Business Law

SLA Conference: Source of Support and Inspiration

Christina Meninger | Scholarship Winner |

Christina is an MSLIS candidate and will graduate in 2012 from Pratt Institute. Are areas of concentration are Archives, Digital Libraries, Moving and Still Images.

My First Conference

This year’s SLA conference was held in Philadelphia. Not only was this the first SLA conference I attended, it was the first conference I ever attended. As a result, my first session was the first-timer’s reception. I recommend this session for first-timers as well as returnees to facilitate a supportive atmosphere. It is an opportunity for to get information about the conference and suggestions about which sessions to attend, and make those first essential contacts, which make connecting with others easier throughout the conference. First-timers should leave feeling a little less overwhelmed as they embark upon the many other sessions during their first SLA conference experience.

During the reception, I met a number of first-timers, including several other graduate students, and exchanged the first of my business cards. Additionally, I met a young, energetic military librarian with quite a bit of entrepreneurial spirit. She was full of inspiration, encouragement, and positivity. She introduced me to the Solo Librarians Division, which consists of librarians who work by themselves and support each other. By interacting with each other through the division, they have an outlet for support, advice, and inspiration. In the end, they feel a little less alone.

Solo Librarians

Before the Success Stories of Solos session, I met a solo librarian who created and launched a website using Drupal in five months. A year later the site contained over 1,500 items. She had never used Drupal prior to the site’s creation. She is an inspiration to others who are unsure whether or not they can complete a project when they have little to no experience about a particular subject, technology, or skill.

During this same session, librarians who work alone in their organizations shared their stories. After hearing about their challenges and successes, they opened up the floor to other librarians and information professionals to discuss their experiences and address any concerns they have while working in their institutions. Everyone shared. In a solo librarian position, one of the attendees said the experience can be very “choose your adventure”; find out what your users need and create the opportunity to fulfill those needs. Additionally, if you need advice or assistance, reach out into your network and ask.

Ambiguity and Curiosity

The session Embracing Ambiguity and Curiosity: What your Career will Really Bring also had a conversational tone. The presentations and discussion focused on the ambiguities and uncertainties involved with being a librarian or information professional today. Librarianship is not black and white; it can be full of unanswered questions and uncertainties. Librarians need to embrace the ambiguity and practice taking risks. Finding a mentor who encourages risk-taking may lead to increased risk-taking and success. After the panel members discussed their experiences and advice, audience members did the same while addressing their concerns. The limitations and frustrations, particularly felt by information professionals in small and underfunded institutions, were diffused by the message that whatever you do to serve your users is more than what existed previously, particularly when creating something from nothing. Creating a detailed vision can help to keep you focused, particularly on days when you are doing routine tasks and feel you are not progressing with your goals. I suggested writing down your goals and posting them somewhere as a reminder when you are feeling overwhelmed or lost.

Feeling Energized

Throughout the conference, I observed a participatory, conversational, and supportive atmosphere in which attendees should be inspired and reenergized when returning to their everyday activities. I heard many people voice their frustrations and challenges, and others provide ideas and ways to overcome those frustrations and challenges.

Do you want to gain up-to-date knowledge about the field of library and information science? Are you feeling overwhelmed with your workload? Are you discouraged by everyday tasks and think that you are not achieving your goals or the goals of the institution with which you work? Do you want to meet information professionals facing these same challenges? Perhaps you just need support and inspiration? If you are faced with any of these concerns, I highly recommend attending the SLA conference next summer.

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