In my first nine or so months as a full-fledge library professional, I’ve had the opportunity to attend three (well, technically four) conferences: ALA Midwinter, The Collective, #critlib, and ACRL. As I reflect back on those various travels and experiences, I believe that each were helpful in building my librarian identity and connecting me with other librarians.
Before the conferences, I had told our student workers that I was going to be in Baltimore for most of the week. When I returned, many asked how my trip was. I summed it by saying: It was fun, I met new people, and tweeted a lot. The students usually chuckled when I said I tweeted; they didn’t know librarians use Twitter so actively during conferences. Twitter was a vital off shoot of the conference; it was a way to communicate ideas and in-the-moment thoughts throughout the week. I found the opportunity to share my ideas and find other librarians to follow who shared similar values critical to my conference experience.
But Twitter aside, I feel that I had five big outcomes as a result of attending #critlib and ACRL.
1. I define myself and my position at Penn State by the hours I work. I was always quick to talk about my shifted Sunday to Thursday, 1-10 PM schedule. As I keep working in this position, I feel that my hours define the work I do and the ways I think about the library (sometimes I talk to more students in a day than I do with other librarians). I got the usual “Oh those are interesting hours” and didn’t manage to find anyone with a schedule that mirrors mine (if you’re out there let me know, we have a research gap to fill!).
2. I feel most at home during conversations on reference services, training student employees, working with students on research, expanding what it means to create a LibGuide, community engagement, digital literacy, and engaging students in and out of the classroom. Those sessions were the ones I tweeted about the most and the ones where I had active virtual discussions online. As I put together my research agenda, I’ll probably use those experiences to guide the work I do. At Midwinter, I had talked about feeling a little lost in the shuffle and ACRL helped me feel a little less lost and a little more grounded in the work I am passionate about.
3. I felt my #critlib experience was helpful in motivating me for ACRL. #critlib was naturally a smaller group with a more defined focus on the types of conversations we were going to have. I really enjoyed taking notes during these roundtable conversations as a way for me to really dive into the stories my colleagues were sharing. With #critlib and the conversations from the day swirling in my head, I felt more confident to conquer ACRL and introduce myself to new people.
4. I continued to recognize more people (which makes me very excited). Going to The Collective was definitely helpful in having a base of people I knew and could find in the sea of 3,200 attendees. Also, Penn State brought a big crowd so I was always happy to run into a familiar face. For me, having those touchstones in a conference is awesome as a way to collect my thoughts, debrief on events, and relax in the evenings with people who know me.
5. Some of my favorite conversations and parts of the conference were meeting new people and connecting with old friends and colleagues. The conversations that happened outside the sessions had the most impact for me. It was in that space that we came up with new ideas, proposals to submit, projects to begin, and friendships strengthened by having time to get to know someone better.
I would also add a sixth item, unrelated to my professional and career development:
6. Caramel crab popcorn is not something I would try again. Just saying.
I think my conference travel is done…for now. Which is probably a good thing because my past week has been filled with fantastic reference conversations on all sorts of topics. I investigated fake news, Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” drunk driving statistics as it relates to ethnicity, and more. The final push until the end of the semester is here and I’m ready (I hope).
My next big professional development is attending ACRL’s Immersion program in July. But, I do have several projects brainstormed at ACRL that I’m hoping to get off the ground between now and then. If you know me at all, you know that I can never not be busy.