This is going to be a (personal) overview of the conference. I’ll post some notes, thoughts and ideas from the sessions I attended in separate posts.
It’s rare to leave an event and feel that you did everything you set out to. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years that I’ve sat on the train home and thought ‘Damn! I really should have spoken to X and Y’. I spoke to everyone I wanted to and felt quite happy going up to someone randomly in the exhibition, sticking my hand out and saying ‘Hi…’. The me of 12 years ago would be rather shocked at the boldness of her older self.
I even managed to rescue a situation where I got one person confused with another and (after dying inside for about 30 seconds) had a nice conversation with them about their work. Long story, don’t ask…
Wearing a name badge helped and saved a couple of seconds at the introductions stage. The first thing that everyone asked me was what my workplace acronym stood for. It often led to an interesting conversation about my work, why it was different to lots of other library jobs and the old ‘making a real difference’ chestnut. By day 2 of the conference I had developed a natty little patter to regurgitate when the question arose.
I was really struck, particularly on the second day, by how downbeat lots of the attendees were. That in turn impacted on the mood of the conference. I think many of us are feeling battered and bruised, particularly if we’ve been affected by restructures and redundancies over the last couple of years. Maybe I’m being a bit soft here (it’s my age) but I would’ve really appreciated someone senior standing up and thanking us for all that we do and to keep fighting for our libraries. It may seem like a silly gesture but a simple word of thanks can mean so much.
The workshops and talks are the major feature of the conference (of course) but as a solo professional I really valued the chance to network. It’s something I do so rarely ‘in the flesh’ and I was pleased to see that my brain hadn’t completely atrophied in the two years(!) since I last attended a library conference. It was good to have conversations about libraries without sounding like a massive geek (not that there’s anything wrong with a. Talking about libraries and b. Being a massive geek).
It was also fun to put faces to names and find out if the Library Crowd on Twitter matched their online personalities. For the most part, they did. Goodness knows what they made of me with my grinning, hand-flapping and gabbling at 100mph. Oh well, to quote an Apprentice candidate, I am what I say on the tin.