‘The Camaraderie among SLA Members is Impressively Strong’

What did you learn, see, and do at the SLA 2016 Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO? In this post, Kelly Johnson, life sciences librarian in the Bobst Library at New York University, shares her most important conference takeaways.

As a new librarian, I attended a ridiculous number of local and national conferences, workshops, meet and greets, association meetings, and happy hours last year, hoping to connect with colleagues and anchor myself to the profession. My year was exhausting, but I’m grateful for the support and flexibility that allowed me to recognize SLA as the best fit for me, both professionally and personally.

When asked to consider why the SLA 2016 Annual Conference was meaningful to me, I began to appreciate what it is about SLA that is so compelling, and why continued conference attendance is so important to me.

Kelly Johnson

First, the size. Comparing SLA to ALA conferences is like comparing the “mall of middle America” to the Mall of America. ALA offers an unparalleled breadth of session topics, vendor interaction, and networking events, and it is a wonderful conference. But a smaller conference allows me to interact more personally with colleagues, choose sessions without having to consider travel time (some of my colleagues took taxis between sessions at ALA, no joke), and speak with vendors in more depth. For someone who thrives on close interaction, SLA’s more intimate setting is both comfortable and productive.

Second, the scope. SLA allows attendees to meet professionally and socially with librarians from multiple diverse fields, but also to create a specialized track across the conference. I enjoy seeing the familiar faces of academic librarians whose conference schedules closely mirror my own, but also meeting those whose schedules only occasionally intersect with mine.

One of my favorite sessions this year offered tips on searching for grey literature and was heavily attended by academic, law, medical, business, and other librarians. Meeting librarians outside of academia provides excellent opportunities to learn about unfamiliar aspects of the profession and is, quite truthfully, fun. Maintaining contact with SLA members I met in Boston last year has diversified my professional network, yes, but it has also led to some pretty great times around the pub table.

Most importantly, the camaraderie among SLA members is impressively strong. This appreciation is not mine alone; at a recent chapter meeting, one member described SLA as his “tribe,” and many others were quick to agree. SLA is undoubtedly my preferred annual conference, and I look forward to connecting and reconnecting with colleagues in Phoenix next year.

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