Posts filed under ‘Conferences’
by April Bunn
San Diego has a high today of only 59 degrees, so it’s not the warm getaway I expected, but it’s still a welcome relief from the piles of snow I left behind in New Jersey.
The 2011 ALA Midwinter Meeting is underway and today the convention center was full of dedicated librarians today, scurrying off to one meeting or another, or visiting the over 450 exhibitors.
I am always impressed at how well ALA does a conference. Every person I spoke to was helpful and friendly and the speakers here are always interesting- Neil Gaiman, Nancy Pearl, and Ten Danson are on the line up for tomorrow. I am really looking forward to attending my first Youth Media Awards on Monday morning.
As Vice President of NJASL, I’m here with our President Elect, Fran King and President, Judith Everitt to attend the Affiliate Assembly meetings for AASL. I respect all of you that are attending this conference and participating in multiple committee meetings to better yourself and this profession.
In these tough times, it is crucial that we network and advocate every step of the way.
I’m in Chicago in order to attend what must be my 20th American Library Association annual conference. I have lost count of how many annuals I have attended. My first was Los Angeles in 1983 when my family began accompanying my mother, who is also a librarian, to the conference for our summer vacation. LA was just the first of many other conferences. I also went to Dallas, New Orleans, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco (a couple of times), Chicago (also a couple of times) and several others that I have since forgotten.
ALA meant only one thing to me when I was growing up: free stuff. I looked forward to the seemingly endless rows of exhibits that promised loads of goodies to bring home. At first one of my parents would accompany me up and down the aisles but I was eventually allowed to walk through the exhibits by myself. As long as I met my parents at the previously established meeting time, I could spend as much time as I wanted looking at all of the books. At the time, it never occurred to me that I might one day attend the conference as a librarian.
Not long after I started library school in 2002, I asked my mother (as I did every year) if she was going to attend the annual meeting in Toronto. After she replied that yes, she was planning to attend, I remember imagining yet another experience of walking up and down the exhibit aisles filling my bags with swag. Then it slowly dawned on me that the upcoming conference would be an entirely different experience–I would be attending ALA as a soon-to-be-librarian. I would actually have to go to meetings and presentations!
My experience in Toronto was completely different from any of my previous conferences. I spent a lot of time walking or riding the bus from one meeting to another and I barely had time to go to the exhibits. People sometimes say that they find ALA overwhelming and before attending my first conference as a librarian, I didn’t really understand what they meant. How could a place full of free books be overwhelming? Toronto thoroughly disabused of this idea. Just figuring out which meetings and presentations to attend can take quite a bit of time and energy.
Now I am once again attending ALA in a new role. As a doctoral student, only a few of the meetings mesh with my particular research interests. This means that I feel quite a bit of pressure to attend all relevant meetings even when they are scheduled at the same time. I am constantly looking at my printed schedule to make sure that I don’t miss anything. The exhibits are, of course, secondary.
Before becoming a librarian myself, I had no idea that there were many librarians out there who were quite disappointed with ALA and its work. My mother always seemed recharged and energized for her work after attending a conference. Of course, this is the essence of some librarians’ problems with ALA. What does one get out of being a member other than the conference?
For me, being a member of ALA reminds me that I am part of a larger community. Before returning to school, I worked in a small theological library — a setting that is very different from a public library. By reading through my American Libraries every month, I was reminded that even though my library had a specialized mission, we were still part of the wider library world. Now that I am a student again, I feel even further removed from librarianship. Attending this conference has helped me remember why I am in a library and information science doctoral program. When I am in the McCormick Center, surrounded by 27,353 other librarians, I recall that my research is not just for my own edification but that it will also aide the profession as a whole.
By attending the conference, I am reminded that even though I no longer work in a library I am still a librarian. I still have one more day of running around the conference center to attend meetings and racing through the exhibits. And, like my mother, I hope to return to New Jersey from this conference recharged and energized for my classes in the fall.
- Start preparing! First check out the NJLA Conference Wiki – this may seem obvious but sometimes things get away from us and we forget the obvious. No matter how many times we’ve attended, something has probably changed. The website provides a wealth of information for both the exhibitors and the attendees, including a floor plan and an event grid (the grid identifies room numbers and clearly labels specific tracks you may want to follow according to your professional interest).
- Create your agenda – it’s always a good idea to read the description of each workshop and note the guest speaker. Make sure to check the site once again, a few days before you leave, for any last minute changes. Try to establish a general itinerary for your day. I emphasize “general” because I think it’s best to get out of your comfort zone and experience new things. Besides, it’s likely you’ll meet up with a cordial and enthusiastic group of librarians that will suggest specific sessions or events. Be open to new ideas and allow for last minute changes. If you’re the spontaneous type and itineraries are not for you, at least think long and hard about the reasons you are attending the conference and decide upon one or two things that you really want to come away with.
- Bring extra copies of your business cards (trust me, you will be asked for them), comfortable shoes, tote bags to carry all of those neat giveaways, and cough drops. After all, it is spring, and if you aren’t getting over a cold or suffering from allergies, chances are someone next to you is!
Make the most out of it! Once at the conference, there is no end to the amount of quality resources and information available but before you start checking off that agenda, make sure to stop at the NJLA table for your badge and any additional conference information. To ensure your time is well spent, here are a few suggestions on making the most of it.
- If this is your first conference it’s okay to be nervous, but think of it as an adventure. This is a chance to leave your shy self at home and step out of your comfort zone. For an easy ice breaker, mention a few recent programs or services that your library had implemented. We absolutely THRIVE on sharing ideas! If you’re feeling especially nervous, arrange to attend with a co-worker or classmate.
- Step away from the smart phone. I know, I know, I have an iPhone myself and share the need to stay connected to everyone, everywhere. But how can you focus on the presentation, if you’re also sending mixed drinks or Coach bags to your Facebook friends? Go easy on the microblogging too, unless of course, you’re actually presenting a workshop on it. After all, if you’re too busy letting others know about what’s going on in your world, you may just miss your own experience.
- Take notes. Whether for a blog or future article, you’re going to need them. No doubt, you’ll be asked by a co-worker or supervisor how the conference went, who the presenter was and what sessions you attended. You may even be asked to write a report or train others on staff.
- Have fun and socialize. This may be THE most important step and the one we most often forget. First off, as soon as you get to the conference, take it easy. According to Travel and Leisure Magazine, Long Branch ranks among the top 20 American beaches, so weather permitting, take a stroll down the boardwalk. Drop your shoulders every now and then, take a deep breathe and RELAX. Then make sure to have fun! Don’t pass up an invitation to go out as a group or meet new people because some of the best networking happens AFTER the presentation. If you haven’t been invited out for lunch or dinner, then join NJLA’s Lunch Buddies or Dine_Around groups. If you enjoy meeting new people, try volunteering at the conference. The NJLA website offers a list of available and rewarding volunteer opportunities. If you’re too late this year, there is always next time!
- Remember the people you’ve met, by asking for their business card. It’s not only a tool to remember contact info but you can always jot down notes on the back. If you promise to follow up about something specific, note it on the back of the card so you don’t forget. Follow up is crucial!
- After the conference, I suggest taking the next day off. I know this is next to impossible but at the very least, take it easy. By now, we may be running on empty. Try not to schedule appointments that day or attempt to reply to every email. Consider the day after the conference – part of the actual conference. Sort out what ideas are easy to implement and what ideas should sit in the “bright ideas” folder for a while. Distribute the information you’ve brought home to the appropriate staff (half will accept with a grimace or smile) and file the rest.
Finally, work on getting your co-workers, director and board members to approve the many ideas you’ve brought back with you. By the time you’re finished, it will be spring again…Happy Conferencing!
This post could also be called “Reason #132 that I heart SlideShare”.
I went to SlideShare this morning to upload the slides from my recent presentation at PLA 2008 in Minneapolis and got sidetracked by the featured “Slideshow of the Day” — and also by the response that someone has made. I often get sidetracked by the featured slideshow and in this case both the feature and the response are great teaching tools to show the evolution of e-communication.
Here is featured slideshow: “Peak Email” posted by Engineerswithoutfears
Here is the response: “Squiki” posted by plambe
Doesn’t that make you want a squiki?
Oh, and if you are interested in what I and the other panelists (Michael Porter and Stephanie Gerding) on the “From Hype to Help” session had to say at PLA, a few bloggers have made nice summaries (for which I am thankful) — you can find them here and here. My slides are now posted at SlideShare under my user name JanieH.
As a library science student, I hear about all kinds of great conferences, but I can not afford them. Some recent grads have told me that now that they can afford more conferences, they have far less time to attend them. I recently found out there are a number of online ‘conferences’ that are free of charge.
Yes free—really and truly free!
I thought I should take one for a test drive. The Library of Congress offers a free web conference orientation to their website each month. Despite this being a regular source of note in a variety of my reference classes, I have always found the site too big to search well and much better suited to browsing. Maybe this orientation would be the key to making http://www.loc.gov/ a regular go-to source for me. To be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope, it was after all FREE…
I am not sure where I heard about this conference—an email to be sure, but I don’t remember who sent it. I clicked a link, picked a date and waited. Within 24 hours, I had received an e-mail conformation from Judith Graves, Digital Project Coordinator—not an automated response, but an e-mail that actually included useful information, including contact information!
On my originally scheduled date, I had no cable, which meant I had no internet. I later sent a note to Judith who kindly and happily rescheduled me immediately—no need to re-register or do any additional work. How rare and handy is that!
Last week, I finally participated in the one-hour orientation. It was fun, information and interactive. Participants could ask questions in real-time using a chat function. I learned some interesting things: Did you know LOC was using Flickr? (find out more on the LOC Blog). Like the initial customer service, it was a positive and helpful experience. I would recommend anyone with an hour to spare look into the orientation—it is offered each month. I still feel the site is better suited to browsing, but with practice, I can see some good public library applications and uses.
But wait, there’s more!
One of the best outcomes from this event is that I found out about Online Programming for All Libraries—a listing of on-line library events taking place which are free. While I am sure many librarians already know about this, it is new to me. I asked around at Rutgers and most of the students did not know about it either, so I thought it worth noting.
Here is a sample of the LOC online series of programs:
Mar 12 – Early scrapbooks and the women who created them
April 9 – Poetry
May 14 – Jefferson’s Library
June 11 – All History Is Local in a Digital World
There is plenty more including book discussion groups, lectures and chat sessions with library professionals, and multi-part presentation series. A diverse group of libraries and librarians contribute content to OPAL. You can find it all on their schedule. Be sure to check out the archives as well—I am looking forward to finding the time to look at the ‘Six Weeks to a Social Library’ series.
Let me know what you think of these freebies….
Man, this is cool!