Attending ACRL 2023 – Part 1

iStudent Blog
ACRL Conference Hall

Published: April 16, 2023 by Kesheena Doctor

At the beginning of the year, I made a plan to attend as many conferences as I could while still an iSchool student. At the beginning of the spring semester, I applied for SJSU’s travel scholarship for current students to attend the ALA’s ACRL 2023 Conference. In a matter of days, I was notified my scholarship was approved and I could begin planning my trip to Pittsburgh, PA, where this year’s bi-annual conference was held.

Planning Trip Logistics

In preparation for this trip, I revisited a previous blog I wrote on attending conferences for reference. After some deliberation, I decided to attend ACRL 2023 since I intend to become a liaison librarian at an academic institution. Pittsburgh was also a short plane ride from New Orleans, which kept airfare costs low. Since I met the scholarship’s eligibility requirements, I applied for SJSU’s travel scholarship almost immediately after it became available for the spring semester. I understood that funds were limited and would increase my chances for approval if I applied immediately. As soon as I was notified that I was granted a scholarship, I registered for the conference and made travel arrangements. A fellow scholar of the ARL Kaleidoscope Program offered to share their hotel room with me, which also helped with my budgeting. Within the first week of the spring semester, I was able to secure funding, travel and lodging for ACRL 2023.

Planning Activities

Though I am new to librarianship, I still had colleagues to meet and interact with at the conference. An old zine friend who is currently an instruction librarian at Reed College was also attending ACRL. In addition to my hotel roommate, five other ARL Kaleidoscope Program scholars attended the conference. I made tentative plans to hang out with everyone, which quickly filled up my time outside of the conference.

After reviewing the conference schedule, I realized that attending all the presentations I was interested in wasn’t feasible since presentation schedules often overlapped. After some deliberation, I decided I would attend the poster presentations for each day and in the off time, I would drop into panel discussions that interested me. ACRL also offered some informal get-togethers and I planned on attending the Opening Exhibits Reception, First-time Orientation, Student Happy Hour and the St. Patrick’s Day Soirée.

Setting Conference Goals

Having decided to attend ACRL on short notice, I missed conference proposal deadlines and could not present. Instead, I chose to try and attend as many presentations as I could to learn more about how librarian conferences function. ACRL also offered volunteering opportunities, which I signed up for and was accepted into a mock interview panel at the conference’s ACRL 2023 Placement and Career Center. I also made the decision to actively meet other Indigenous librarians, BIPOC librarians and SJSU students & faculty. 

A month before the conference, I met with my Kaleidoscope Program mentor to discuss my goals and they made gentle suggestions to be more feasible for me to attain. Since I would be interacting with thousands of future colleagues, I had concerns about attire and how I would present myself. My mentor addressed these challenges, suggesting I present myself in a manner where I felt most comfortable and represented myself authentically. After our conversation, I decided to bring the attire I wear while working at my part-time public library position. We further discussed possible networking tools I could use, and I opted to bring business cards and a mini-zine that detailed how I got into librarianship. I made a handful of copies and chose to reserve the mini-zines for librarians I made strong connections with.

Other Small Details

While preparing for the actual conference was simple, I worked diligently to complete class assignments that were due during the conference. I anticipated that I would be very busy at the conference and would not have time to work on assignments. Working ahead was extremely stressful and I highly recommend structuring a diligent but feasible schedule to effectively meet deadlines. I was lax about my homework schedule and got a few assignment due dates mixed up, so I spent the week before the conference studying around the clock. I also planned my luggage necessities and packed light in case I needed to walk around with my bags on the days I traveled to and from Pittsburgh. Planning all of these details prepared me for my trip so I could dedicate my time to experiencing as much of the conference as I could.

My Conference Preparation Checklist

  • review upcoming conferences
  • make a list of conferences you’d like to attend
  • note important deadlines for proposal submissions and travel scholarships
  • apply for proposals and/or travel scholarships
  • secure lodging, funding and airfare
  • reach out to networks to find out who is attending the conference and make plans
  • review the conference schedule and plan your personal schedule
  • work ahead on school assignments to have free time for the conference
  • research the host city for things to do
  • pack and ensure you have any needed networking materials

Stay tuned for part 2 of the blog where I discuss my time at ACRL!


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