Conference Reports 3 – SLA Conference 2009

The third conference report from the ECCA winners is from Sara.

Sara Batts is Senior Research Librarian at the London office of Reed Smith LLP. This is her second information professional post after completing an MSc Information Science in 2006. Prior to this Sara worked as a conference organiser and an advisor to students applying to university. She is also studying part-time for a research degree.

SLA conference in Washington DC was unlike any other event I have attended.

One key difference was the emphasis on networking. Conference places equal importance on this as the formal presentations – the number of open houses, lunches, breakfasts and ‘connect’ sessions would bear this out.

This is also reflected in the highlights I would pick out of my time in DC. Some are formal sessions, some are not so serious:

  • Relying on Westlaw for international news coverage means I have missed America’s finest news source: the Onion. I attended the session with the editor where the paper’s insightful reporting was discussed, and will now ensure that I include Onion stories wherever possible. (Onion editor calls for an end to reading, Tuesday)
  • I met with library colleagues from my firm’s US offices. It was a real bonus to be able to put a real person to the blurry intranet photos or an email address. (BNA Breakfast and Legal Division Business Meeting, Monday)
  • NASA has a library network: if I ever need a new dream job, I think that could be it. (Mission to Mars: NASA engineers and info pros set sights on red planet, Monday)
  • Washington DC is an amazing city, but the monuments look even better at night.
  • It is perfectly OK to have a list of reasons for undertaking a higher degree that may not appear to be completely rational (So you want to be a doctor…, Tuesday)
  • Not many Americans understand the point of a decent cup of tea; but that these differences are fun to talk about. I had always wondered why anyone would want to eat something called ‘grits’ or how rice and peas could be exciting, and now I know. (B&F Division Business Meeting & Lunch)

I proctored Sylvia’s global research session on the first Saturday – I now have some helpful insights and tips for the next time I am attempting to establish the corporate structure of a slippery shipping company with a hopeful fee earner looking for shareholders’ details… This was a great opportunity to give something back for the generous award that allowed me to attend the conference.

The Expo was a fantastic showcase of useful products and services; a chance to increase my awareness of what is on the market that can help in the work I do.

Have I broadened my outlook? Definitely; just being part of all those conversations with a huge range of people – students to Fellows and all kinds of SLA people in between.

The ECCA was an amazing chance, one that I wanted to grab with both hands. I crammed so much into a short space of time. I cannot thank the sponsors and mentors that made it happen enough. It was enormous fun. And along the way, I’ve made some interesting contacts and met some great people from all over the world.

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