Testing the Regional Conference Waters

by Stephanie Noell, Senior Assistant, INALJ Texas

Testing the Regional Conference Waters

stephanienoellRegional library conferences are a great way to get involved in professional organizations. You can present a paper, volunteer for the conference, organize a meet up for your listserv/ committee/gaming group (Call of Cthulhu anyone?), or just go to listen to great talks and network. Plus, regional conferences are often much more affordable than the big national and international conferences!

At a regional library conference, you can familiarize yourself with what is going on in area institutions. You can learn about anything from school libraries to special collections, open access to outreach, cross-training to collection development, etc. While you are learning about all of the amazing programs and services available at other libraries, you also have the chance to meet your neighbors and discuss your LIS passions. (You might even come across a, as Anne Shirley put it, “kindred spirit” or two.) Discussions can lead to partnerships in projects, papers, or committees.

I was so drawn to learning about the many cool things that are happening at the libraries in my area, I volunteered for the planning committee of the second Cross Timbers Library Collaborative (CTLC) Conference. The experience was incredibly rewarding. I have previously served on the planning committee for a local comic studies symposium and have, for several years, served on the program committee for the Comics and Popular Arts Conference at Dragon*Con, but CTLC was my first library conference programming committee.

As a newer librarian, many of the groups I join for national library organizations are filled with people I have never met before. That was not the case with CTLC; I had previously met most of the committee–they were my colleagues, friends, and former classmates. Most people would not think of me as shy, but I am the type of person who needs to stick my toe in the water before doing a cannonball. I want to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, but sometimes I need a little push and this committee of friends and acquaintances was the perfect opportunity to get to know my library community.

My fellow Cross Timbers residents did not disappoint! As a Special Collections Librarian, one of the talks I was most excited about was Morgan Gieringer’s presentation “Special Collections and Heritage Tourism”. Heritage tourism, as defined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, consists of “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past”. The resources you experience can be cultural, historic, or natural and the best heritage tourism programs not only enrich the lives of their travelers, but the lives of the local residents, too. Gieringer’s talk inspired a group of attendees (myself included) to take an impromptu and self-guided tour of the Dallas Public Library (the location of the conference). Seeing the beautiful design of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library was exciting, as was getting to read a Declaration of Independence broadside that was in remarkable condition, but the ultimate thrill for a theatre-geek like me was getting up close to Shakespeare’s first folio (my heart skipped a beat when I caught my first glimpse of it). I can see why heritage tourism activities such as genealogical research (America’s second favorite pastime behind gardening) are so popular.

With so many researchers connecting with their disciplinary colleagues online, a current hot topic in academic libraries is scholarly communications and, luckily, there were several opportunities at CTLC to learn more about open access and copyright issues in academia. I attended the interactive panel “Emerging Opportunities in Open Access” partially to learn about as many open access and copyright resources as possible while simultaneously supporting my brilliant colleagues Clarke Iakovakis and Rafia Mirza along with their fellow panelists Coby Condrey, Spencer Keralis, and Anjum Najmi. The panel covered essential scholarly communications topics such as understanding author rights, the Open Access Button, issues in the humanities on adopting open access, and the importance of institutional digital repositories. No matter what kind of an institution you might work for, scholarly communications issues will come up. You may have a patron who is planning on publishing a book, but knows nothing of copyright or Creative Commons licenses. You may also want to familiarize yourself with more open access resources, because you never know when you will need to find the latest articles on tardigrades or a digital copy of “The Prince” by  Niccolò Machiavelli.

My experiences with this programming committee and at the CTLC Conference gave me the confidence to volunteer for other leadership opportunities. So, if you are like me and need to dip your toe in first, try volunteering for regional library conferences! ALA has many state and regional conferences listed on their website, but also keep an eye on your listservs! You never know when a new conference or partnership will be created and it is the perfect opportunity to make meaningful connections with your neighbors!

Stephanie Noell is a Special Collections Librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. She earned her BA in Philosophy from the University of West Florida and her MA in Philosophy and MSLIS from the University of North Texas. In her spare time, she collects comic books and supports the arts in as many ways as possible.