The INFO-EXPO: Much More Than an Exhibit Hall
At first glance, the INFO-EXPO at an SLA Annual Conference appears to be just an exhibit hall, filled with vendors showcasing their products and services. But look a little closer, and you’ll see that it is much, much more—an exhibit hall, yes, but also a place to eat, relax, converse, share experiences, make new friends, learn from industry experts, play ping-pong and foosball, and indulge in the sense of community that has always defined SLA.
The INFO-EXPO at SLA 2019 in Cleveland was all of these things, flavored with live music and topped off with an impromptu karaoke contest. It was where you instinctively headed between business meetings and education sessions, or when you just wanted to experience the conference without attending a session or meeting. It was where you went to meet friends, eat lunch, visit with industry vendors, check phone and e-mail messages, and review session notes.
It was the town square, the nerve center, the social nexus, and the community playground all rolled into one. It was the place to be, and the place to get away from it all. It was where you recharged your batteries, and also where you decompressed. It was a lost and found, but for people instead of belongings. Old friendships were renewed there; new friendships were made. You could walk the aisles and engage with fellow members or industry partners, or sit in a cozy chair or sofa and let the people and conversations come to you.
There was plenty of food to fuel the body and soul. A buffet lunch was served in the INFO-EXPO twice, on the day the conference opened and again on the day it ended. The day in between, cake and champagne were served in the afternoon to celebrate SLA’s 110th anniversary. The INFO-EXPO was also the site of a networking reception the evening of the opening day. If you were hungry or thirsty, odds were good you’d find something to eat and drink in the INFO-EXPO.
And of course, the INFO-EXPO was where you went to check out the latest information products, services, and technologies. More than 100 industry vendors were exhibiting in the INFO-EXPO, and some were also sponsoring the conference and various events and items (such as lanyards and water stations). Vendors of everything from collections management software to scientific journals to subscription services to microfilm scanners to cloud-based hosting services were on hand, as were SLA members from the association’s Cleveland Chapter to share advice on local restaurants, museums, and nightlife.
The education sessions at SLA 2019 were the brain of the conference, and they provided attendees with plenty of ready-to-use information and insights. But the INFO-EXPO was its heart and soul, where SLA came together each day as a community. Whether you were a vendor, an attendee, or a speaker or guest who just wanted to see what all the commotion was about, you could tell immediately—the INFO-EXPO was much more than just an exhibit hall.