This past week I have had the pleasure of volunteering at “Investir le monde numérique/Investing the Digital World”, a conference organized by ASTED and 7 other professional associations that reflected on the transformations in libraries due to the evolutions in information technology and also how information professionals can take a proactive approach in influencing information technology tools.
Volunteering at conferences is a wonderful experience for students. During the past few days I have met many interesting people who are interested in the same issues as me. Also, I have listened to thought-provoking speakers who approach their subjects from a different perspective than what is presented in university classes.
Although everyone knows that conferences are a fantastic opportunity to network, I was shocked to witness a certain volunteer take this opportunity too seriously. At the beginning of the conference, all the volunteers needed to find our name badges that were filed alphabetically with those of the conference attendees. When one volunteer couldn’t find her name, she became visibly stressed out; she was almost panicking. I told her not to worry because we all had to wear rather flashy hats that made us stand out as volunteers (see picture). The woman replied that she had just finished her program in library school and was looking for a job. Her objective in coming to the conference was to meet potential employers and if she didn’t have a name badge for people to learn her name then she would have been better off staying at home. I could barely contain my shock at how easily she announced this narrow-minded attitude to the volunteer co-coordinator and the other volunteers. Honestly, I had met her only moments before and I already knew that, given the opportunity, I would never hire her because she obviously
a) dealt very poorly with stress and
b) lacked the creativity to come up with any alternative solutions to her problem (i.e., she could have brought business cards to distribute, she could have been proactive in introducing herself so that she wouldn’t have to rely on people reading her name badge, etc.).
I am admittedly an extrovert and I needed no coaching to talk to people at the conference. However, I view these people as librarian colleagues who share my interest in how technologies are influencing libraries, not uniquely as potential employers or contacts for job opportunities. My favourite presentation was “Bibliothèque universitaire: nouvel esprit du lieu”. This talk was given by Silvie Delorme, the director of the libraries at l’Université Laval, my alma mater. She spoke of how the architectural elements and design of a building influences how people use that space, whether they enjoy being there and want to linger or rather if they come simply to accomplish a task and then leave right afterwards. Last year I did a project on contemporary architecture in academic libraries and this is a topic that I find extremely interesting. After the talk, I went to Mme Delorme and introduced myself. We spoke about her talk and the major renovation project that Université Laval has planned for its two libraries. I never mentioned the fact that I would like to work at Laval’s library one day, although I would, because I felt that it was not appropriate in the context of our conversation and it probably would have come across as being pushy. Perhaps I am naïve and I will think differently closer to my April graduation when I will be more actively searching for a job. However for the moment, I will appreciate my many experiences volunteering at “Investir le monde numérique/Investing the Digital World” for the interesting conversations that I had with the librarians and other volunteers present as well as the experience of contributing to such a successful event.
I encourage students in all disciplines to get involved in conferences in your field; it will be educational and a lot of fun!