Are you a library or information professional in the first 5 years post qualification? Do you want to go to a library conference in Vancouver? Interested in meeting library and information people from all over the world? If YES then carry on reading and then apply for this amazing opportunity.
Applications are open for the 2014 SLA Europe Early Career Conference Awards (ECCAs). This year there are three awards, sponsored by Leadership & Management, Legal and Academic Division. The conference is an amazing experience. You’ll get fabulous mentors from your chosen division and SLA Europe to help with getting the most out of the experience. It is an opportunity to meet great people and build a fantastic network to last a career lifetime.
In short you should apply because:
- I find it quite hard to put into words how brilliant the entire experience was for me so apply and find out for yourself.
- It is one of the best opportunities for professional development you are going to find, no matter what you are interested in. I’d say last year we were a diverse bunch of ECCAs with different professional backgrounds and interests however each of us found the experience extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
- You will meet many, many interesting, exciting and inspiring people. People from a very diverse range of organisations and backgrounds too. So whatever you find interesting, chances are you’ll find someone to talk about it with.
- In addition to the conference-y bit the social side of the event is great. There is a party for everyone at an SLA conference. It will most definitely be lots of fun.
- You might as well apply because if you don’t try you won’t get it. And as the old saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed try again. I was successful on my third year of application. Learn from past applications and just keep trying.
- Also the conference comes with AMAZING ribbons on the badges as illustrated above (and until UK conferences catch on to the idea your going to need to apply for an ECCA to get some!).
So go on, apply now. As Nike say, just do it. Here’s the link again to tempt you http://www.sla-europe.org/awards/early-career-conference-award/
My aim for SLA2013 was to make the most of every opportunity for networking. The main reason I wanted to attend an SLA conference was for the opportunity to meet people. People have always been the highlight of professional events that I’ve attended before. The times for networking are usually my favourite times at any conference. It is a great opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances, and former colleagues, as well as a chance to meet many new people. Armed with a stack of business cards and my best smile I tried my best to throw myself into the conference.
I’m not afraid of meeting new people and usually thrive at networking events. However I’ll admit that I went to bed on the first night feeling deflated and anxious that I wasn’t the right person to be at the conference. A classic case of letting my own confidence levels take a hit because of the overwhelming scale of the task. The first day was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, which weren’t helped by jetlag. I spent most of the Saturday exploring San Diego on my own before attending a first timer reception, followed by the Business and Finance Awards reception. The first day on your own in a new city is always a tough one. Thankfully the first timer reception was a great icebreaker and I met a number of people who would become great conference friends. The Business and Finance Division event was great because it was nice to be recognised by the division and the number of people congratulating me was overwhelming. Everyone was wonderful however I felt a little lost at sea, unsure how best to introduce myself to people and found it hard to work out what best to talk about. As a result I went to bed that night feeling worried about being cut out for surviving the conference. Ultimately though I need not have worried because everyone at the conference was so very friendly, welcoming and ready for conversation.
The noticeable thing about the SLA conference was how willing people were to engage with everyone regardless of background or level of experience. At SLA people are equal. People are valued. I can’t recall any occasion at the conference where I felt inferior or less worthy of my place in the conversation. What I do have is many memories of occasions where people at the top were happy to engage with newcomers like myself. Hierarchy is not a driving force. SLA CEO Janice Lachance sat at my table during a lunch break. SLA Europe board members invited me to join drinks in the bar each night.
One of the most important set of relationships I developed during the conference was with my fellow ECCA winners. We helped each other navigate the vast conference experience. We bonded over food, drinks and baseball games. We shared new experiences and reflected on our different pasts. I learnt with them. I learnt from them. I’m still learning from them. Reading the blog posts written by fellow ECCA winners continues to bring new perspectives and challenge my viewpoints on the conference and the profession.
The first in my series of write ups of SLA 2013 focuses my experiences of the overall conference programme; the sessions, and events attended.
In the weeks leading up to the conference I was able to use an online conference planner to find out what sessions and events were planned. My first observation was the volume of sessions and the comparatively small space of time they were crammed into. Every day of the programme offered a lot of choice, everything from breakfast business meetings to panel sessions and interactive workshops. There were even some of those old school style speaker and a PowerPoint type things. Navigating my way through all of the choices seemed like a challenge at first however the online planner was great as I was able to build my own personal schedule for the event. Though of course I didn’t really stick to that at all choosing instead to pick sessions as I went along. Recommendations from others and reading tweets during the event were really useful in making these decisions.
I went to some amazing sessions and some rubbish sessions, as is the way with conferences. You never know what it will actually be and how good the speaker will be until you get started. As a result I attended a lot of sessions but not a lot of complete sessions. At US conferences it is acceptable to switch between sessions at any time. I found myself doing this a lot, partly because I could and partly because too many potentially interesting things were happening at once. Session hopping has downsides though. It was great to be able to leave sessions that weren’t overly interesting or living up to expectations but arriving part way through a session can make it hard to understand exactly what is going on. I found there was a lack of focus in the room, which was perhaps due to a flow of people coming and going. Session switching is definitely an interesting and useful concept though, especially when you are in a session that you don’t think you are getting anything out of.
My favourite sessions were:
- Dream Jobs: What’s it like to Work There
- Bad Food: Life-cycle of a Food Recall
- Big Data, Big Challenges
- Storytelling Across Multiple Platforms
- Make the Most of a Difficult Situation: Solutions to Get You Through
Alongside the conference sessions was a varied and busy programme of social and networking events. These were often hosted by specific divisions however were generally open for anyone to attend. For me these events were the best part of the conference. As presentation and panel sessions can often be very specific it is sometimes hard to feel properly engaged but networking events are great opportunities for learning and building contacts. I took the advice of my mentor Neil to heart and attend as many as possible. One evening I attended 5 different social events, namely The Canadian Reception, Solo Librarians Open House, International Reception, Legal Division event and the IT Dance Party. At all of these events I was able to engage with people, discuss various topical issues and build up a network of contacts. Even the IT Dance Party provided opportunity to get to know people; it was especially good for getting to know people in more social context. I’ll write more about this aspect of the conference in Part 2: People.
I’m not going to write about the exhibition hall as I didn’t feel I had much to talk to any vendors about. I did enjoy the wide range of vendors and absorbed quite a lot of awareness about various organisations and services though which could be useful in the future.
There is so much more that I could write about however for now that is the broad overview of my reflections concerning the actual conference itself.
In June 2013 I was lucky enough to travel to San Diego to attend the 2013 Annual Special Libraries Association conference as an Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) winner. The experience was truly epic in every sense of the word; an 11 hour flight, 18 hour days, thousands of people, over 200 events and a conference centre stretching across more than 8 street blocks. Everything about the experience was massive and overwhelming but absolutely amazing.
Now that I’ve been back for a month (or so) I’ve have had time to digest it all and distil the experience down. I’m writing up by splitting my reflective writing into four parts;
- The Conference
- What I Wish I Had Done Differently
I’ve also been busy writing up my reflections for various other blogs and journals. A conference report can be found in the July edition of the CLSIG Journal. I’ve written a piece for the SLA Europe Blog so look out for that in the future, as well as a report for the Business and Finance Division Bulletin.
The challenge is trying to work out what to write and what to leave out. There is so much I could say, so much I’d love to capture in writing so I don’t forget it all in the future. The experience of being an ECCA and attending a conference of this scale is so mind boggling and overwhelming, so it’s hard to condense my thoughts down into neat reflections.