Professional Conferences Present Excellent Opportunities to ‘Cut Your Teeth’

iStudent Blog

Published: June 20, 2023 by Emily Espanol

Emily Espanol in exhibit hallThis June, I attended the California Library Association’s Annual Conference in Sacramento, California, with the assistance of the SJSU travel grant for current students. As a member of the conference’s social media subcommittee and a co-presenter to iSchool Director Anthony Chow, my attendance was extremely important. In exchange for two hours of volunteering at the iSchool’s exhibit booth, I was granted the funds to completely offset the cost of the conference and have an excellent time networking and learning alongside other librarians!

Presenting with Dr. Chow and the Fall 2022 UX Internship Team

A semester-long internship in fall 2022 about usability and library services culminated in a three-hour immersive education session titled, “Usability (UX)/Extended Reality (XR) Usability Testing Lab,” on Thursday, June 1, 2023. My trip from Las Vegas, Nevada, to the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center was a long one. A three-hour flight delay, followed by an hour-long plane ride sandwiched between infants, finally brought me to our conference room with only four minutes to spare!

Luckily, my fellow former interns and the iSchool’s usability experts—Brenda Alfaro, Lynn Reeves, Amanda Urcinas, Hannah Nguyen, Rosine Bingol, and Michele Atwater—all had my back in-person and virtually over Zoom. For the first 30 minutes, we prepared a presentation about efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction in user-centered design and the ways we engaged with these concepts during our internship. Afterwards, we broke up into three stations where Lynn, Michele, and I engaged five attendees to develop a profile of their user populations, a list of their users’ top information needs, and an example of a user persona that would help attendees center the user in their future website designs. Not only was this a great opportunity to practice one-on-one instruction, but it was also a great networking moment—two of our attendees worked for the state library, another worked for a local public library branch in Sacramento, and the last (but certainly not the least) was a fellow iSchool classmate!

With so much engagement, our three-hour immersion session ended in a flash, allowing me to seek out more classmates and connections for dinner!Emily Espanol and presenters

The iSchool at CLA Annual

The rest of the conference was a whirlwind. After a morning session about Bibliotheca’s Open+ program, I grabbed a breakfast with iSchool friends and fellow student organization leaders in the Sacramento sunshine. Then, I volunteered at the iSchool exhibit booth for two hours, talking to current and prospective students and demonstrating some very cool library technology, like the Hololens and VR headset.

]Then, I was back to supporting the iSchool in other ways. Recent alumna Rachel Fleming and current student Meghan Thompson, for example, lit up the Ignite Session with their 5-minute talk, “How Is Your Library Opening Doors for the Next Generation of Librarians?” As is expected at an Ignite Session where challenging new ideas face off against the status quo, Rachel and Meghan bravely met some resistance to the idea of libraries hosting iSchool students to develop experiential learning experiences for MLIS students towards a library apprenticeship model to open the doors to a new, more diverse generation of librarians.

Afterwards, we all met back up at the Sacramento Sheraton Grand Hotel for the SJSU iSchool Meetup and Poster Presentation. A conference highlight, the meetup is truly just that—a moment for students to decompress after a long semester, compare notes, and show each other their semester’s proudest accomplishments on a poster. Food, non-alcoholic drinks, and conversation flowed freely, until the iSchool’s gift raffle put a perfect end to a night full of camaraderie. Many of us chose to keep the night going and continued on to dinner and the CLA Annual night track of library-sanctioned games and programming.

Emily Espanol work sessionSaturday brought another day of iSchool representation, with current student Edit Vosganians speaking about her work as a Maker Technologies Specialist at the Glendale Library for a presentation titled, “Sustainability Programming in Diverse Community.” Edit was working there during the time the library  received the Sustainable California Libraries Grant and helped develop programming that kept used materials out of landfills through mending and fixing!

All throughout the conference, the other conference social media team and I walked the line between staying present in conference happenings and taking event photos. Current student Eori Tokunaga and I tried our best to raise our phone cameras, but luckily, the iSchool’s own Samantha Warriner helped the team keep CLA’s socials alive throughout the whole conference.

Come Next Year!

Whatever your goals in libraries, the California Library Association’s Annual Conference presents an excellent moment to cut your teeth on presenting and volunteering. As you can see, you will have a more than excited community of iSchool alumni, students, and professors who will show up for you and root for your success.

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 Emily Espanol received one of these travel grants.


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