Early Career Conference Awards 2015: a winner’s reflections

 Neasa McHale won the ECCA Legal Division Award earlier this year she kindly accepted to write about her experience at the conference in Boston. Neasa is a Senior Library Assistant at Mason Hayes & Curran law firm. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and History from St. Patrick’s College, Dublin City University and graduated with a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from University College Dublin in 2013. Neasa is on Twitter as @neasamchale.

I first heard about SLA when I attended the first SLA Europe event that was held in Ireland, the “New Professionals Guide to Knowledge Management in Legal Services”. The event was hosted by Lauren Lawler (winner of the ECCA Legal Division 2013). Hearing about the excellent experience Lauren had at the SLA Conference really motivated me to get involved with SLA and apply for the award. The application process was a really useful exercise as I found that it was a great way to reflect on different skills I had developed since I completed my MLIS and also to reflect on the different aspects of my current job. In March I was delighted to receive the news that I would be receiving the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award (Legal Division) for 2015.

As this year’s winner of the SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award (Legal Division), I had the opportunity to attend the SLA Conference 2015 in Boston. The conference was held over three days (14th – 16th June) in the Boston Conference Centre. I organised my schedule for the conference using the SLA Conference 2015 app. I found this app really useful throughout the conference as it meant it was easy to make sure I didn’t miss any session I wanted to attend and the app also had links to the presentations from the sessions.

As the SLA Conference is attended by several thousand people, it was great to have the chance to meet with so many librarians and information professionals from all around the world. Throughout the conference there were many opportunities to discuss current library trends and issues with other librarians.

Sam Wiggins, Sarah Hume, Bethan Ruddock, Neasa McHale

I attended so many informative sessions over the three days. I found the “Quick Take Sessions” particularly useful. I was impressed by the amount of information the speakers managed to squeeze into these sessions, given they were only 15 minutes long! “What to do When They Say “Give me Everything You Have on…” and Not Freak Out Because They Want it in an Hour” was great because Lynn Strand (@knowledgemama) went through a step by step process that was really straightforward and efficient. Tracy Z Maleeff’s (@LibrarySherpa) presentation “Legal Resources and Research Using Twitter” was a comprehensive overview of using Twitter for legal research along with plenty of handy tips.

I really enjoyed attending the Crescendo sessions; I wasn’t familiar with the concept of a crescendo session before the conference, which is a three part session with an introductory, intermediate and advanced part. If, for example, you are not familiar with a particular topic, you can attend the introductory part and if you decide you would like to learn more about that topic, you can stay for the intermediate part – so you can stay for the whole session or leave after the part most relevant to you ends. This means there was plenty of opportunity to attend sessions for the part you were interested in and then make your way to the next session. This was a really efficient way to learn as much from the conference as possible.

My standout sessions were: Legal Resources and Research Using Twitter, Around the World of Legal Institutes (LIIs), Breaking News and A Perfect Balance: Legal Research for the non-law librarian, but there were many more session that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The keynote speaker in the opening session was Leigh Gallagher, assistant managing editor at Fortune. Leigh spoke of the importance in her daily work of collaborating with information professionals and librarians. She also discussed how it takes a human to search and source comprehensive information and the best people at doing this are librarians and information professionals.

The evenings were full of social events which were a great opportunity to catch up with the people I had met during the conference. The IT dance party is definitely worth a mention as it was a really fun and enjoyable evening.

Before the conference I was assigned two mentors, Tracy Z Maleeff (Legal Division) and Laura Woods (SLA Europe). Both Tracy and Laura provided me with so much information about the conference and what I could expect from the conference, and it was brilliant finally getting to meet them in person.

This is a snapshot of the of the SLA Conference 2015; there is so much more I could say about the it. It was amazing experience, I have met such interesting people and will be staying involved with SLA in the future.

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