Seth J. Bookey | firstname.lastname@example.org
As an SLA New York chapter member for several years now, I have gone to the annual SLA meetings every year since 2006. Usually, I paid my own way, since I was either working in publishing, or working for a library that didn't appreciate the value of my involvement in a professional organization.
This year, I found myself unemployed since January 2009, and I just couldn't afford to go to New Orleans, pay for my share of a hotel stay, and also pay for the conference registration fee. Fortunately, I applied for our Chapter's scholarship and received one of the three being offered to professionals. Another three went to student members of the chapter.
When you are a student or not working, finding the right mixes of conference sessions is not always easy. My first and last full-time librarian position was for a genealogical society, which was nice, since my first love is family history. Unfortunately, the many times I have gone to SLA, only once did a session involve genealogy databases--it was geared toward news librarianship (my second love). Many sessions are geared toward very specific types of special libraries, and unless you really want to break into chemistry libraries, for example, the challenge for me this year, and every year, has been finding classes that are more general in nature. Also, being the Chapter's Webmaster this year, I also sought out more classes involving technology.
To that end, I heartily enjoyed Nicole Engard's discussion of open-source software, in which she explained what it is, what it is not, and gave a lot of great examples of what's available out there. I also went to a session on Drupal, an open-source content-management system that's getting a lot of use in libraries, which featured an example of how it is used in a federal library.
I also got a lot out of "Your Personal Brand and Social Media" as well as a business reference session, which was helpful since I took my business reference course at Queens College in 1995.
One thing I did this year that was a departure from previous conferences I attended. I spent quality time visiting vendors at the INFO-EXPO Hall. Of course, I have always visited the show floor, but this year, I devoted more time to talking with the vendors, asking more questions, and watching more demos. Of course, I wanted to win an iPad like everyone else, but past experience has shown that having a little exposure or knowledge about a new product or database sometimes comes in handy on a job interview, as it did for me two days after returning from New Orleans and getting an interview (but not the job).
As always, networking is a big part of the annual SLA conference experience. Every year, my partner Eric Schwarz (past president of the SLA New Jersey Chapter) and I have gone to both the business meetings and the no-host dinners for the GLBT Issue Caucus. This year, an archivist recording the events of New Orleans' drag king acts gave us a look at how information gets disseminated informally in underserved groups. And dinner was at New Orleans' second-oldest restaurant.
I also had a chance to run into and talk with other SLA members who are working on their chapters' Websites. This year, it turns out that our Chapter is not the only one looking to change its Website, so I had a chance to discuss informally what other divisions and chapters are examining in terms of platform and software changes.
Networking is not just relegated to seeing the people you see only once a year. I also got to spend more quality time with some of the New York Chapter members I see regularly. Like many New Yorkers, our Chapter's more involved members are often too busy to see each other outside of meetings and events. Meeting in the Big Easy facilitated a lot more unstructured, unscheduled chances to catch up and get to know each other better, which is certainly part of the glue that helps things work better while we're running around busy back in the Big Apple.