SLA conference first-timer tips: what I did, and what I wish I did

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since the Special Libraries Association conference. Next week, library and information professionals from around the world will be gathering to discuss, debate and network in sunny San Diego. I attended SLA Chicago last year, as a first-timer, and here are my tips for those first-timers attending this year – what I did that paid off, and what I wish I did.

What I did

  • ECCA's adding ribbons to their name badges

    ECCA’s adding ribbons to their name badges

    Tie a knot in your lanyard, or clip your name badge to your top, where people can see it.

  • Absolutely leave a session early if its not for you, or you have a few things you want to attend at the same time. North American conferences are a very different atmosphere to British ones; no one will mind if you leave, and it is honestly liberating!
  • Use your British accent as ice-breaker. I honestly had a Canadian librarian say to me; “You’re from England?! Say something!“.
  • Get business cards and a holder. Again, it’s not very British for junior/new professionals to have business cards, but they’re so useful for networking, and many competetitions will require one. I actually wish we did more business card swapping here, it’s just so much easier than trying to slyly find out someone’s name from sideways glances at their name badge. (if they have one!)
  • Conference award winners at the ITR Division party (Photo credit SLA 2012 Photographer)

    Conference award winners at the IT Division party
    (Credit SLA 2012 Photographer)

    Hang out with the other ECCAs. This was probably the most rewarding aspect of winning the Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) for me. We were all first-timers to the States, and a jet-lagged evening of queuing for the Willis Tower is a shared experience we will never forget.

  • Attend the IT Division party. In fact, attend as many open houses, networking events and parties as you can.

What I wish I did

  • This thing would not stay put

    Would not stay put

    I only saw this idea after the conference – Write on the back of your name badge your name, job/institution and Twitter handle. Those things love to spin around. Genius.

  • Take breaks. The first couple of jet-lagged conference days were amazing, but draining. I wanted to pack in as many sessions as possible, but remember to take time out to see the sights.
  • Attend sessions that are unrelated to what you do. Some of the sessions were about things which I already knew quite a bit about. I now wish I’d skipped those (left early!) and attended something completely new to me.

I hope this year’s ECCAs get as much out of this year’s conference as I did last year. Have fun!

ALISS Visit to Institute of Education, London

On 16 April I visited the Institute of Education Library in London with ALISS (Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences), to hear about their special collections, archives, and digital archive of official publications Digital Education Resource Archive (DERA). As liaison librarian for Education, this was an excellent opportunity for me to learn about other Education subject-specific collections and resources. DERA, in particular, will be a useful resource to point students towards.

The day began with a talk from Nazlin Bhimani, Research Support & Special Collections Librarian, about the Library generally and it’s special collections. The Library collects everything published on education in the UK, with a representation of other countries, as well as curriculum resources, such as reading materials for use in classrooms and a ‘literature’ collection – books with schools or education featured or as a theme, such as Harry Potter!

Special Collections
The special collections include libraries of individual scholars or significant figures relating to education, as well as historical collections on a particular subject (for example, music, physical education), and historical textbooks. To promote the collections, Nazlin uses LibGuides, attends inductions, hosts library and archive study days, and uses social media.

Some items from the IoE archives and special collections

I enjoyed Becky Webster’s presentation, as instead of slides she projected some interesting images from the archive collections while talking us through some of the aspects of the IoE archives.

Their collection development policy is deliberately broad to cover education as represented in all areas. Their main areas of enquiries are school architecture, politics of education (gender, moral education, student activities), and gender and education.

Tiny models of classroom furniture – adorable!

Digital Education Resource Archive (DERA)
Emma Alison works with the British official publications collection, and spoke about the collection and it’s digital archive.

What’s in the collection?
The core is crown copyright and parliamentary copyright, but also includes quango publications and others.

What isn’t in the collection?
Letters, speeches, technical guidance, press releases, subject development materials.

DERA is a permanent digital archive of largely born-digital government publications. It has been a solution to the movement of many documents to electronic-only and ‘link rot’. The items turn up in Google, which is how the majority of users find DERA. Some possible future plans include investigations into formats to expand file types, possible expansion of organisations included, and enhancement of features and visibility.

We rounded off the day with tea and a tour. It was great to have a snoop around, including the midly terrifying stacks with a mesh floor. The Library itself is light and airy, and seems like a great place for students to work. It was great for me to see first-hand their collections, as I can now feel confident in referring our students there through SCONUL Access if our own Education collections are not sufficient for their research needs. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the IoE library’s and our Education collections.