As an Early Career Professional, Diversity Resident, and Academic Librarian, conferences are, and will continue to be a big part of my professional development and service duties. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to attend conferences and network with my library and non-library colleagues. With that said, I want to be transparent in what these experiences are like for anyone who might want to know more about specific conferences or what to expect from a conference experience. To the more seasoned professionals (and very proactive grad students), this may seem a bit unnecessary to go into detail about conferences, but I want to reach those who (like me) have not been to a conference before and are unsure about what to expect. I also hope that even “seasoned professionals” might find my experiences helpful and take them back to the conference committees they might be working on. My disclaimer on these posts is that I do not intend for them to unnecessarily harsh or judgmental. I just want to give a holistic picture of my experiences. It is also important to remember that my many identities and previous experiences act as lenses through which I see the world so my second disclaimer is that my experience could be different from someone else who attended the same conference.
Any conference blog post will discuss my experience at a specific conference using the following criteria:
Organization: Did the conference run smoothly? Were speakers where they were supposed to be? Did speakers keep to time? Did everything seem to flow correctly? Were the conference center and the sessions easy to navigate? Conference organization can make or break your experience, especially if you are presenting.
Impact: How inspired did I feel after listening to presenters and talking to colleagues? Was the content of the conference helpful to me and my career interest, goals, and aspirations? Conferences are supposed to be for professional development, and if I leave without any new skills, ideas, or inspiration, then that’s a problem.
Visible Diversity: How many visibly non-white persons were in attendance? (Am I the only one that does this?) Librarianship is a predominantly white field and while this is not the best metric, it tells me GENERALLY enough about how diverse the conference is. I acknowledge that looking for “visible” designations of diversity is problematic in itself, but its all I can really use in those moments when I am doing a quick scan of a room. I also want to point out the irony of the situation by acknowledging the fact that I am what some would call “white-passing” (depending on my hairstyle) and would probably not pass the “visibly ethnic/racially diverse” scan. Since this number is not used for anything beyond my own personal records, I think it is okay.
Accessibility: How helpful is the conference in addressing the issues of differently-abled persons? Is there a push for using correct pronouns for individuals? Are the conferences parent-friendly? Are there gender-inclusive bathrooms? This information is important for anyone reading this blog who may be curious if a specif association or conference will be accommodating to their needs.
Food: What were the food options? Were there different foods for those with dietary restrictions? Was the food good? This was mostly just a fun little metric to reflect on. Everyone loves food and it’s really convenient to have it provided right at the conference.
Overall Experience: This is pretty self explanatory and will aggregate all my thoughts and feelings from the previous sections into an overall opinion.
Once I go through each of the criteria, I may or may not elaborate on the highlights and low-lights of my experience. This is mostly for my personal records, but others may find this information useful as well.