Tuesday, April 03, 2007

To go, or not to go?

A friend of mine recently accepted his first post-mlis job in academic librarianship. I have been an unofficial mentor through the degree process and have fielded many interesting questions in regards to academic libraries and what to expect with a first job. Along the way I learned from him because those questions presented me with opportunity to reflect on my own intrinsic values and role as an academic librarian. Last week the question was both simple and complex; should he attend ALA annual in DC this June, or wait and go to ALA midwinter?

My initial knee-jerk response was, go to ALA in June! We can meet, gossip, and "do lunch." But aside from the selfishness of the answer, I did take some time reflecting what each has to offer and hope it helped the decision making process. First, quick background information: I have conference experience with the state level organization ALAO and attended the ACRL conference in Minnesota two years ago, however the mid-winter meetings last January in San Antonio were my first ALA conference experience. As a new EBSS committee member, it was the first time I was required to attend mid-winter meetings. Last June I attended my first ALA annual conference in New Orleans and was also a first time poster session presenter. For me the decision of which conference to pick as his first depends on what you, as a conference attendee, want to get out of the proceedings.

I enjoyed a mid-winter meeting event as my first ALA endeavor; about the same size as the previous spring's ACRL conference, there was a more diversity offered in programming. With that said, what needs to be noted is the mid-winter event is called mid-winter meetings for a reason, the bulk of programming available is meetings. The ALA conference in June was a larger event with more session opportunity, less meeting time, and a chance to give to the community. If you want to get your feet wet, do midwinter first. But if you want to immerse yourself in librarianship, do ALA annual and be prepared to be exhausted and invigorated.

Along this same conversational vein, there was a conference blogging post on ACRLog this morning, an ACRL Conference review by Marc Meola. He touched on something I noticed when attending ACRL in Minnesota:

"Some librarians need work on their social skills. C’mon people, this is a conference. Part of the point is to talk to other people and network. Buses, lines, conference receptions are all great places to spark up conversations with semi-strangers and learn something new. You can’t talk to anyone, however, if your head is buried in a paperback or if you are listening to your ipod." (Meola, ACRLog, 4/3/07)

Many times librarians are attending conferences alone and use this opportunity to make a few new library-friends. Newbies to the field, and in many ways I one, have interesting things to say and want to learn from our peers. I struck up a conversation with a librarian on the streets of New Orleans last summer. As we walked and talked in the sweltering heat, I learned I had traveled all those miles and met a librarian from Ohio! We had dinner, chatted about graphic novels, exchanged business cards, and parted for the evening. I did not see her again over the course of the conference, but it was nice to have a dining companion my first night in NOLA.

Thanks to Karin for commenting yesterday and sparking my memory about this topic! With so many oddities going on at work, performance reviews, Easter break, and web pages, I had forgotten.

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