What I Learned at SLA 2017

photo of a long table with women sitting on either side listening to the presenter at the front of the room. Many women have laptops open in front of them.
Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 by Kate M. Spaulding

Earlier this week, I attended the Special Libraries Association’s 2017 annual conference in Phoenix. Although I researched extensively, I didn’t really know what to expect, other than very hot weather. I definitely had first-timer’s butterflies, which I dealt with by making detailed packing and pre-trip to-do lists and worrying about my wardrobe choices.

Now that I’ve survived my first professional conference and had a minute to reflect on the experience, here are my takeaways:

  1. Librarians really are the nicest. Everyone I interacted with before, during, and after (I met someone new at the airport!) was unfailingly kind. I asked lots of questions of people I barely, if at all, knew, and they were all generous with their time, insights, and encouragement. Even very early and very late, folks at the conference were cheerful (if sleepy) and approachable.
  2. Conferences are exhausting, and you must take care of yourself. I’m old enough to know myself, and as a confirmed introvert, I knew I would need to give myself time to recharge. Although I pushed myself too far a couple of times, for the most part I was good about finding a quiet corner to rest when I needed it or relaxing in my hotel room between afternoon and evening events.
  3. Fellow SLAers wanted the best for me. This certainly ties in to #1! On Monday, I co-presented a contributed paper with recent iSchool grad Ame Maloney. We were confident in our research, analysis, and written work but nervous about speaking in front of a group of professionals. From Scott Brown and Cindy Hill, the contributed paper chairs, and fellow presenters, to people I met at breakfast and fellow iSchool students, everyone encouraged, helped, and cheered us on. It was so much less terrifying to get up in front of a group of a people who had shown me they wanted us to succeed.
  4. There’s something relaxing about hanging out with a bunch of librarians. You know how when you get together with your best friends, you don’t have to do a lot of explaining because they know you and your backstory? Going to the conference was a little bit like that, but professional. No one was wondering if libraries are relevant or librarians necessary; I didn’t have to convince anyone that no, Google does not have all the answers; and I didn’t have to defend or refute librarian stereotypes. We could just jump right into the heart of the matter, which was refreshing.
  5. Conferences aren’t so scary after all. Really, it was an experience that taught me a lot, grew my network, and boosted my confidence. I’d love to pay it forward, so please don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments or contact me more privately. Maybe I’ll see you at the next one?

Photo courtesy WOCTechChat

Comments

So glad that you had a good experience. A lot of effort had gone in to making the SLA conference into a valuable experience. A question for you.... What else would you have liked to see made available?
Glad you had a great time at the conference and especially glad as a student that the conference was so welcoming to you. SLA instituted two more sessions for students, first timers and new professionals but we are always looking to make these groups more welcome so if there is anything else we can do to make your experience better please let me or anyone on the conference committee know.
Thank you so much for attending and presenting your paper! We are glad to have you as a part of SLA. If there is any programming you would like to see in the future please let us know!
thank you all! I did fill out my survey with a couple of ideas :)

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