I have always loved conferences. When I was practicing law, I loved kicking it around at law conferences because you always got to see people you don't often see, get to know new faces, and learn something about the profession. Librarians do conferences on a whole different level, however. And I mean that in a very good way.
Here are my top takeaways from LLA 2013. I am going to be attending ALA in June in Chicago. I welcome any tips from anyone who has attended.
1. Networking. Librarians are a great group of professionals. They are very welcoming to students and will place talking to you over other conference highlights, like exhibits. I met a number of people at this conference, and not one of them ever shied away from talking about how great their jobs are and how wonderful a profession I was entering.
2. It's a small state. Many of us plan to stay in Louisiana, and the library world here is pretty small. The person you sat next to at lunch may just be someone that will be interviewing you for a job. It's always good to know names and faces.
3. You make your job hunt easier. I've been a hiring manager before. Here's a secret. People other than HR professionals HATE the hiring process. It is not a natural part of the job and it takes time. The savvy manager hires for personality, knowing that most smart hires can be trained. Plus, the applicant pool can sometimes be very scary. The path of least resistance is to compile a pool of interviewees that they know, or know of, or who someone they know and respect gives a great recommendation. Early in my last career, a manager told me that people hire people they know. That's generally true. So making connections at no-pressure events like conferences makes it that much easier for you to get a foot in the door of that dream job.
4. Librarians know how to pick menus. The food was awesome!
5. Book dinners. I've been to 2 LLA conferences now and this events are always a treat. This year, Charlaine Harris of Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood fame was the keynote speaker. She was a delight. This is also a great place to network.
6. Expert seminars. The seminars are top notch, and are great to use for paper or project topics. There were so many good ones at the same time that I didn't nearly get to attend all that I wanted. Highlights were: Addressing Alliteracy, Serving Teens in Juvenile Facilities, RDA Blastoff, and The School Librarian as Archivist.
7. SWAG. - The exhibitors have it and they want to give it. I'm good on notepads and pens. But I also learned about some library vendors that will be of interest to me when I am working in a library as a professional. Many librarians have stressed the importance of developing good relationships with vendors. Also, it turns out that many people who work for vendors are librarians themselves!
8. You don't have to travel very far. We live in Louisiana, not Texas, so the longest travel is 5 hours. Even if you have to go to North Louisiana.
9. It's a small enough conference that it's easy to meet people and make meaningful connections with them.
10. You never know who you might meet. The ALA President-Elect, Barbara Stripling, was at the conference. She is super cool and very smart. Y'all know I picked her brain.