A Day in My Life at the CLA Conference

iStudent Blog

Published: November 9, 2016

Tips and ideas for having a fulfilling, inspirational and informative conference experience from one student to another.

Here I go into the wild, blue library yonder! On November 5, I packed up my conference-going essentials and an entertaining audiobook to make the two-hour pilgrimage to Sacramento, California from my coastal hometown to attend the California Library Association (CLA) annual conference.

Conference Tip #1 – Register Early
When I applied for the special dual membership—ALA plus state library association—in August, I took advantage of their special student rate. The discount I forgot to get was early bird registration, so it cost me a pretty penny to register the morning of the Saturday conference. Note to all (and self): think ahead, register early and save the extra money for more books…or groceries. 

Conference Tip #2 – Be Prepared
Last year, iSchool instructor Patty Wong gave an excellent presentation about how to make the most out of your professional conference experience. The first thing I did was replace the battery on my watch, because. Why, you may ask? Wong suggests wearing a watch because if you’re on a schedule (and you should be, so that you can fit in as much as possible) it is more polite to the group with which you are networking (and you should be networking) to check a watch rather than have to haul out your phone. I wore comfortable shoes as Wong suggested…or at least as comfortable as I could to keep my ensemble still dazzling. It was a decision I regret just a little. Another note to self: make sure the dazzling shoes are comfortable because you’re going to do a lot of walking! I ended up making the drive home with my shoes off so that they would throb a bit less.

Before my busy conference day, I checked in with a couple iSchool faculty and staff to see where they would be on the day I could attend. I really wanted to put a face, voice and personality to the professors I had worked with over the years. There are so many amazing people at the iSchool and I wanted to meet them all. It is also good as a student to put your face and personality to your name – an essential piece in building a solid network of career contacts. I also used the conference as a way to connect with a few alumni and ALASC board members, as I also serve as the ALASC newsletter editor of the fabulous and informative iSchool Descriptor.

Conference Tip #3 – Plan and Map Out Conference Sessions
Just meeting people makes for a busy schedule, but of course there are things to do, presentations to listen to and new contacts to meet and be inspired by. I sat down with the conference program (a virtually hefty 78 pages) and flipped through the offerings for the day, taking special note of presentations my instructor Beth Wrenn-Estes recommended. I also took note that alumnae and former fellow iSchool promotional team member Danielle Rapue was giving a poster session titled “Building Your Own Community in a MLIS Online Program”. While I missed Rapue’s session, I was able to connect with her, and she has offered to share her CLA experience with me and, of course, I’ll share it with you! After planning out my sessions, I wrote down where and when these events were taking place and mapped where I had to go.

I took in a session on BookWalks (incidentally, a registered trademark to be used with permission and proper crediting) one on the unique joys and challenges of rural librarianship. I also took in a session detailing the planning and successful implementation of early childhood literacy programs within family-based childcare centers and in partnership with the First 5 organization. It was all overwhelmingly informative.

Conference Tip #4 – Meet People and then Meet a Few More
Just as taking courses is not enough to make the most of your MLIS education, just attending sessions does not complete your conference experience. The true charge for an under-experienced student like myself is to meet people, meet more people and meet even more people.

So I introduced myself to everyone Wrenn-Estes told me to meet. I also gathered information from a smart and ambitious library director from Imperial County who’s county, like mine, has a large Spanish-speaking population with kids in need of quality literacy skills. I then buddied up with my Info 267 Graphic Novels instructor Morgan Pershing and soaked up her knowledge and the opportunity to meet the people she knows, which is a lot of people due to her extensive CLA committee involvement. A highlight of the conference was joking around with California State Librarian and fellow iSchool student Greg Lucas and meeting his equally pleasant and witty co-worker Natalie Cole.

Smiling for the Future and Tired After a Long Day
I finished up my conference experience attending the CLA membership meeting, listening to board members deliver reports, honor library defenders and talk about the library futures. Senator Lois Wolk was honored for her tireless work advocating for libraries in the California senate, and Miguel Figueroa, director of the ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries, discussed technology trends as compared with traditional library values. At the end Misty Jones stepped down and handed the gavel to the new CLA president Helen McAlary, kicking off the new 2016-17 leadership.

All in all, my single day at CLA conference was fulfilling, inspirational and informative. I met new people, got to know others whom I’d only talked to through emails and deepened a few professional friendships. Now it’s time to find all those business cards, connect on LinkedIn and get to work.