by Rebekah Kati, Head Editor, INALJ North Carolina
Attend Your Local Library Conferences!
In mid March, I attended the North Carolina Serials Conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I had heard of this conference, but had never attended until this year. As I sat through various sessions on serials assessment, I began to think about why I hadn’t ever gone to this conference before. It was cheap, close to home and very informative, even though I am not currently working as a traditional librarian. So what are the advantages of attending a local conference?
Many local librarians means great networking opportunities
When money is tight, librarians are more likely to attend local conferences where they don’t have to pay for lodging and plane fare. If you are looking for a job in your area, these librarians are also the people who you will want to talk to about job opportunities and work environment. Also, they will likely have great insights into their work and the profession, which can help you expand your own knowledge. Don’t be afraid to grow your network!
There are usually many opportunities for networking during breaks and lunch and many librarians are eager to talk about the conference and their work. As a very introverted person, I know it can be incredibly difficult to talk to strangers, especially those who might work with you some day. But it is worth it to try!
Keep up to date with important issues in the profession and explore ideas from different points of view
Naturally, conference presentations typically focus on important issues in the profession. The theme of NC Serials was scholarly assessment, so the keynote focused on alternative measures of assessment beyond the impact factor. I hadn’t heard of most of these alternate assessments, such as article level usage and altimetrics, prior to this session and as a vendor, it is useful to know how our customers might measure future usage of our products and what features they might want us to add to the online platform. The presenter also asked questions about the new metrics which will become more important as they are more widely adopted and encouraged the attendees to think critically about the topic. This session gave me valuable information about a new trend in the profession and encouraged thoughtful reflection.
Also, a good conference will encourage dialogue from different points of view. A panel discussion at NC Serials focused on current issues surrounding open access and included a scholarly communications librarian, an editor at a scholarly publisher and a professor. Each panelist had a unique – and sometimes conflicting – view on the state of open access. I found it very refreshing to hear these alternate points of view into a contentious topic and would likely not have been exposed to them in such an easily digestible form without the conference.
Learn about best practices
Conferences presentations can also cover best practices which librarians have used to fix issues. For example, I attended a session in which the presenter spoke on the ways that her library had optimized their e-journal usage through promotion on their website and maximizing access points throughout the online library. This was a valuable session for information sharing, and would likely be very useful for anyone in the room who was pursuing a job as an electronic resources librarian.
Additionally, local conferences can also give you insight into the best practices of local libraries. Another session at NC Serials focused on how local colleges and universities in the Carolina Consortium assess big deal serials packages and what criteria the consortium recommends that they use to determine their level of participation in the deals. This session was especially valuable because it contained information about the inner workings of these libraries that are not easily discoverable. I learned that many of the research libraries in North Carolina receive usage statistics tailored to their institution from the Carolina Consortium. This was not something that I would likely have discovered on my own or even thought to look for.
Visit with vendors
Many library conferences have booths where vendors can gather to showcase their products. Although smaller conferences will not have the space to house many vendors like ALA Annual, the vendors are still worth visiting. As a librarian, you will be working with many of the products showcased by the vendors and learning about these products at a conference may give you an edge in your future interviews. Plus, vendors are great employers too! You never know when you might make a connection that will help your job search, even if it is a few years down the road.
Local conferences are wonderful opportunities to grow your network and to gather information about the profession. They can also connect you with people and ideas that could give you a leg up in your job search. Explore local conferences in your area and think about attending! You will always learn something!