This will be my first blog post not related to 23 Things (Watch this space for a few more Things coming up though! Even though its getting too late to apply for more badges, I’m hoping to still work my way through and post some thoughts). I thought a little conference report would be a good place to start, along with a few reflections on my first ever experience of presenting at a conference.
So, on Tuesday I, along with my colleague Emma, presented at the M25 Conference. This year’s theme was engaging users, something which we’ve been thinking a lot about in the last few years. Our presentation was about our Library Advisory Group, which is now in its second year, and which we use to get input and feedback from our users, as well as a vehicle for user engagement. I think the slides will be up online soon, so if you want to see more of what we did, I’ll try and add this link in once it’s available, in case anyone is interested! All the other presentations should be up there too, so I won’t spend too much time going into the various topics in detail here.
As for the experience of presenting, it was completely terrifying but, ultimately, so worthwhile, and I would definitely recommend it, especially to any newer professionals. I was lucky to be presenting with a colleague, as I think going it alone for this first time would have been even scarier! Also, I think I maybe would have lacked the confidence as someone newer to the field to actually put myself forward for something like this. Most of the work I do, and I would imagine this is the same elsewhere, is as part of a team rather than a solo effort. So I think it would be a good place to start to think about submitting a paper as a team rather than facing it alone, especially at first.
When it came to the day, I have to say the morning was a bit nerve-wracking, as we were taking the tricky just before lunch slot. Seeing so many (about 100) colleagues in the room, including the head of my library, was daunting, but as you would expect, librarians are a pretty nice crowd on the whole! Once we got up there and got into the presentation, it all ran smoothly. Most importantly, we got quite a few questions at the end, which I hope meant people were interested in what we had to say. For the rest of the day, people came up to us to ask more questions or to congratulate us on a good presentation, which did feel pretty great!
I would like to think that our presentation was entertaining (we tried to keep it light-hearted- cake featured heavily as you can see below) and perhaps gave some of the other delegates something to think about or take back to their own libraries. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a flurry of Library Advisory Groups springing up?
As for my experience as a delegate, that was pretty great too! The presentations were all useful, and some gave us ideas that we’d like to take away and use at Essex (looking at you Middlesex and your owl event!). All the presenters did a fantastic job, and a particular hats-off to the Pecha Kucha presenters. Our session was daunting, but at least we weren’t trying to keep up with slide changes every 20 seconds!
Most of all, it’s great to know that other libraries and librarians are facing similar challenges to us, and that they’re coming up with so many creative ways to deal with them. This is something that always strikes me at conferences; from chatting to people throughout the day and at the evening reception, it’s clear that whatever is happening in your library, someone else is probably experiencing something similar.
I also took the opportunity to dust of my much-neglected Twitter account to get involved with some live-tweeting on the day, which was great fun and allowed me to interact in a different way with other delegates, even those I didn’t get to chat to in person. This is definitely something I’ll be doing in future, but I am still not sure about whether to re-invigorate my old account, or try setting up a new one for professional networking.
User engagement is clearly a hot topic across the library sector at the moment, and I feel we definitely came away from this day with a few new tools at our disposal for helping to encourage this.