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Post Conference Wrap Up

24 Oct 2023 12:56 PM | Kristy Sartain (Administrator)

Now that the 2023 Conference is officially in the books, I can pass the torch on to Faith Huff, Heath Radford, and the Conference Committees. While I struggled while helping to plan the conference (and please know, if I say “I” did something, I mean the team, unless it was a mistake, then that was me), I really did enjoy the actual event itself. It was so nice to have so many people tell us how much they were enjoying it. Yes, things could have been better. We know that. We are probably more keenly aware of things that could have gone better than anyone would ever know. But a lot of things went really well. And I mean really well. 

We received some great feedback from the 80 of you who took the time to send it. Thank you so  much for filling out that form! We went through it and used it to help us decide how to continue planning the 2024 conference.

Before we get into that, I wanted to share some data with you about this year’s conference. I am all about transparency, so here we go. We had 500 people register for conference. 475 actually checked in. The majority of the attendees (66%) were elementary or K-8 school librarians. Just 33% of us were secondary librarians. We had just under $70,000 in registration fees. Our vendors helped contribute about $30,000, so we brought in right at $100,000. We’re still waiting on final costs for Benton as they have to tally up all the food costs, but we’re expecting to pay around $75,000 for the space ($24k) and the food ($51k). We had to pay $17,000 to the companies who set up the technology and the vendor booths. Hotel costs and travel expenses for our special guests added up to about $8,000. Keynote and speaker fees totaled $5,000. Supplies and swag and other conference expenses were about $13,000. We expect for this conference to cost around $118,000. All my degrees are in words, so this total will probably be off a little. :-) 

Some of the recommendations to change for future conferences are completely out of our control and I wanted to take a minute to address those. We can’t control the size of the session rooms. At Benton, they were all the same size. At Koury, they will be different sizes, so scheduling will be a bit of a nightmare. We will have rooms that can seat anywhere from 32-188 people. We also can’t control which vendors come but it seems many people think we do? We contacted not only vendors from previous conferences, but also vendors that we thought would be a good fit for everything we do in the library. We sent out emails asking our members to contact vendors they would like to see at conference. We are so appreciative of the vendors that do come. The ones who didn’t come, didn’t come. We can’t make vendors come to our conference. We are grateful to the ones who did come. Seriously grateful. We had to add vendors in the main ballroom because that was the only place to put them. We had to juggle the space we had available and the need for session rooms and the need for vendor income and and and. It was the best that we could do with what we had. We will have more vendor space at Koury, so that’s good. 

We definitely plan to tweak and improve the Author Alley. The authors who attended really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and time to talk to everyone who came in. We will work harder to communicate the schedule. The setup will be better as well. Another suggestion was to have more food and drinks available. The problem with that is that food at conferences is ridiculously expensive. Seriously, a can of soda costs us $4.00 at a Convention Center. The food and drinks we had this year cost around $51,000 with tax. Convention Centers charge sales tax, plus a 23% tax on top of that. Our food minimum at Koury will be $50,000, so with taxes, at a minimum, we will spend $65,000. That is over half the conference budget. We will have more food than this year and it will come at a cost. But with such a good chunk of people saying they wanted more food and drinks, it seems like that is definitely a need. Expect conference registration fees to go up a little to help with that. The good thing about Koury is that they have restaurants and cafes on site. However, nothing else is in walking distance. Well, the mall is right there. And parking is free. So that’s a benefit!

Now on to the good stuff! Everyone across the board LOVED Donna Washington. I am glad so many people stayed to listen to her. She is an absolute treasure and I am grateful she agreed to be at our conference. Amy Hermon’s keynote got the conference off to a great start. We all love her and so many people commented about how great it was that she mingled with everyone, it seemed. I still can’t believe she agreed to be our opening keynote! I hope you had the chance to listen to the podcast dedicated to our conference. It’s long, but so so so good. It’s great to hear all of your voices! A lot of people commented on the overall vibe of the conference, that it was fun and lighthearted and magical. And that is what I was going for. I’m glad it came through. I wanted us to have time to relax and learn and connect. And it sounds like that happened for most of you. Another positive was the “classroom” seating in the rooms. I hate going to a conference and having to balance my laptop in my lap. I have a Microsoft Surface Pro, so it’s not easy to do that. The tables were there for a purely selfish reason. The only drawback of that is that it did cut down a little on available seating in the rooms, but I think it might have been worth it? Another minor request was to have something available during lunch, but here’s the thing. WAY more people said they preferred not having something during lunch. It was close to  a 4-1 ratio who preferred not having something planned during lunch. We know we can’t make everyone happy. That is impossible. So we go with the majority from the feedback we receive. 

And finally, we heard so many positive comments about the quality of the sessions. This. This is why we come to conference and keep coming back. It’s because of the presenters. We are doing such great and awesome things in our libraries and having the venue to share what we are doing is the entire reason for having a conference. We hope to have more session slots open next year so we can have more people presenting. Fingers crossed! If you didn’t find a session that you wanted to see, you have seen a need at future conferences! Please submit a proposal when the call to present opens. If you didn’t see enough middle or high school sessions, encourage your fellow librarians to submit session proposals. 

I want to thank, yet again, but never enough, the people who helped with planning this conference. Heath Radford, Emily Golightly, Colleen Graham, Mandy Keziah, Marcia Wingerd, Jennifer Abel, Jenny Umbarger, Pam Sands, Natalie Ezell, Jackie Bathony, Jen Cox, Laura Ullom, and Robert Yancey. You all are rock stars and I will never be able to tell you how much it means to me that you were there to help with whatever needed to be helped with. This team has set the bar for future conferences and I know we are in great hands.

Bookishly yours,


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