Looking Ahead to the 2017 LIS Professional Conference Season

iStudent Blog

Published: April 19, 2017

Professional conferences are a great way to get to know people and expand your professional horizons. Learn when, where and how you can attend.

Getting yourself ready for summer, iSchool students? While you may be contemplating your next beach read or perfecting your swimsuit body, don’t forget that it’s also Professional Conference Season! You knew that didn’t you? If you are unaware of the rush to book hotels, find comfortable shoes, and update business cards then – then please read on and learn about why professional conferences should be included in your summer plans. Professional conferences are essential for expanding your knowledge of your chosen information career field and growing your professional network. When I attended the California Library Association (CLA) conference last fall for example, I solidified contacts I had made during my time at the SJSU School of Information. It felt really good to meet in person the iSchool instructors, a fellow ALASC executive board member and even a few librarians I had only read about. Plus, conferences provide an opportunity to travel to amazing places such as Chicago, Portland, Washington, D.C and Phoenix. Depending on your career focus—libraries, archives, or information science—there is a professional conference waiting for you!

The Summer and Fall Conference Line-up
The Special Libraries Association (SLA) will be holding its annual conference and INFO-EXPO in Phoenix, Arizona June 16-20, 2017. This year’s opening general session will be on June 18, even though the conference will begin two days prior. New this year is an additional general session panel discussion, entitled “Dream Jobs.” That sounds like a must-attend for students interested in careers in special libraries.

The American Library Association (ALA) will have its annual conference in Chicago, Illinois June 22-27, 2017 and feature several notable guest speakers including human rights activist Sandra Uwiringiyimana, actress and book lover Sarah Jessica Parker, author and commentator Ron Chernow and Bill Nye (aka The Science Guy). The conference is huge, so be sure to plan ahead and take a break. ALA also has a nifty scheduling app available in May so you can get the most out of the conference without taking all the energy out of you.

The Society for American Archivists (SAA) will be holding its annual meeting of archivists, archives students and all those interested in archival materials in Portland Oregon July 23-29, 2017. The SAA website lists preconference courses and several pages that emphasize the message of “Making a Difference.” The annual meeting will feature speakers from various universities and museums around the world.

The Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) will be holding its annual meeting in the fall from October 27-November 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C. This year’s meeting will mark 80 years since the organization’s inception. The meeting will “focus on the diverse ways in which people from different backgrounds, cultures and disciplines forge connections with each other, discover and use information, and engage with technology. The conference will also address the opportunities and challenges of navigating through physical and digital/virtual realm with computers, tablets or smartphones to interact in work and everyday activities.” Those interested in attending are urged to become ASIS&T members and subscribe to the organization’s journal to stay up-to-date with both annual meeting events and the latest trends in technology.

Tips for Attending
If you’re planning on going to one of these professional conferences, plan to have fun but also plan ahead and pack appropriately. If you’re not sure what that means exactly, then be sure to listen to iSchool instructor Patty Wong’s webinar about attending a professional conference. Wong is an inveterate conference attendee and has served with the ALA in multiple roles. Even if you’ve attended conference before, I highly recommend her webinar. There may be tips in there that you hadn’t thought of, like her advice to wear a watch because you don’t want to pull out your phone to check the time which can appear rude in the middle of a conversation.

From my experience, as you plan your sessions and activities, also plan and make time for meals. I brought snacks, but a protein bar wasn’t the same as lunch. Stay hydrated too, especially with the air conditioning that’s likely to be on high in the summer in cities like Phoenix and Chicago. Taking care of your body allows your mind to focus better and helps to keep your energy level up with your busy (but fun!) schedule.

Also consider pre-session opportunities. SJSU iSchool alumna Bridget Thrasher attended the SLA conference and shared a bit about her experience with the Silicon Valley Chapter of the SLA. Thrasher, a librarian at the Earth and Sciences Librarian at the Branner Library at Stanford University, felt that it was worth the extra time and money to attend a pre-conference session entitled “Geoscience Librarianship 101.”

If you can fund travel to the conference and spend the extra bit for special sessions, it could really be worth your while in terms of knowledge and networking. If you check in early enough with the respective professional organization, there could be scholarship or mentoring opportunities available to help defray the cost. Through my participation in the ALASC, I received information about scholarship opportunities through the ALA.

Get Involved with a Professional Organization Through iSchool Chapters
The four professional groups whose conferences are listed above have student chapters here at the SJSU iSchool. Student chapters connect students to both the affiliated professional organization and fellow students. Being part of the student leadership or executive board of a group can enhance your resume, build your professional network, expand your skillset and make you feel more connected with people in the online graduate program.

Even if you can’t make it to one of these professional conferences this year, get involved in one of the iSchool’s student groups or run for office. Then, keep an eye on your chosen organization’s website for next year’s conference and apply for scholarship and mentorship opportunities. If you’re going to ALA Chicago, let me know in the comments and I’ll meet you there!

Attend SJSU iSchool Receptions at Upcoming Conferences
If you are planning on attending this year’s SLA or ALA conferences, please mark your calendar and stop by the SJSU iSchool reception in town. These receptions provide a great opportunity to connect face-to-face with the iSchool community of faculty, students and alumni. Here are a couple upcoming receptions to consider:

  • Join the iSchool Reception at the SLA Annual conference— Monday June 19, 2017 4:30PM Mountain Standard Time at Steve’s Greenhouse Grill 139 E. Adams Street in Phoenix, Arizona
  • The SJSU iSchool Reception at the ALA Annual conference— Saturday, June 24 5:00 PM Central Daylight Time at Gino’s East, 3rd Floor 162 E. Superior Street in Chicago, Illinois

For related iSchool content, check out:
The Fall 2016 ALASC Descriptor issue about ALA Orlando

Library 2.017 Conference Reviews LIS Education and the SJSU iSchool Measures Up Strong 

Archivists Unite at SAA 2017– iSchool Career Blog

Conferencing 101: All the Tips– iSchool Career Blog


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