Tag Archives: Conferences

Are library conferences worth it? CLA 2011 proved totally affirmative!

30 May

In the past few years, Canadian librarians have been made aware of the financial troubles of the Canadian Library Association. Membership has been on the decline and the very future of the association’s existence has been questioned. When I was a MLIS student at McGill’s School of Information Studies, student memberships were inexpensive and I was consequently the member of three different library associations including the CLA. However, when one becomes a professional the membership fees jump in price and they can be rather expensive especially when I am paying them out of my own pocket (as opposed to the fees being covered by my library institution which is the case for many lucky librarians). I have consequently had to be more selective of what associations I join. I kept my membership with CLA because I believe strongly in the benefits of a national library association. However, since I was dishing out my own money to become a member of CLA and to attend the conferences it was very important that the annual conference last week in Halifax be “worth it”.

As for my experience at CLA 2011, I can only vouch for the specific sessions that I attended and the awesome people that I hung out with. My conference experience might have greatly differed from someone else’s but I personally feel that the past week was totally worth it!

Since I started as a library director, there have been so many things that I have found challenging. Everyone has moments when they say to themselves “they never taught me that in library school” and I feel that this is probably even more the case for managers and directors.
Luckily for me, there seemed to be an abundance of sessions that spoke directly to the information needs of managers and directors. One of the most useful sessions that I attended was Performance Metrics: Helping Boards Understand Library Statistics presented by John Shepherd, a university accounting instructor, and Allan Wilson, the Chief Librarian of the Prince George Public Library and the 2011 recipient of the CLA/Ken Haycock Award for Promoting Librarianship. I loved this session because the information it offered was so practical. John Shepherd got into the nitty gritty of how to better design statistical charts and Allan Wilson provided great ideas on establishing meaningful metrics that will communicate more effectively the value of the public library to the community, the library board, and the municipality. This session actually succeeded in transforming my perception of statistics and performance metrics and made statistics seem almost fun.
This conference was also fantastic in terms of catching up with friends and meeting new people.  At first I was intimidated by what appeared to be an older demographic of librarians who all seemed to know each other.  Then I realized that this “old boys club” (there seemed to be a surprising number of baby boomer men at this conference) was the result of decades of the same people attending conferences together. In many cases, the older librarians had probably even attended library school together “back in the day”. This thought inspired me to think that my friends and I will one day also rule the CLA conferences. There are so many dynamic young librarians who have only just begun their professional careers in the past few years. We are still testing the waters of what it means to be professional librarians and attending the CLA conference definitely helped to establish a foundation for our new professional identities. We all seemed to value the importance of coming together to share stories and advice on being librarians. We had a lot of fun together and it reinforced my opinion that librarianship is full of interesting and dynamic people.

CLA 2011 in Halifax was totally worth it and I am looking forward to continuing to be active in the CLA throughout my career.
Are you a member of a library association? Do you think that it is worth it?

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Libraries as Learning Places: Reflections from ABQLA’s 78th Annual Conference

11 May

Less than a week had gone by since returning home to Montreal from the LWB Guatemala Trip and I already was already back into the swing of Montreal libraryland. This past weekend was the 78th annual ABQLA Conference on the theme of “Libraries as Learning Places”. I was especially excited about this conference because many of the presentations related to issues of great importance to library directors such as marketing and communications that I felt were not covered in library school classes.

The first keynote speaker was Lori Reed, a librarian trainer from North Carolina. She addressed the hard financial situation faced by many libraries and encouraged participants to promote their libraries as educational institutions in order to highlight to users and policy-makers the importance of libraries within a community. Unfortunately I had to miss the talk of another keynote speaker Mitch Joel’s. However from what I heard, it sounded like it was very similar to talks I’ve heard at Web 2.You, where Web 2.0 technologies are promoted as promotional tools to strengthen the users’ experience with their library.

I did enjoy the talk by Pam MacKellar, the Accidental Librarian, who emphasized the importance of perspective when facing difficult situations. I felt that her talk was extremely relevant to me as a soon-to-be library director. She spoke about the damage caused when people only focus on obstacles instead of seeing potential opportunities. Although a lot of what she said was common sense (negativity breeds negativity), it was nonetheless important to hear this reiterated especially since I will soon be responsible for tough situations that will require that I maintain my most positive attitude.

The last keynote speaker and without a doubt the most entertaining of the conference was Paul Huschilt. Anyone who has not seen Paul Huschilt at a conference does not know what it is like to laugh non-stop for an hour. Tying in perfectly with Pam’s presentation on the importance of positive thinking, Paul Huschilt demonstrated the “Seven Humour Habits for Workplace Wellness” and had everyone laughing out loud. Yours truly even got to participate as a volunteer during his talk which was a lot of fun. Although Paul Huschilt really had nothing to do with libraries, I applaud the conference organizers for inviting such an entertaining speaker who reminded us all how therapeutic laughter can be.

The most interesting regular session that I attended was by Tanya Abramovitch, the Library Director of the Cote-St-Luc Public Library, who discussed “Library University” an initiative that offers courses on a variety of topics including Readers’ Advisory 101, Delivering Sweetheart Service, Searching for Movies workshop, etc. These courses mostly taught by staff are offered during work hours for other staff to develop their expertise in various subject areas. Allowing staff to take classes on subjects outside of their departmental responsibilities encourages the understanding of the library’s “big picture” which helps to better motivate them in their work. It was extremely obvious by Tanya Abramovitch’s enthusiasm the positive impact of this staff development initiative on the Cote-St-Luc library. Her enthusiasm was extremely contagious and everyone left this session motivated to better develop their own knowledge and skill sets in order to provide the best possible service to users.

My absolute favourite moment of the conference was during lunch on the Saturday when the convenor was attempting to get the attention of the crowd. In order to quiet down the half of the conference-goers who were still chatting away, the other half of the group spontaneously shushed them. It was the most delightfully hilarious sight to see such a large group of librarians shushing in unison. I could not help laughing out loud and this was even before Paul Huschilt took the stage!

This was a truly a wonderful conference. Thank you again to all the organizers and the speakers.

New ABQLA Bulletin featuring Web 2.You report

29 Mar

The new ABQLA Bulletin is now available to download for free from the ABQLA website’s Bulletin page. As Lora Baiocco, one of the editors of the Bulletin, a librarian at Westmount Public Library, and the blogger behind Infinite Digressions affectionately teased me, this edition of the ABQLA Bulletin could be dubbed the “Graham and Amanda” edition. It is true that not only did I write up a summary of the Web 2.You conference (p.12-13)but between the two of us, Graham (Inspired Library School Student) and I appear in five pictures! These pictures are mostly from Web 2.You and the CODE Holiday fundraiser but I think is a testimony to our commitment to being involved in the library community that the editors would grant us so much face space in the Bulletin. The ABQLA offers a great mix of traditional library values and fun innovative events, they are also extremely supportive and encouraging of new librarians and library school students. I am grateful to have been able to get involved in this great association and I can’t wait to attend the 78th Annual ABQLA conference in May on “Libraries as Learning Places”!

Advice on how to get a part-time job while completing a MLIS

16 Jan

You asked me for advice on how to find a part-time job in libraries while completing an MLIS and here it is! I discussed in a previous blog post How Valuable is Library Experience to MLIS student? the advantages of gaining important experience while still in school. I hope the advice from that post along with the tips listed here will be useful for those of you confident enough to take on both studies and a job. Good luck!

Talk to people about your job search

This may seem extremely self-explanatory but I cannot emphasize the importance of discussing your job search with other people. This begins with other students in your classes who perhaps already have a part-time job and know that their boss is looking to hire more staff. This also includes your professors who might need students as research assistants or know of other job possibilities. Even though working as a research assistant is not specific library experience, it will demonstrate that you have strong research skills, which looks great on a librarian’s C.V.!

Talk about your passions

If you are passionate about a particular area of librarianship, let people know! If you can establish your reputation as being an expert in an area then people will want to tell you about available positions that would interest to you. This is how I got my job at the Montreal Children’s Library last year. I am so obsessed with children’s literature and everyone in my program knew that about me from almost Day 1 of the program. When a paid part-time position at the Children’s Library was advertised, I had several people email me with the information encouraging me to apply for the job saying that it sounded perfect for me.

Subscribe to Job ListServs

McGill’s School of Information Studies has an extremely active Job ListServ for students and graduates. Every week I receive emails regarding job postings for libraries looking to hire. Although most of these postings are for full-time positions for which I am not yet eligible, from time to time, we do receive part-time job postings that are suitable for students. Some people wait until they are closer to graduating before subscribing to the Job ListServ because they figure that the job postings are all addressed to candidates who already have obtained their MLIS, This is a mistake because in the meantime they are missing out on part-time postings that would provide them with valuable experience.

Get Involved

Employers are impressed with students who are involved in extra-curricular activities. Getting involved in various associations and the planning of events also allows you to meet a larger circle of professionals who could become valuable contacts. My job at Westmount Public Library is a perfect example of how getting involved is the best way to impress employers and find a job. Last year, I applied for a part-time position at the library and although I thought I’d put together a convincing cover letter and professional-looking C.V., I lost hope when I didn’t get called for an interview even after I performed a “friendly follow-up call”. However, things changed in my favour when I co-organized Web 2.You 2009, a conference on the implications of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries, and the entire professional staff of Westmount attended the event. My boss remembered my application and at lunch time asked me to sit down and talk with her. Although I had an official interview afterward, I know that our lunch time discussion at the conference was the real interview and that I impressed my boss by being having organized of such a successful event.

Attend Job talks and Career Fairs

The most obvious place to find a job is at a Career Fair. However, it is not as easy as it seems. You must know how to talk to the right people and to be able to sell yourself a necessary asset to their library. Last year, at the McGill Career Fair very few of the libraries there actually had vacant positions to fill, but if you managed to impress the right person, it was well worth the exhausting afternoon of going around introducing yourself to everyone you met. It was at the Career Fair last March that I met Maya, a liaison librarian from McGill’s Education Library, and we talked about my previous experience working with teachers. Although there was no open position at the Education Library at the time, she thought that I would be a great addition to their team and I was hired on in September to work at the Reference Desk.

Never be afraid to sell yourself

If you want to be hired, people need to know what you have accomplished in the past as well as your strong qualities. Even if you are by nature a humble person, learn to speak up about your strengths! In this economy it is unlikely that anyone simply hand you a job on a silver platter. You will have to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the position, so learn to speak with confidence about why you should be hired!

Good luck, I hope this is useful!

Volunteering at Investir le monde numérique/Investing the Digital World

14 Nov

Amanda and Anne volunteering at Investir le monde numérque 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!