Conference reports 1 – SLA Conference June 2009

As promised, here is the first of the conference reports from SLA members. We’ll be posting one a day which will take us up to the end of Online Information 2009 – and time to produce a new batch.

We’re starting with a report from Annie, one of the four Early Career Conference Award winners, on her experiences at SLA’s conference this year.

Annie completed her MA in Library and Information Studies in September 2008. Since then, she has worked as an assistant librarian in the UK Civil Service. She joined the SLA Europe Board and events committee after attending the SLA Conference on an SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards in June 2009.

When I applied for the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award, I had absolutely no idea what I was letting myself in for. I had very little conference experience and had never travelled outside of Europe. As a result, I went to the conference with only a general hope to get as much out of the experience as possible.

My overriding impression of the SLA was that everyone was friendly and welcoming, and that no-one was unapproachable. SLA didn’t feel hierarchical – before the conference started I had been introduced to Anne Caputo, President-Elect of SLA, and throughout I found opportunities to talk with people in all sectors, and in such a variety of roles that I had barely imagined existed. I was particularly impressed by the active involvement of vendors in the association, helping me overcome my nervousness in the INFO-EXPO.

My library experience is almost exclusively in government libraries. Conference put my knowledge into a global context. I attended a session on space in federal libraries which demonstrated that pressures faced in the UK are not unique, and that useful knowledge can be gained from seeing how government libraries around the world are managed. Another session included reference to use of software we are hoping to use in our library: speaking to the librarian about using features with government security was enlightening, and gave me helpful information to take back to my colleagues.

Colin Powell’s keynote also provided a global view of information management – in this case, the real-world, real-time pressures of improved technology and increased demand for instant information. A highly entertaining speaker relating his own experiences, Powell also made valuable points about the transactional nature of information today; how are we coping with the need to provide information now, rather than soon?

Of the other sessions I attended, Steve Denning’s Transformational leadership: inspirational language stood out for being an engaging session on using stories to lead and to manage change, and Onion editor calls for an end to reading for being easily the most entertaining, if perhaps not the most educational, highlight of the conference. I barely had time to stop and reflect upon these sessions, finding myself constantly moving from one networking event to the next. I particularly enjoyed the international reception, but all provided opportunities to talk to people from all over the world and at all stages of their careers – having only recently completed my MA, it was particularly interesting to compare notes with some of the American students.

I cannot thank SLA Europe, Business and Finance Division and Books 24×7 enough for giving me this opportunity. I have come back from the conference with some new good friends, some interesting ideas to think about and follow up and renewed enthusiasm for my chosen career. I also came back with two cuddly toy pigs, a badge saying “Fear not, I’m a librarian!” and a lot of wonderful memories; this conference was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience.

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