cpd23 Thing 7 – Face to Face Networks

So, the next item on the agenda for cpd23 is to consider f2f networking, specifically in the context of various professional organizations.

During my first year of my library science program, I was not very good about getting involved. Now I’m kicking myself for that! I lived in Columbia, MO, where my library science program was based. I missed out on a lot of opportunities to get to know my classmates and attend various workshops, talks, and Missouri Library Association meetings.

Last summer, we moved to Clarksville, TN, because my husband got a job here. I love that I had the option to move wherever we needed to go and still finish my program, but it definitely highlighted the f2f networking opportunities that I took for granted (and failed to take full advantage of) while living in Columbia.

Then, I started looking in to joining the Tennessee Library Association and found a deal! As a student, I could do a joint TLA / ALA membership form for a whopping $35! Yes, please!

The TLA annual conference was in March. It was in Murfreesboro, around an hour drive away – which was good, because I couldn’t afford a hotel stay. I finished my practicum literally the day before the conference opened, so I was able to hitch a ride with someone I knew from Austin Peay for one of the days. That worked out really well, because I had someone to sit with in the key note and knew there would be at least one familiar face in the conference center! I went back again the next day, but drove by myself that time — handy excuse to stop and do some shopping in Nashville on my way back!

Overall, I didn’t get a whole lot out of the conference. I attended sessions, but didn’t do much in the way of networking. I met one person who was finishing up her library science degree at University of Tennessee at Knoxville. We follow one another on twitter and chat back and forth occasionally, which is awesome. But I think I would have made more contacts if I had been able to stay overnight and attend the more social events.

A couple of months later, by a stroke of luck, I wound up getting funding to attend the ALA Annual in New Orleans (also known as #ALA11). Woohoo! By this time, I had been spending more time on Twitter. As I mentioned in my earlier post about Twitter, this made my ALA11 experience much better. Face to face networking is much easier when you can walk up to someone you recognize from an online network and use that for your introduction! On the down side, I spent more time doing social stuff than attending sessions… In the future, I plan to work on finding a better balance.

After I got home from ALA11, I signed up on the New Members Round Table form to volunteer for a committee. Not much has come of it yet — I got a response and was added to the Liaison Coordination & Support Committee, but that’s all I’ve heard so far. Of course, it is summer and it hasn’t been that long since the conference, so I’m not complaining! The conference got me excited to sign up to become more involved, but I can’t say more about the outcome of that yet!

Overall, I’ve learned a few lessons:

  • If you’re going to an ALA Annual and can only afford 3 nights at the hotel, wait to show up on Friday or even Saturday. I arrived on Thursday and had to leave before some of the sessions that I really wanted to attend. On the other hand, I was early enough to go to the NMRT Conference 101 session, where I ran into some folks I know from twitter, so that part worked out!
  • If you live in a city with a lot of librarians and networking opportunities, take advantage of it! And if you live in an area where there aren’t a lot of events and happy hours to attend, go make use of twitter and save up to go to conferences when you can.
  • Find balance. I know some librarians were out until 1 or 2 am, then showed up for the 8 am sessions… I don’t know how they do it, because I sure can’t! And, attending a conference in a city like New Orleans makes it even harder — in addition to networking and attending sessions, you have to make time for sight-seeing as well! I haven’t gotten this one down yet, but I’m aware that I need to work on it.
  • Get involved to get more out of it. I haven’t done a lot yet, but I did work the welcome desk for the NMRT Resume Review Service for an hour. One hour isn’t much, but I got to meet a few people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met and I definitely count it as one of the more productive parts of my conference experience!
  • Membership is expensive for professionals, especially once you add ALA plus ACRL membership, plus your state and regional library associations, plus one or two other relevant organizations. But student memberships are cheap! So if you’re still a student, go sign up for as many as may be relevant to what you want to do! Take a shot and see which ones offer more bang for your buck, so that you can make a more informed decision once you graduate and membership becomes expensive!

Overall, I think that getting benefits out of attending conferences is an acquired skill, particularly if you want to balance networking with learning from informative sessions. It takes a few conferences to get it down — so start early, while you’re still in school! But they offer some pretty valuable opportunities if you learn to make the most of each conference experience.