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UNYSLA Conference: The Future Is Now – some personal reflections April 23, 2006

Posted by jennimi in About me, Conference, marketing yourself, Special Libraries Association.
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I attended the Upstate New York Chapter Special Libraries Association conference Friday as a student panelist. The experience was pretty positive all around. As students, we were welcomed and encouraged, and we were fed very well.

Allison Evatt, from Thomson Dialog gave a very clear presentation about how to market ourselves as information specialists, as well as how to write an “Elevator Speech“. To many this process may be de rigueur, but to me it was a welcome exercise in personal subject analysis.

I had met Allison in fall of 2004, when she spoke to my Reference class about how to use the web-based Dialog product – have since learned the command driven product as well, and we had a funny talk about that (once you learn command line searching, you can learn ANY searching). Her presentation was aimed at working professionals in special libraries, but since the audience was populated with many students and recent grads, she related much of her content to our concerns. Extremely applicable and meaty content. Much appreciated. One of the main points I came away with was the importance of branding. It’s old hat in the corporate world, but academic librarians/libraries can also benefit from a consistent and simple look and feel.

I will also be checking out Dialog’s Quantum workshops. You don’t have to be a Dialog customer to participate. Very cool.

I enjoyed putting myself in this mindset of marketing myself and my services as an information navigator, even if this involved, for the time being, imagining myself in a paid position. As always happens in these events, time moved quickly. I would have liked more discussion about my favorite marketing tool: blogs. Luckily I did get to chat up blogging, RSS and aggregators – informally – after the afternoon panel discussion of students and practitioners. Aside: great post in Lifehacker about using blogs to build your reputation.

The panel consisted of three practicing librarians and three student panelists, one of whom, Shannon Kealey, is a friend and colleague (we have worked together on DLIS club projects, and are working together on a Management project). Shannon has had experience in academic career services, and shared some wonderful pointers and insights from her experience.

We had been given questions for which to prepare, but unfortunately time did not permit discussion of all issues. “Job Search Challenges” dominated (perhaps understandably), as did tenure issues (strange question for SLA, but interesting perspectives were shared by many). “What will I be doing in 5-10 years” beat out “How did coursework help me prepare my professional skillset?” This was unfortunate for me as my enthusiasm, at the moment, shines through more with the latter topic. The work I have completed in my Indexing and Digital Libraries classes, as well as Collection Development, Digital Information Retrieval, and Arts and Sciences Libraries Reference Practicum has been challenging, exciting, interesting, and fun, and has – for me – joined the realms of library philosophy and real world application of skills.

It has been said to me before and I agree: what you get out of your graduate work is what you put into it. I guess that goes with anything, including conferences. Hats off to A. Ben Wagner, of the University at Buffalo Arts and Sciences Libraries, for making us all feel so welcome, and Beth Brown of Binghampton University libraries and President Elect of UNYSLA for a well oiled conference. You can find out more about the local SLA happenings at SLA Student Group at UB, which is maintained by Ben Hockenberry. Finally, thanks to Susan LaValley, outgoing SLA Student Chapter president, for inviting me to participate, and doing such a great job preparing us for the panel discussion.