Last month I attended the Special Libraries Association (SLA) annual conference in Chicago. It was a whirlwind experience, made all the more exciting by being on a different continent. I was lucky enough to win an Early Career Conference Award (ECCA), co-sponsored by SLA Europe and the Business & Finance Division of SLA, to attend the conference. There were five ECCAs in total, each co-sponsored by a different division; Business & Finance, Leadership & Management, Legal, Pharmaceutical & Health Technology, and Science-Technology. Our reflections on our ECCA experiences will be appearing on the SLA Europe blog shortly.
The ECCA's all bright eyed and bushy-tailed on Day One
SLA 2012 took place over four days, and involved presentations, panel discussions, and courses, and an exhibition hall full of vendors keen to show their latest products (and freebies) to us library folk. I found a couple of the sessions to be a little hit-and-miss, but on the whole they were educational and entertaining. Some of the highlights included, among others:
Marketing for the Rest of Us: A Guide for Introverts
I’ve written up my impressions from this session on my own blog.
60 Sites in 60 Seconds
Exploring some new and useful sites. The full list of useful sites can be found here
60 Apps in 60 Seconds
I’m not sure if this one actually stuck to its 60 minutes, but I’ll forgive that as I learnt about some great apps. Unfortunately, like 60 Sites, a lot of these are North American-based, but there are some in there that cross the pond too.
Seeing You Career from the Outside In
In this session, speakers discussed the soft competencies that we as library and information professionals need to succeed. I found this session particularly useful from a new professional viewpoint.
I learnt a lot at SLA 2012, both from the sessions themselves, and from the overall experience. It was a fantastic networking opportunity, something which I was looking forward to, but was also a little nervous about. Networking can seem daunting for a new professional – I can sometimes have a ‘what on earth can I add?’ mindset, but this quickly disappeared once I started chatting with people. I soon realised my viewpoint was just as valid as anyone else’s!
My most enduring memory of the conference is just how friendly everyone was, and how much fun I had. I would put this down to it being my first conference, but honestly even seasoned SLA conference-goers were excited to be there, and excited to meet first timers. There was a real sense of community, and I felt very welcomed, both as a new professional and a ‘foreigner’. I’ll admit the conference did often have a very North American focus, something which Sara Batts mentioned in the Future Now final panel discussion, but nevertheless I feel very much a part of a global association as a member of SLA.
If you are thinking of applying for a conference award or bursary like this, just do it - you have nothing to lose! There a number around to support students and new professionals attend their first conference, and I highly recommend applying for an ECCA to attend SLA San Diego next year!