture.

So what can you ask to start a conversation?
Here are a few of my go-to youth services librarian questions:
1. "What's the best thing you've been to so far at this conference?"
2. "What the best program you've ever put on?"
3. "What program would you love to do that you haven't gotten around to? What's holding you back?"
4. "What do you love most about being a librarian?"
5. "What's the silliest thing you've ever heard a kid/parent say?"
6. "What are your favorite go-to blogs at the moment?" This one can help you, too, find new blogs, or you can bond over mutual favorites.

When all else fails, here's my one go-to general question:
1. "What's the best thing you've seen on Netflix recently?" Truefax, this question can get people to stop debating politics and religion. I'm seen it happen. Also, if I can get you to admit at a professional conference that one of your favorite shows is Workaholics, we'll probably be friends for life.

Penguin pants optional.
OH and I won't be at Midwinter but meet some of my favorite people at the Uncommons for an awesome youth services takeover!

What are some of your favorite questions to get  conversation going? I'd love to have a ton in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. I don't really have any input since I'm SUCH an introvert... but I just had to say GO GREEN! I was at MSU from 2001-2004. Though I lived in Brody and Shaw and my degree is in agriscience, so I'm 99.5% sure I never crossed paths with you. But now I'm working in a library. Go figure.