I had almost forgotten how inspiring, invigorating and important professional conferences were. The last time I had attended one I was completing my graduate studies and trying to finagle my way into a professional position through some intense networking. Upon securing oneself within the information practice, it is so easy to get comfortable within one’s daily tasks. Inside our libraries and knowledge centres we can develop theoretical blinders, focused on what we are doing. While it’s all still special and fulfilling, that initial za za zoo slightly fades a bit. Every once in a while we need a reminder as to how important, fascinating and exciting our careers are. Conferences are perfect for this. That is how I rekindled my passion for my profession, appropriately enough, in the City of Brotherly Love.
Discovering Emerging Industry Trends and Technologies
Attending seminars is an excellent way to educate oneself on emerging trends, ideas and technologies. A great example was Connie Crosby’s Session on Collaboration Tools and Practices. SLA Toronto’s very own Connie led an exciting seminar on the theories of collaboration and suggested methods and technologies to use when getting people to successfully and efficiently work together. Other interesting sessions included 60 Apps in 60 Minutes and 60 Sites in 60 Minutes. Both staple sessions were great for keeping professionals in the know, through micro presentations of – obviously- 60 useful sites.
Knowledge and Skill Development
Conferences can also serve as a sort of intensive skill development boot camp. Many of the sessions one can choose from are also excellent how-to seminars. One sitting I found particularly educational was Breathing New Life Into Your Newsletter and Online Presence. The session was kicked off by a journalist and editor, rather than a librarian. A refreshing perspective from someone outside our profession is always greatly valued, especially given the topic. True to his journalistic style, he gave us the five-W low down of newsletter and website publishing. Who is reading your material? What is your publication? (An educational tool? A marketing tool?) When do you schedule publications? Where are people reading this? And, of course, why are they reading it? Tapping into the knowledge and skills of others helps us remove those “daily blinders” and opens us up to a whole new world of possibilities.
Personal and Professional Development
Acquiring new skills and information to bring back to your local chapter and office is great, but you also owe it to yourself to take the time to personally develop. This is the perfect environment to take an introspective analysis of your accomplishments and your future aspirations. Seminars that were helpful for this objective included Alternative Use of the Library Degree, Using Social Media in the Workplace and SLA Career Connection Seminar: Reinvigorate Your Resumé. Whether you’re looking for work or a career change, it’s a great idea to take an inventory of your accomplishments and update the materials you use to market yourself. While the creative juices are flowing, why not re-brand yourself all together? Since I always want to know how to market myself and my skills, I attended Elevator Speeches: How to Develop Them, hosted by the famous Mary-Ellen Bates and Toronto’s talented Gayle Gossen. Mary-Ellen and Gayle engaged us in fascinating practices on how to grab the attention of those you meet and keep them wanting more. This becomes your secret weapon the next time someone says: “but you don’t look like a librarian”. With a new elevator speech, they won’t know what hit them.
Networking and Bonding
Of course conferences are great for networking. Thousands of interesting information professionals all under one roof, all eager to talk about what they do and hear your story as well. There are also an abundance of social events, made especially for mingling, such as the Canadian Reception and other evening hootenannies. If formalities are more your thing, there are the business meetings – SLA Chapter Cabinet Meeting and the SLA Joint Cabinet Meeting – to engage with new professionals. However, meeting new people can happen at any point during your voyage. Like finding a kindred librarian while waiting in the Air Canada customer service line after your initial flight was cancelled (details need their own separate article). Just goes to show you, you should always have your trusty business card on hand.
While we become preoccupied with making new connections, we should not neglect building on our established connections. Back at the ranch, when I’m burdened with an insane work/life balancing act I don’t always have time to truly get to know my SLA counterparts, so I enjoyed several meals with local Toronto professionals and colleagues. I also had the pleasure of rooming with SLA Toronto Chapter President Jennifer Burns. (Who is an excellent roommate if I may add.)
Attending a conference can be like going on a second (or third or fourth or so on) honeymoon with your professional self. Like John Lennon’s lyrics, it’s just like starting over. Surrounded by educational tools, new vendor products and new ideas, it was a wonderful retreat to fall in love with your exciting, provocative and ever changing profession.
Laura Warner has been an active SLA member since 2007. Since moving to Toronto that same year she has held various positions with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This year she attended the SLA conference in Philadelphia representing the Toronto Chapter as their President-Elect.