April Younglove reports from SLA:
On Tuesday night I returned from the Special Libraries Association convention in Seattle. I had two simple goals:
- To accept my scholarship award.
- To get through the entire conference without paying for any of my own food.
I am happy to report that I was wildly successful in both ventures. I did not need to purchase so much as a soda at the convention. There were plenty of opportunities to stop by division breakfasts, attend vendor lunches and hit the many nightly receptions. Before I left, I told my husband about my aspirations. He said with concern, “But what about networking? What about professional development? Shouldn’t you focus on those goals?”
The secret genius of my original goals, I later discovered at the convention, is that they actually caused me to do far more networking and professional development than I might have otherwise. Getting an award became a natural conversation starter, and by forcing myself to find out where the food was, I had to sit at tables with strangers and meet them. I had to attend events sponsored by divisions like the agricultural division and the military division that I never would even have dreamed of attending otherwise, had it not been for my personal scavenger hunt.
I met and talked with librarians and information professionals from all over the world and from many different organizations. A few of the organizations represented by those I met personally included:
- Rolls Royce
- The Getty
- Kraft Foods
- The ARMY
- The Presidio of San Francisco
- The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Many other information professionals simply worked for themselves. I was so busy going from event to event and seeking the holy grail of a completely gratis convention that I didn’t even have time attend a reception at the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle. There was so much networking and professional development going on that I even missed out on a behind the scenes trip to the Seattle Art Museum.
What I learned as a first timer at an SLA convention:
- SLA is truly international and is strongly represented in the UK, India and much of Asia.
- SLA Chapters are regional groups. SLA Divisions are groups with a common interest.
- My SLA membership includes access to dozens of free professional tutorials via the Innovation Lab (http://www.sla.org/innovate/) and will soon grant me free access to Adobe software. You should take advantage of these benefits if you are a member!
- SLA is hungry for Gen Xers and Millennials and spends a lot of time, effort, and money trying to attract students and young professionals. I got three separate job offers at the convention!
- Vendors don’t actually know how to answer any of your questions, so you should just take a flier and enjoy the free ice cream/blinky pen/stuffed flying monkey.
Valuable tips that I learned from the sessions I attended:
- Find a person with a job you aspire to have. Ask that person to email you his or her resume. This way you get to see what a successful resume for the job you want looks like.
- On a similar note, ask to job shadow a professional for a day. Most people are flattered and very few people say no.
- The traditional corporate librarian title and job is disappearing. Apply for positions that include the phrase “knowledge management” in the job description.
- Law librarians are increasingly being called upon to do business research, so if you want to do business research consider getting a job in a law library.
- Visual literacy skills are transferable to many areas outside of art museums. For instance: training doctors to read medical images.
- Attitude and aptitude are more important than experience and subject matter mastery.
- Vinton G. Cerf, one of the creators of the Internet and the acting vice president of Google feels awkward on Second Life too.
I posted a Flickr set with some pictures of my SLA 2008 adventure: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aprily/sets/72157605686742697/