Published: October 21, 2022 by Kesheena Doctor
As a new MLIS student at San Jose State University School of Information, one of my biggest questions was whether and how to attend a conference. I had limited experience with university lectures as an undergraduate student, but I knew this was a fantastic opportunity for students.
Attending a conference has many benefits, especially for students and those just entering the field of librarianship. They are a great way to network with other MLIS students and librarians, learn about different library pathways, attend information sessions and workshops, and get to know potential employers. . When I started preparing for my MLIS journey, I started investigating the specifics of attending conferences and would like to share them with you.
How to select the right conference
Choosing a conference can seem overwhelming at first, but there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you want to consider where it is. If it’s too far or the trip is too expensive, you’ll want to stick to conferences in your area. If you know of a specific library organization, check their website for upcoming conferences. Most organizations hold their conferences in different cities each year. If you think attending a larger conference would be too overwhelming, consider going to a regional conference to cut costs and practice your skills in an intimate setting. Your state’s library association will have more information about conferences in your area.
There are also a variety of conference types, so I recommend narrowing them down to suit your MLIS career path and/or professional interests. Conferences are also a smart way to supplement your e-portfolio with anyone
which may need to be filled out. Consider attending a conference where you can present your research topic or offer workshops to develop your skills.
Preparation for a travel grant
Attending conferences as a student is a smart financial choice, as many conferences offer lower student rates and student travel grants. Scholarships often give preference to students who also present. There are also other financial aids available from other organizations. SJSU Offers travel grants for students up to $1500. Students must be actively enrolled in at least three units, have a GPA of 3.2, and are eligible for only one travel grant per academic year. Please also note that travel grants offered by SJSU are not eligible for travel to certain states due to California law.
Things to consider when attending conferences
There are many factors to consider when attending a conference, including what to bring. The most obvious consideration is clothing. Many conferences have business casual attire, but it might be best to bring at least more formal attire and business casual attire. ALA’s annual conference often offers free resume reviews and/or interviews with hiring organizations. Remember to bring your CV and interview attire – you never know! If you plan to attend workshops or information sessions, having a writing instrument or a smart device to take notes is also a plus. Since lectures last all day, it is advisable to bring snacks and drinks to get you through the day. I also suggest bringing a tote bag to put these items in. The Illinois Library Association has compiled a
handy resource for new conference attendees. The University of Oklahoma Libraries also provided some tips for attending conferences.
Networking is also an important part of conferences and all students should take advantage of potential networking opportunities. If a list of participants is provided, review it and identify the people you would like to meet. Business cards are a good networking tool to bring, even for students (you can easily create a professional-looking business card with your SJSU
Adobe Creative Cloud account or to canva.com). Since meeting new people is a given, I also highly recommend preparing a short introduction to highlight your accomplishments and provide insight into who you are. LinkedIn Learningwhich is offered free of charge to SJSU students, offers many
Classes on how best to create these intros.
Look for special iSchool meetings to meet faculty, alumni, and other students. You can review the iSchool Events Calendar to find out if iSchool representatives will be present. The iSchool hosts an annual gathering at the ALA Annual Conference, which I understand is a great networking event. Check to see if other iSchool students are present, so you can set up a meeting and meet other students in person. If iSchool teachers are also present, scheduling a meeting with them is an effective networking approach. Conferences may also host special evening programs and events, so be sure to check their schedule and plan. If the evenings are open, you can relax and explore the host city with other iSchool participants.
Present at a conference
Once you’ve decided to attend a conference, you can consider presenting. The most accessible way to participate is through a poster presentation. These presentations are a simple way to present any research you have already done as a student, such as an article or a slideshow. Although selecting a topic can be tedious, there are many online resources for creating poster presentations, including a guide to NYU and one
complete guide from UC Davis. If you are located near SJSU, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library offers a poster printing service for students. LinkedIn Learning also offers courses on
public speaking and
give presentations to better prepare you for the presentation. Check
this post on iSchool Students and Alumni Presenting at CLA’s 2022 Annual Conference for more information on the poster presentation process.
A partial list of upcoming conferences
Here is a list of national conferences that MLIS students might be interested in. The ALA has a regional calendar to find out about events in your area, or you can check with your state’s library association for events.
- International Conference on Indigenous Archives, Libraries and Museums 2022 | ATALMOctober 25-27, 2022, Temecula, CA
- Symposium on Critical Librarianship and PedagogyNovember 2-4, 2022, Tucson, AZ
- YALSA 2022 Young Adult Services SymposiumNovember 4-6, 2022, Baltimore, MD
- LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience (LLX)January 27-30, 2023, New Orleans, LA
- Joint Librarians of Color ConferenceFebruary 8-12, 2023, St. Pete Beach, Florida
- ACRL Conference 2023March 15-18, 2023, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Society of North American Art LibrariesApril 18-21, 2023, Mexico City, MX
- ALA Annual Conference and ExpoJune 22-27, 2023, Chicago, Illinois
- PLA at the 2023 ALA Annual ConferenceJune 22-27, 2023, Chicago, IL
- Joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists and the Society of American ArchivistsJuly 22-29, 2023, Washington, D.C.
- Main Forum 2023October 19-21, 2023, New Orleans, LA
If you have any tips for attending conferences or have a conference recommendation, please leave a comment. I hope to attend the ACRL conference next year and see you there!