Presenting, Learning, Networking at CLA Annual Conference
Travel Grant Makes it all Possible

iStudent Blog

Published: June 22, 2023 by Lauren Bauer

We are told as students to practice producing original research and to hone our public speaking skills now, while we’re in school…and the SJSU iSchool student reception and poster presentation was a great venue to explore both skills!

Long before I ever thought about attending CLA (the California Library Association’s annual conference), I worked on a research project for INFO 285 with Dr. Lili Luo, and I chose ILL (interlibrary loan) in California community colleges as my topic. I work with ILL at one of the 116 California community colleges as part of my job, so I was able to use data I’d collected over the past 10 years at that institution to explore how the pandemic – and, more specifically, the physical closure of most library buildings, and the temporary inaccessibility of many print collections during the early days of the pandemic – shaped ILL usage among students, staff, and faculty. But, after turning in my final paper, I didn’t think too much about the project again.

Lauren Bauer Poster PresentationThat is, until I saw an email from the iSchool about a student poster presentation opportunity at CLA. Up until then, I hadn’t had any plans to attend CLA. The 2023 conference was held in Sacramento, while I am in Los Angeles, and I had (incorrectly, as it turned out) a vague notion that CLA was so geared toward public library staff that there wouldn’t be much to interest someone whose goal is academic librarianship. But, I have long thought that a poster presentation might be a nice, easy way to dip a toe in the waters of research writing and presentation (certainly lower-stakes than presenting a conference talk or being on a panel!) and I already had a head-start on the research portion of the process, if I used the same data and literature I’d collected as part of my INFO 285 project. So, I submitted an application to present my research titled, “WFH ILL: Supporting Community College Students Virtually,” and after the deadline, I was happy to find out my proposal had been accepted!

Despite this acceptance, however, I still would not have been able to attend the conference without an SJSU iSchool travel grant. I needed to travel from Los Angeles to Sacramento, and while my place of employment allowed me the time off from work to attend, I would otherwise have been on my own to fund my travel, which would have been financially out of my reach. I am very grateful for this generous funding from the iSchool.

Preparing my poster and booking my travel was the first part of the process. This by itself was valuable, as taking what can be seen as pages of “dry” data and making it look appealing and interesting to a layperson viewer is a skill all by itself. I tried to make the poster visually appealing, but also readable, but also not bogged down with too much text, but also provoke further questions…it was a balancing act!

Once at the conference, I started my experience by taking a shift volunteering at the SJSU iSchool exhibit booth at the convention center. There I got to meet fellow students and staff, which, despite the fact that I have been in the program since 2020, was the first time I got to meet other students in person! It was great to already have something in common with everyone I met – an interest in libraries – and get to know people on a personal level.

I also found something of interest for me in every conference session I attended. Of particular note was a session on emergency preparedness for libraries affected by wildfires, and another given by two librarians with experience working in the California prison system about safety and customer service. I took copious notes at both sessions to take back to the library where I currently work.

Most notable, however, was the iSchool Reception and Poster Session, where I met Dr. Anthony Chow, my fellow presenters, and both current students and alumni, and got a chance to talk about my work with interlibrary loan. I met a few other California community college employees, which was an unexpected bonus, but my favorite parts were thinking on my feet to answer questions about ILL as people came to see my poster, and chatting with my fellow presenters. Our projects were very different, but we were all there to practice our public speaking skills and meet each other, and it was a very welcoming group. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and would highly recommend the experience.

Editor’s Note: The SJSU iSchool highly encourages students to attend professional conferences but also realizes that it can be cost prohibitive. Travel grants are available to eligible students to help lessen the financial burden and increase conference participation. iSchool student Lauren Bauer received one of these travel grants.


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