Episode 209: Conferences – Attending and Presenting

ICAPP Conference on Natural Disasters and Environmental Protection

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Contents of this page:
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Attending a Conference
  • Presenting at a Conference
  • Books We are Reading
  • Conclusion



Hi, and welcome back to Linking Our Libraries!

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This week we are talking about professional conferences: attending them and presenting at them. This is your chance to meet other people who do what you do, who like the same things you like, and who are experiencing some of the same challenges you are facing! In our system, made up of all types and sizes of libraries, we have many people who are solo library workers, or who work with a very small group of people. That kind of isolation can be tough, so conferences are a great way to be sure you connect with other people in your area of the library world! And, as you are part of a big profession, this is also a chance for you to be giving back to everyone else with your ideas, your experiences, and your material. We all work better when we are working together, and sharing information is a responsibility of being part of a community. (plus, it’s really fun to present at conferences! You get to feel like you are contributing, and you get the chance to really talk about issues and ideas that are important to you!)

This week is especially fun here in Minnesota, as we are having not one but two big statewide conferences! The Minnesota Library Association (or MLA) is holding their annual conference in Rochester, MN and the Information and Technology Educators of Minnesota (or ITEM) is holding their annual conference in Minneapolis.   Are you listening to this at a conference? Great! This year Mary will be at the MLA conference, and Angie will be at the ITEM conference. Please come introduce yourself – we love to meet more library people!


Attending a Conference

 We have different levels of experience in this – probably like many of you listening! Mary has attending many conference in many places on many different topics; Angie is new at going to professional conferences. Both of us are excited to go to more conferences. You meet new people, you learn new ideas, and you can bring home all kinds of ideas and materials!

Mary went to the American Library Association (ALA) annual meeting in Chicago this past summer. You can read about it on our blog  (we have a link on the page for this podcast!) This is the largest library conference, with more than 25,000 attendees, and can be overwhelmingly fun – or just overwhelming! There were more than 700 vendors at this conference, hundreds of authors were there; and over 2,000 sessions were held, on every topic you can imagine (and some that will boggle your mind).

You might consider this event for your own future conference attendances. Their annual meeting is at the end of June, and they also have an annual Midwinter meeting, to give committees a chance to meet and vendors a chance to present their material. These are scheduled about ten years in advance, so you can start planning now!


Midwinter Meeting, Denver, CO: February 9-13, 2018

Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA: June 21-26, 2018


Midwinter Meeting, Seattle, WA:

Annual Conference, Washington, DC:


Midwinter Meeting, Philadelphia, PA:

Annual Conference, Chicago, IL

Other big national conferences take place in your area of specialty – no matter what it is! So the Society of American Archivists have a conference, as does the American Association of Law Libraries. The American Association of School Librarians meet every two years (November in Phoenix this year!) as does the Public Library Association (Philadelphia in March, 2018!). These are also fun to attend, and you meet more people who are focused in on your area of the profession.

As we mentioned, state conferences happen all over the country; and you get the benefit of meeting people, or re-connecting with people, who are in your geographic area – which can be very helpful. There are also regional conferences, looking at topics of interest to you in your area. The Medical Library Association has a Midwest chapter, for example; and you would have a lot to discuss with these colleagues. The Association for Small and Rural Libraries met in St. George, Utah in September. The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) met in Poland this past summer, and next year they will meet in Kuala Lumpur; last summer they met in Columbus, OH. The Pop Culture Association has a big annual conference, and they include a section for libraries, archives, and museums. [Mary has presented there twice – it was very fun!]

Literally, whatever you do and wherever you are – there is a library conference for you! We really encourage you to think about attending a conference or two. It helps you to build professional connections in your area. It gives you new ideas and suggestions to try in your own library. You often get a chance to meet vendors who may have some valuable items for your library. And, it is at the very least a good opportunity to get away and have some library-related fun!


A few basic tips for conference happiness:
  • Shoes: you will be walking a lot – yes, way more than whatever amount you just thought of; so skip the cute shoes and wear a pair designed for hiking; blistered and sore feet do not contribute to conference fun!
  • Bags: you will probably get one (or a dozen) handed to you; but for big conferences it’s a good idea to bring a bag or a backpack to throw in all the vendor samples, materials, and goodies. Again: think something sturdy and comfortable to carry around for hours
  • Bring business cards. Yes, they are kind of old-fashioned now, but you will meet at least dozens of new people; so providing them with a way to know you is so helpful! Maybe jot a quick note on the back: Met at the IFLA conference, send info on Digital Literacy – just to help people remember why they have your card, once they get home.
  • Make hotel reservations: this sounds obvious, but it happens that people forget! And then the conference rates at the hotels are gone, and the other hotels are expensive. If you are on a budget, you might shop around for non-conference hotels where you can walk from the hotel over to the conference venue. Conferences tend to be at nice hotels, and the prices can be steep; check out hotels.com or some other travel site to see if you can find a bargain.
  • Register early: hit those early-bird prices! For some conferences, the difference between an early rate and registering the week before the conference can be substantial!
  • Maybe register just for the exhibits, or just for a day: Think about what you want to get out of the conference. At the last ALA Annual, Mary registered for just the exhibits pass. You cannot go to sessions being presented, but you can go talk to all the vendors and authors; and if you want to just focus on chatting with people and meeting people – this can be a substantial cost savings. Likewise, think about registering for only a one-day pass if that makes sense for your budget.

Conferences can be expensive, with registrations at some running into many hundreds of dollars. Your fees are not going to line the pocket of some fat-cat library cartel though; they are used to provide a good conference experience for you and everyone else! Attending an entire conference may be the best way to get the experience you want, and to be able to bring back everything you need for your library. So, be thoughtful about costs – but when possible try to support the conference and the profession with your dollars as well as with your attendance! CMLE members: we have scholarship money available for you, to help defray the cost of attending a conference!


Planning ahead for sessions

Every conference will have information up on their website before the conference, so you can get some ideas about programs you want to attend, or people you want to be sure to meet. It’s fine to email in advance and start arranging coffee dates with people! Schedules really fill up fast.

You can always find some great things to see and do at any library conference. Just as an example, and for our MN library community, we looked through the programs for the MLA and the ITEM conferences happening this week, and noticed a few programs that sounded particularly interesting! (Understand that we mean ALL the presentations sound good! We are just throwing out some ideas for you to consider in your planning) You will immediately see that library people spend time thinking up clever session titles – that’s a good sign!



At MLA: this year’s theme is Radical Librarianship

  • This one is sheer bias: but we suggest you check out Mary’s session on the research CMLE has been doing to help provide information for our members: “Serving our Emerging Bilingual Community Members: Best Practices and Big Holes” Thursday at 9:10am
  • Would Trader Joe’s Hire You?: Lessons from the Best Retailers Tasha McLachlan • Dr. Anthony Molaro • Suzi Stephenson
  • 100 Years/100 Stories: How Saint Paul Public Library Used New Storytelling Tools to Advance Community Engagement Tracy Baumann • Kali Freeman • Chase Maxwell
  • Planting the Seeds of Learning: The Library as a Nature Based Learning Center Alison Reiter • Monica Stratton • Katrina Hartz Taylor • Jody Yungers
  • Libraries Were Never Neutral: Advocating for Social Justice in the Library Chip Gehring • Emilie Hanson
  • When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Telling the Story of Refugees Living in Minnesota James Bowey • Lezlea Dahlke • Alice Henderson
  • Lost in the Library: Tales of Inventory Adventures and Lesson Learned! Chris Magnusson • Mollie Stanford
  • Conversations in a Difficult Time: The Role of Libraries in Finding Common Ground Aimee Gourlay • Dan Greensweig


At ITEM: this year’s them is Future Ready, 21st Century


  • Kicking things off on Friday morning will be Duchess Harris. She is the author of four books, including Hidden Human Computers: The Black Women of NASAand Black Lives Matter, both of which she co-authored with Sue Bradford Edwards.
  • On Saturday morning we’ll hear from Kelly Barnhill, award-
    winning local author and recent winner of the Newbery Medal for The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Kelly has also won awards for her other titles, including The Witch’s Boy, Iron-hearted Violet, and The Mostly True Story of Jack. Kelly has also co-hosted the Minnesota edition of the 90-Second Newbery film festival with James Kennedy.
  • There are all kinds of sessions that will be happening – so browse over your material to see what appeals to you! Last year Mary went from a session on library ethics right into one on podcasting in libraries – and it was just a great example of the range of interests available in this conference!
  • There are also many opportunities here to have breakout sessions together, to look at the posters, and to have a great time on any topic you want to discuss! Someone else will be there with you who also wants to talk about it – so get ready to dive in!

Presenting at a Conference

Now you know that going to conference is both fun and rewarding, and maybe you are ready to step it up a notch: Presenting!

This can be so fun, and really rewarding. You can show people a great thing you did, talk about a program you innovated, display your marketing materials, and really anything else. We are a profession great a sharing information among ourselves, and conferences are an ideal time for that. Do you need to be amazing and perfect to be a presenter? Nope! Do you need to have a specific, or fancy, title? No again! Do you need to be a member of the group? In general no, but there are a few organizations that require you to join when you register for the conference. Basically library conferences are going to be interested in YOU, no matter who you are, what your background and training are, and what you are doing in the profession. You have an individual voice and perspective that is valuable – so know that what you have to share will be respected!


There are three main ways you can be a conference presenter.

  • Posters: These are good gateways into presentations! You put your ideas into poster form, and that can be very flexible. You can use construction paper and printouts taped to a poster paper; you can create a PowerPoint slide and have it printed out – whatever gets you there. This is often a good way to share smaller projects, or pilot studies, or things that are more easily shown than discussed verbally.Have a handout to give people! Add a QR code to the poster, so people can scan it and get the poster and your contact information. Bring water and food, and go to the bathroom before your session starts – you will be standing in one place for two to three hours, doing a lot of talking! If you have trouble standing, bring a chair, or find someone to go get one for you before the session starts.


  • Panel presentations. This is a great way to talk about work you are doing, that is also being done in other libraries. Or, if there was a team of people in your organization all working on that project, it’s a way everyone (well – 3 or 4 people, max) can all be there to share ideas and experiences. Panels can be fun for the audience, and it’s helpful to hear from several different perspectives on the same topic.If you are doing this, there may be a moderator – great if you have one, but if not then huddle up with the panel before the session to assign times to everyone before you get started. I’ve seen many panels where one person got carried away, and took half the time, and the last two just got to say their names and libraries. That is disappointing for everyone – so set times and be ready to yield when your time is over! Generally, leave a few minutes at the end for Q&A – don’t have it after each person, or again, that last person on the panel will not get to say anything.


  • Solo presentations. If you are doing research work, or if you are the head of your project, or worked alone on the project you are presenting, it may be helpful to just be a solo voice. That way you can plan out an entire session, to be sure you get to all the content. And you can have more discussion with the audience as you go along – always a benefit!


A few general tips on presentations:

  • Bring water! You will get surprisingly dry. And if you are stuck for an answer, you can use it as a sneaky delaying technique!
  • Get to the room early. No matter what, there will be some sort of tech issue that you did not expect, and that takes time to sort out. Make that happen before your talking time starts!I’ve been to conferences where they only used Macs in the hotels – but I had a PC, so couldn’t connect. Where I didn’t know I had to bring my own computer. Where I was promised an internet connection, but it was down that day. Where there was a log-in requiring a password from an employee –but nobody was around. Where I couldn’t use the tech I brought, and had to quickly write up “slides” on giant post-its. Where the room was huge, but there was no microphone. Where I could not figure out how to turn on the projector. Where I had tea spilled all over my poster just before the session was to start. Things will happen, and things will go wrong. Fix what you can before you get started, and then just forget about it. You want to be flexible in what you do, so you can be ready to roll with whatever situation you find yourself.
  • Do NOT keep apologizing for things. “Sorry, I should have had a slide here. Sorry, this could have been better. Sorry, I left my handouts at home.” Nobody else knows what is missing, so just move past it and work with what you have.
  • Talk to the audience before you get started. It is a great way to find out people’s interest levels in your topic, and to make connections – you feel more like you are talking to friends than potentially scary strangers!
  • Learn to use a mic! If you need one for the room, then use it. Hold it right up to your mouth – you want to “eat the mic” to make the sound work. The number of speakers I’ve seen who are scared of the mic and hold it down by their chests, or who hold it in one hand and look away from it to speak, is ANNOYINGLY HIGH! People want to hear you!! Don’t make your issues the thing they remember from your presentation. Check a couple of times to be sure people are still hearing you.
  • DO NOT READ YOUR SLIDES!!!! This makes me wild – and is so annoying for an audience! There, ideally, should be nothing really to read anyway. Good slide design is six or fewer words on each. You want to be talking about the information, not reading.
  • Consider dumping slides entirely. They can be good for helping to focus your audience; but they drop people right into a stupor, where they tend to be in a haze instead of really listening to your work and interacting with it. Be brave! If possible, just talk to them!


Are you feeling ready to go to a conference?? Do it!!



Books we are reading

Queen of Shadows, by Sarah J. Maas “Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire-for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.”

Robert B. Parker’s Little White Lies, by Ace Atkins “Boston PI Spenser and right hand Hawk follow a con man’s trail of smoke and mirrors in the latest entry of the iconic crime series. After conning everyone from the cable news shows to the local cops, it looks like the grifter’s latest double cross may be his last.

Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site. He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the C.I.A. She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment.

But within weeks, both Welles and her money are gone. Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser’s card.

A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows speaking with authority about politics and world events. But when he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge. ”



Conference can be exhausting! It’s like sending your kid to summer camp: ideally you return exhausted and happy – maybe sunburnt. But the connections you make and the information you learn can be invaluable to your library. CMLE offers scholarships, and many other organizations do as well; so don’t let money be your obstacle! Go, learn, connect, and have library fun!!


Next Week:  we talk about customer service in the library

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