Experiences of a First Timer at CLA 2007

Melissa Fraser, Content Services Specialist at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, attended her first CLA conference last month and wrote this piece on her experience.


CLA 2007 was my first library conference. I looked forward to traveling to St. John's, attending sessions, and networking with other librarians and my expectations were met on all counts. I attended sessions on Open Access journals, training and e-learning, and collection development and management. The highlight of the conference for me as the opportunity to spend a week surrounded by other librarians. It was great to be able to hear about the activities of different libraries and to bounce ideas off of other new and experienced librarians. I was also able to spend time with former classmates from Western who are distant parts of the country. I would recommend attending a library conference to any new librarian.

Here are some of my observations and tips for first timers at library conferences:


  • When you are at conference, you will find that you have very little time between sessions to play your schedule as you will find that you want to spend as much time as possible catching up with friends, making new contacts, and visiting vendor displays. It is a good idea to choose your sessions and plan your daily schedules in advance.
  • When it comes to selecting sessions you may be tempted to select only those that directly apply to your current job. You should attend sessions that will assist you in doing your job, especially if your employer is paying for you to attend the conference, but don't dismiss a session because it focuses on a different type of library then the kind at which you work. I attended sessions run by librarians from academic, public, and special libraries and I learned from all of them.
  • Many of the experienced librarians I spoke with viewed networking as the most important part of attending a library conference. Networking isn't just for job seekers, it is also a chance to meet interesting people, share experiences and advice, learn about opportunities for professional involvement, keep up to date on new trends and technologies, and make new friends.
  • If you are looking for a job, a library conference is a great place to go to find employment leads. Representatives of several large public libraries that are currently hiring were at CLA 2007. Some of these librarians were present at the First Timers breakfast.
  • Be sure to carry business cards with you and to have them within easy reach
General Tips:
  • Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for the weather
  • Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated
  • Don't arrive late for lunch or the free food might be gone
  • Bring copies of your resume with you if you are looking for a job
  • Don't be afraid to talk to people and ask directions (at a conference of librarians someone standing in one spot and looking confused won't have to wait long for someone to come and offer assistance)
  • Be prepared to describe your library and your job in a quick and interesting way
  • Have fun!

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