It’s been over two months since SLA (Special Libraries Association) Conference 2017 ended. I’d intended to blog a little sooner but I’ve been somewhat pre-occupied. During the time following the conference I travelled with my partner from Phoenix (where the conference was held) to Sedona (where we went off roading), then Grand Canyon (where I scared my partner by standing close to the edge), then Las Vegas (where my partner became my husband at the Tunnel of Love drive-thru wedding venue), then Orlando (where we ‘Disneymoon’ed and saw a failed rocket launch). We’ve been back for a few weeks though most of the time since then has been spent working, celebrating with family and friends, and sleeping. So much sleeping required. This was true on parts of the trip too; I’d planned to do some blogging and vlogging whilst I was away but in what little ‘downtime’ we had I prioritised sleeping. Conferencing and holidaying is tiring! Incredibly enjoyable too though. So, SLA 2017…
This year I was conference planner for the Leadership and Management Division (LMD). A lot of my time at the conference therefore was taken up with LMD activities such as moderating sessions and manning our stand in the exhibition. I really enjoyed the role and will share more about it in an upcoming post (along with some tips and advice for others doing similar roles). I wanted to record some of my reflections from the conference whilst I was there so I did some vlogging whilst I was at the conference (embedded below or direct link):
A few post-conference reflections:
Map out your schedule, but be willing to be flexible
I used the SLA Conference app to roughly plan my schedule beforehand, but I didn’t fill my schedule with too much and had some slots with a few options so I could see what I felt like on the day. I made sure to put my formal conference commitments in (the LMD sessions and my timeslots manning the kiosk), but other than that I stayed fairly flexible. This meant I could take advantage of new things I hadn’t spotted, or take time out when I needed to recharge without feeling like I’d be missing out on too much! One event I wasn’t aware of before the conference was a social for the Association of Independent Information Professionals, which I went along to and had a fantastic time; I met some great people and had some fascinating conversations.
We’re all different; something that might be incredibly popular with others might not be your thing
One of the sessions I was keen to attend for personal interest was a session on leadership run by one of the other units. The topic and speaker seemed really interesting, so I had fairly high expectations. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what I was expecting and I didn’t end up staying for the full session (I saw tweets from another session at the same time which sounded much more my sort of thing so I switched to that one). I felt a bit disappointed but from the tweets and conversations I had later, some people absolutely loved the session I didn’t like. This was a really useful reminder for me that we’re all different and have different preferences for style and content of conference sessions. This is really helpful for me to remember in my own work as a presenter and workshop facilitator as I’m aware my approach won’t appeal to everyone (and that’s OK, I just need to make sure I’m clear at the outset so people know what to expect).
Educational sessions can be great, but conversations can be even better
Some of the best parts of the conference for me were the people I met and the conversations I had – in the exhibition hall, before and after sessions with people I ended up sitting next to, and at social events. The content of a conference is of course important, but the conversations are too.
Spend your time (and energy) wisely
I mentioned before that I switched sessions when one I attended wasn’t floating my boat and I spotted one on Twitter that seemed more appealing. I also left one early to take a walk and clear my head. Plus one of the evenings this year I didn’t attend any of the socials and went out for dinner with my partner and then went to bed early to get some rest. Recharging is really important for me. I love conferences but they are mentally exhausting and in order to get the most out of them I need to pay attention to my needs, which sometimes means switching sessions, skipping sessions, going for a walk, or hiding out in my hotel room for a little while. I’m also starting to find vlogging useful for this as it aids my reflection and helps me record thoughts before I move on to the next thing.
Librarians know how to conference and are happy to welcome others
This is the first time I’ve attended a conference with my partner (a non-librarian). Because we were turning it into a holiday, it made more sense for him to come out with me, but I was apprehensive about how this might work during the conference. In practice, it worked very well. We spent our days mostly separately (myself at the conference; my partner exploring the area and planning the rest of our time from the comfort of our hotel room), then spent our evenings together. Most (if not all) the social events at SLA are open to family so I got tickets for him to attend with me. Others had their partners too, so he wasn’t the only one, and he was welcomed with open arms by everyone he spoke to. Obviously, being in a relationship with a librarian for 14 years means he knows a bit about the sector, but he was also able to bring his own experiences to the conversation and of course not all conference conversations are work-based anyway, especially not at the socials. He ended up volunteering his video skills to record and edit an interview for the LMD division too, which gave him something else to do during the conference. He was so impressed with the friendly, welcoming nature of the events he attended and his conclusion was, “Librarians really do know how to conference” 🙂
SLA 2017 was an excellent event and I’m really glad I was able to attend. Thanks to the Leadership and Management division for supporting my attendance.