At Information Wants To Be Free, Meredith Farkas asks:
I always come from conferences with great ideas, but it’s usually more from talking to people instead of from going to sessions. Is that something I really need to fly across the country for?
Having recently gotten back from the other side of the country (Seattle) where I was attending SLA 2008, I’ve been thinking about what made it worthwhile for me.
The people always come first for me, whether they are people I’ve known for years, people I’ve just met, or speakers. I love that we have all kinds of technology to keep in touch with each other now, but there is something about face-to-face meetings, and particularly in the conference atmosphere, that is different, and (to me, at least) worth traveling for.
Aside from the wonderful people I met and reconnected with, here
is what are a few of the things that made SLA 2008 worthwhile for me. Pretty much all of this is Social Science Division programming – because I am the Social Science Division planner and so went to all of the division programs.
Ilda Carreiro King on teaching adults. I don’t do enough teaching to do much reading about it, so this session was perfect for me. King is a really engaging speaker and I got ideas I could go back and apply to my job right away. For example, I usually do individual instruction (or consulting) for faculty, but after King described the advantages of small group instruction, I decided to offer a small group consulting session for faculty here. And you know what? A small group signed up and came to the session, and I really think we all got more out of it for having a group.
Social Science and Museums, Arts, and Humanities poster session. I’d wanted the division to have a poster session for a while, and put a lot of work into adding posters to our usual joint division open house. The presenters seemed to enjoy having a place to showcase their work, and attendees seemed to like having an open house where they could learn something in addition to networking. I thought the posters were all terrific (I have been to poster sessions where people were pinning pages of 12-pt. text to the poster boards, so it was nice to see very professional, creative posters) and I was so happy and relieved when this was over that I think I ate all of the remaining chocolate on the dessert table for dinner.
Seattle. If I’m going to fly across the country, I like to be somewhere I can explore rather than trapped in a convention center. (Not that Nashville’s paradise-in-a-shopping-mall wasn’t an interesting experience, of course.) Seattle was perfect – mild weather, pedestrian-friendly streets, and a human-scale convention center. A small group of runners got together a few mornings during the conference and explored the waterfront, I visited the Pike Place Market several times, snuck in trips to the public library and the lovely Elliott Bay Book Company, and didn’t have a bad meal the whole time.
Jack Hamann, author of On American Soil. For a long time I didn’t read much nonfiction, and I doubt I would have picked this book up on my own. But since we invited the author to speak at our 85th anniversary luncheon, I decided to read it, and I’m glad I did. Not only was the book good, but so was Hamann’s talk. He updated us on events since the book was published, and described his research at the National Archives. I think it’s good to attend at least one conference session that doesn’t have a direct professional application, and this was the best one I’ve attended in that category since The Island of Lost Maps at the Peabody Library in Baltimore.