Rosie Hare is the recipient of one of our 2014 Early Career Conference Awards in partnership with the Leadership and Management Division, and got to attend the SLA 2014 Annual Conference in Vancouver. This post is the first of a two part blog on Rosie’s SLA conference reflections, so look out for the second part coming soon.
A conference across cultures (and why I love karaoke)
It’s now been just over one month since the end of the SLA 2014 Annual Conference in Vancouver and it’s taken me until now to properly gather my thoughts and actually sit down and write about my experience. I didn’t get chance to attend SLA Europe’s Spotlight Session on ‘Working Across Cultures’ on the last day of the conference, as I was in another session ran by the fabulous Mary Ellen Bates. However, the theme of librarians working globally and across different cultures was something that particularly resonated with me – and that the conference theme of ‘Beyond Borders’ really achieved its aim!
Looking at all of the business cards I collected from various people over the course of the conference, I am thrilled to have met librarians and information professionals from as far and wide as Arkansas, New York, Kentucky, North Carolina, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand. As if getting the opportunity to travel over 5,000 miles to Vancouver wasn’t enough, I have been able to make professional contacts with so many people from different walks of life and I know that my relationship with SLA and those who I met this year is only just beginning.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer scale of the conference itself. I knew that it would be bigger than any other professional event I’d ever attended and the Vancouver Convention Centre was a very impressive place. I later found out that the venue itself has been designed on environmentally sustainable principles and works hard to be as green as possible, which made me feel all the more virtuous having spent three days in there. It took me until at least lunchtime on the second day of the conference for everything to fully sink in and for me to think: “OH MY GOSH, I’M IN VANCOUVER!” (This was possibly down to jet lag). But, in all seriousness, I think I was suffering from crippling imposter syndrome and wondering if the nice people at SLA Europe and the Leadership and Management Division (LMD) had made a mistake picking me as an ECCA. What on Earth could little ol’ me bring to a massive international conference like SLA?
Obviously, I know these thoughts are ridiculous and when meeting the wide variety of people I met at the conference, so many of them seemed genuinely interested in talking to me, listening to my opinion and finding out more about my role in libraries in the UK. A big highlight of the conference was being able to attend the LMD Annual Business Meeting and Lunch, where I got presented with my ECCA and was able to meet many of the LMD members. Dee Magnoni (who was the head of the 2014 Conference Advisory Council) said some lovely words and I was genuinely moved by the kind words of others in the division too. It’s moments like that which make me feel so grateful and honoured to be part of such a welcoming profession.
I initially wondered whether a lot of the sessions wouldn’t have relevance to libraries in the UK and whether many of the issues being discussed would be too North American-centric. I couldn’t have been more wrong and it was actually refreshing to know that many of the challenges we are facing in our profession are international and we are able to offer help and support to each other regardless of our culture or specific country or workplace. I attended a lot of enjoyable and informative sessions but my favourite session of the entire conference was called ‘Leadership in a Time of Disruption: Reconnecting Intellect and Practice’ delivered by Christina Neigel from the University of the Fraser Valley. I enjoyed it so much, that I’m going to dedicate part two of my conference reflections to my thoughts on that session and on the themes that Christina discussed. Watch this space!
As well as the conference having a packed daytime schedule, I was well aware that conference events run late into the night too, and many of the Open Houses and receptions did not disappoint. I’ve included some photographs of me and my fellow ECCAs being presented with our awards at the International Reception, which was followed by the IT Dance Party. Meeting the folk from SLA Europe was great, as I’d exchanged emails and tweets with many of them but had never met them in person, so it was good to get to know them a bit better. It is the start of what I’m sure is a beautiful friendship, especially since I have just become the new SLA Europe blog editor – so this won’t be the last you hear from me. The karaoke on the Sunday evening was also incredibly fun and I was even brave enough to get up and sing. I’m hoping to make a return for Boston 2015, if only for a second round of karaoke. Americans really do know how to party!
For now, I’ll leave it there with the promise of my follow-up post about Christina Neigel’s session. For those who are eligible and are debating applying for an ECCA next year, do it! I can’t emphasise enough how much of a worthwhile experience it is and how it has definitely changed my professional life for the better. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter: @RosieHare and look out for part 2 of my conference reflections.