Ahh, autumn. It evokes images of rust-colored leaves, hot apple cider, candy corn, and… library conferences.
For me fall means conference time! In fact, at least 21 school library conferences will take place this October and November.
Your first school library conference can be a little overwhelming. Here are some quick tips to make sure the experience is enjoyable.
Dress comfortably, not sloppily
Conferences are fairly informal, but they’re still a professional event. There’s no need to dress up, but remember that you’re representing yourself, your library, your school, and your profession. We don’t need to contribute to the stereotype of poorly-dressed librarians. Wear comfortable shoes, a pair of well-fitting jeans, and a casual top. A jacket or sweater is always useful, too.
Don’t feel guilty if you need a break
Conferences are notoriously over-scheduled. You have the opportunity to attend session after session with very few breaks in between. Some people thrive on that kind of stimulation, but others (including myself) need some down time.
I try to avoid attending more than two sessions back-to-back. Instead, I’ll find a quiet spot and process some of what I just learned. If the weather is nice, I might take a quick walk outside. Or I’ll head back up to my hotel room and take a nap. Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself alert, refreshed, and ready to learn.
Take Time to Walk the Exhibits
The first time I attended a conference, I was working at a school that gave me a joke of a budget. Walking through the exhibits made me feel sad because I saw exciting products I couldn’t afford. However, my attitude changed when I realized that exhibits aren’t just about what I can buy for my library. It’s about educating myself. Seriously, I consider it professional development. I always find something new and interesting to learn about. And when I eventually moved to a school with a fantastic budget, I knew my options and I knew what was available.
What About the Free Stuff?
I’m not sure who started the rumor that you get tons of free stuff at library conferences. Sure, you get free catalogs and free trials, but I can get those things without attending the conference. The best free stuff I’ve ever received at a conference was a piece of candy and a pencil. Never once have I even seen an offer of a free book.
If you’ve ever scored good free stuff, let me know which conference and I’ll rescind my assertion that it’s just a rumor! Update 9/26/12: A kind reader commented below and let me know that ALA Conference and Meetings are full of book freebies! I’ve only been to state-level conferences, so it looks like the national conferences are where the freebies are!
What to Bring
- Notebook /pen or portable device
- Healthy snacks (I try to bring my own. Conference food is always over-priced).
- Business cards (Make your own if your school doesn’t provide you with them).
- An extra tote bag or roll-cart if you intend to make purchases at the exhibits.
Conferences are supposed to be fun! They’re a break from your daily routine. They give you the opportunity to travel. You get to socialize with and learn from other librarians. Use the time to refresh, relax and bit, and come away inspired!
What are your conference tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.