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The SLA Expo: Librarians and Information in My Backyard

September 27, 2015

I was part of the planning committee for this year’s SLA Expo, a daylong conference event that took place on Friday. I can say that the hard work of the conference committee paid off beautifully. The speakers and panelists were full of good information, beautifully presented. Librarians from all over connected, or reconnected. I found a conference role for myself that I really liked doing. And I got to see speakers in action, and daydream about my future. A great day.

The way the conference was organized was ideal: everyone came together at the start for a keynote presentation, broke out into two parallel sets of sessions before a lunch break, and then two more sets of sessions before coming together for a final presentation, and then having time to mingle all together at a post-conference happy hour. I think that the together sessions and the separate sessions, and the timing of the day’s schedule worked beautifully to make it a coherent whole as an experience, and would be a good model to follow for any conference.

Yes, there were glitches. But, we were braced for more than the ones that happened. Of course, the technology hiccuped a little. Typical for conferences. Even with the best, fastest, most capacious wifi in a conference facility, it’s not going to be flawlessly connected. That many digitally savvy information professionals and their devices are going to put a strain on it. We adapted. Something to remember for next time: Twitter connectivity worked speedily. Twitter messages wound up being a really good, fast way for a panel organizer sitting up front to let me know to duck outside and ask for a fix like more chairs, tech help and such.

I came of age as a conference attendee and organizer in the age of Twitter, and I think it has enriched my experience of conferences. Following the conference hashtag is a boon when there’s a conference I can’t attend: the nature of Tweets means distilling conference information into short messages, condensed knowledge and useful links. I find the same thing as a participant. Rather than taking copious, ongoing notes with the intent to find a way to capture every detail the presenter is explaining… taking notes with the intent to Tweet them, or sometimes Tweeting as a means of notetaking, forces me to process on the fly, to listen for and distill main points and solid quotes. Besides, when I go through old papers from classes or conferences, I find that I have lots and lots of unexamined, handwritten note pages. Whereas, I’ve been making an effort to go back through the conference hashtag, #slanewyork, and pull Tweets into an organized narrative.

I captured the conference Tweets using Storify.

The above also represents some post-conference inspiration for me… nothing like a good conference to convince you to try new ideas and tech. Storify isn’t something I’ve used very often, so I’m still learning and experimenting. Maybe I’ll even make a few mistakes.

More things I know I need to learn:

How to work with and analyze data

Presentation and public speaking techniques

Coding, at least enough to streamline library work. Maybe Python?

Budgeting and some of the other larger tasks of library management.

Hearing presenters, and talking to friends and colleagues in the field throughout the day inspired this list. Now that I’ve completed my schooling, and feeling settled in my not-so-new job at the library, with the book project under my belt… it’s time to catch my breath, yes. But it’s also time to plan the next skills I learn.

A huge thanks, and tons of praise to my fellow organizers, who did the logistic work for months to make this happen: contacting and coordinating speakers and vendors, arranging space and catering, planning and scheduling the event.

My role on the day was one I enjoyed- attending panels with one eye on the information, and one eye on the backstage aspect: keeping watch to make sure small details were tracked down, people were contacted to solve problems before they were noticed by attendees. At day’s end, I felt proud and energized by knowing that I’d played a role in managing the small details of the conference experience, as well as having the freedom to listen and participate in the conversation and evolution of ideas. It was a busy, but ultimately energizing day, and so much fun.


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