Lauren sent along an account of her time at the 2012 SLA conference in Chicago. Next years conference is in San Diego, June 9-11. Hope to see you there!
My first-ever SLA conference was a fantastic experience, and I’m extremely grateful and privileged to have been the recipient of the Frost-Gershenfeld SLA Travel Award that allowed me to attend this event.
One of the first (and most frequent) questions I was asked at SLA was, “So, what do you hope to get out of this SLA conference?” This question was especially ubiquitous at the SLA Fellows and First Timers Meet, one of the first social and networking events of the conference I made sure to attend. I had been prepared to give my elevator speech about my own interests and career goals, but this question provided a great way to explain to people what I was interested in, while also obtaining their advice on what conference sessions or people I should make sure attend or talk to. This event was also the ultimate business card exchange/introduction rampage – I think I gave away more of my business cards in 10 minutes than I had in the previous six months. People are extremely friendly and very helpful to newcomers, and I was introduced to many new people who are in my various fields of interest.
My overall goals for the conference were to explore as many sessions as possible that would showcase the various aspects of special librarianship and to introduce myself to groups and people affiliated with sections of SLA I found myself most interested in.
With these goals in mind, I began my first full day with a Taxonomy Division session called “Taxonomy Design for the Short on Time” followed by attending the Archival & Preservation Caucus Annual Business Meeting. I was a bit unsure about attending something noted as a “business meeting” as it seems to imply active involvement and/or familiarity with the caucus. However, this could not be further from the truth. These meetings are a great way to introduce yourself to small groups and to learn what is going on in the subsets of special librarianship in which you may be interested. After attending further sessions throughout the day (note: always have a 2nd choice session, because sometimes session titles sound awesome, but the content is not what you thought it would be), I made my way to the beautiful Newberry Library for the American West reception, which was then conveniently followed by the Chocolate Reception.
This after-hours social event was a great place to continue chatting and networking with new colleagues from the West, and to meet others. I ended up talking with the librarian for the Puget Sound Regional Council whose job entails transportation research I had never even considered. There are fascinating subsets of special librarianship, and SLA has them all.
The following day, I returned to the Newberry to attend a tour of their map collection, which was a fantastic look into their extensive cartographic holdings and great on-site preservation workroom. I highly recommend any future SLA attendees to try to attend at least one off-site event you are interested in – it allows you to explore the city you are in just a bit more, and provides great insight into aspects of special librarianship you may not have previously considered. Plus, it relieves you of conference fatigue that can set in during your 5th hour of conference sessions.
The sessions I attended later on Tuesday and Wednesday met my goals of exploring aspects of special librarianship and introducing myself to those involved in aspects of SLA I am interested in. For me, this takes the form of audio and visual digital asset management, and the sessions “Photo Digitization and Archive Developments” and “DAMS – Indexing Non-Textual Content” were stellar. One of the presenters in the “Photo Digitization” session was Janel Kinlaw, an NPR broadcast librarian who explained the fascinating process of their development of a database system that automatically extracts metadata, as well as their move from a physical library to a completely digital set-up. Though I was extremely nervous to do so, I made sure to approach her after the talk to explain my interest in digital audio and reference, as well as to give her my business card. As with many other people I encountered at SLA, she was extremely courteous and we had a great discussion that lead me to apply for one of NPR’s internship positions in their Broadcast Library.
Upon my return to Seattle, I was fortunate to participate in the PNW SLA Chapter “report-out” about the conference. I also made sure to contact those I had met at the conference with a note to emphasize how much I enjoyed speaking with them. Additionally, after applying for the NPR internship and going through two phone interviews, I also think that I have to thank the Frost-
Gershenfeld Travel Award and SLA for contributing to my obtainment of the Broadcast Library internship at NPR this coming fall. Not only was I able to talk about my exchange with Janel Kinlaw in my cover letter, I was prepared to discuss their future plans for audio at NPR due to my participation in a session given at the 2012 SLA conference.
In short, SLA and the SLA conference will take you places. I know many others that took a lot away from this conference, and I look forward to attending again as a professional in the future.