Lessons From My First Library Conference

Example of a Conference Vendor Booth; Photo by the Texas Library Association courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Example of a Conference Vendor Booth; Photo by the Texas Library Association courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

I’ve attended history conferences and student research conferences, even participated in the latter four times, but last week I went to my first library conference.  This conference, sponsored by my state association, was held in one of my states largest two cities–the one nearest me.  It covered three days, but I could only afford a day pass for the sole full day (Oct. 3).  I thought I’d spend a bit of time reflecting on what I learned as the information may be useful to others.

To gain an idea of the conference’s structure, Day One featured morning pre-sessions and  an afternoon with two sessions and the keynote speaker.  Day Two featured a full day of sessions, the vendor fair, the association business meeting, and committee meetings.  The last few sessions were saved for the morning of Day Three.  Days One and Two also featured nightly social activities.  I wish I could have afforded to attend all and stay at the conference hotel.

Lessons Learned:

  • If you know you have to travel on an interstate known for heavy traffic during rush hour when it is rush hour, budget that it will take nearly three times as long as it would during non-rush hour (ex. normally only 40 minutes but was nearly two hours).  Or get a hotel the night before.  I made the mistake of only doubling the time.
  • You will be weighted down with literature (and freebies) from the sessions and vendor fair.
  • You can learn just as much from talking with the vendors as in the sessions.  They know more about the latest products, program/database updates, and similar topics than the librarians.
  • Cost matters not; sign up for a lunch session.  Otherwise when you head out for the lunch hour it will take longer than the hour given and you’ll miss a session.
  • Random House’s booth had free galleys!!!  Get ready for some more book reviews.

Other Useful Tips:

  • Comfortable shoes and clothes are a must.  Thankfully, this I knew ahead of time!
  • Carry a water bottle!  There may not be time to get a drink, so plan ahead.
  • Don’t forget a notebook and pen.  Well, at least a notebook.  Pens are handed out in abundance.  You’ll never know what you’ll learn in a session you want to jot down.  If you are like me, you’ll end up with pages per hour session.

Helpful Information from Sessions:

  • Oasis has a technology education program many libraries are using.  While the program was originally intended only for those over age 50, many libraries are using Oasis’ curriculum to train all age groups and the organization recognizes this is and is adapting accordingly.  For a yearly rate, Oasis provides regularly updated curriculum and unlimited use, will offer webinar training to a set amount of instructors (plan pending), and provides support throughout.
  • In a session on creating exhibits using archival and special collections material, I was reminded that not all exhibits need to contain objects.  Posters and free-standing wall displays featuring photos and scans of objects and documents work well for holiday and traveling displays.  They are also great if there is not room in a library or archive for a display case.
  • Sometimes one sees an example of what not to do at a conference.  For a session I attended that presented results from a study, I saw how ill planned a session and study could be.  The presentation looked thrown together and even the speaker acknowledged in the Q & A that he lacked control variables to compare the results to.  In fact, the Q & A was more informative than the actual presentation.
  • While not a session, I saw a demonstration of Boopsie for Libraries, an app that can be tailored for any library.  It is quick and easy to use and set up (especially when compared to my experience with the database segment of the GoMizzou library module).  The app also allows in app catalog searching, database searching, and reading of books obtained from OverDrive.

Does any one else have any conference tips and advice to share? 

Next week, back to the “Examining Technologies…” series!

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3 thoughts on “Lessons From My First Library Conference

  1. It was a great conference! Good for you for getting so much out of your first conference. I want to wander the vendor hall with you — I never know what to ask or talk about but it sounds like you know exactly how to get the best information.

    • It was quite interesting! And I did learn a lot. If it helps, in the vendor hall most of my questions were either “Tell me a bit about because I’m new to the field” or “It’s been over a year since I used this . Can you tell me about any changes?” The vendors were very willing to talk. Perhaps our paths will cross at a future MLA.

      And thanks for commenting!

  2. Pingback: My First Full Library Conference, Part One | Amy's Scrap Bag: A Blog About Libraries, Archives, and History

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