Quick and Simple Tips for Conferences:
Brianna Marshall, MIS/MLS
Start early - Totally straightforward: start thinking about attending conferences as soon as you enter ILS. Yes, that means right now. I guess you can check this one off the list! There are two reasons for this. First, two years–the average time that an MLS or MIS student takes to get through ILS–is not very much time. Trust me, it’s easy to get sucked into being busy with work and classes, but prioritize planning to attend at least one conference. As soon as you’ve decided and registered, you can more or less put it out of your mind completely until the time comes.
Think local - For your first year, consider local conferences. They’re a great way to ease into conference-going. Indiana conferences you may want to consider include the Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference (usually in November, with regional ILF conferences throughout the year) or the Society of Indiana Archivists Annual Meeting. Indianapolis is also a popular destination for national conferences–just this past year the Association for College and Research Libraries, Joint Conference on Digital Libraries, Midwest Archives Conference, and possibly others took place in Indy!
Just ask - You may be wondering how you can learn about these wonderful conferences. Well, asking librarian mentors, professors, or older students in ILS can go a long way. Don’t ever let feeling like you should know all the answers already stop you from asking for advice.
Find a conference buddy - I’m not here to say that conferences aren’t awkward. If you don’t know anyone and the acronyms everyone is throwing around make no sense to you, they can be (spoken from personal experience!). This is why finding a conference buddy to plan, travel, and commiserate with is so important. Good conference buddies make everything better–and they can help defray travel and lodging costs.
Put yourself out there - With that said, don’t spend all your time with a conference buddy. Even if you’re naturally more reserved, make an effort to meet new people. It may seem artificial, but remember that all the people who seem to know each other probably met long ago at a conference. This is your chance to start building a similar relationship. It gets easier with the more people you meet. Often conference attendees are more than happy to talk to grad students. It can be as simple as introducing yourself, confessing to being new to the conference, and asking a question. I guarantee that person will introduce you to their friends and soon you’ll be totally in the know.
Ramp up - After attending a conference or two, hopefully you’re feeling a little more comfortable. This is a good time to plan to present at conferences. I’m a little saddened to say that I have never been encouraged to present at conferences during my entire experience at ILS. Conference presentations (or publications, or other means of professional development) are vital to distinguish yourself from other candidates for your future dream job. Did you know that when IU librarians hire they don’t even look at a candidate’s classes? This is common. Instead they’re looking at education, presentations, publications, and service. My advice? Whether you choose to present or publish, do whatever you can to build your CV. Don’t overexert yourself in class.