Friday, December 28, 2012

The Conference Argument

With the Southern Alberta Library Conference (SALC) just around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to talk about conferences and why they are so important. As a library staff person you might find yourself in the position of having to convince your supervisor or Board to spend the money to send you to a conference or two. As Board Members, you may have to convince fellow trustees of the importance of attending conferences. The tips below will help you be more persuasive.

Be sure to explain the benefits of attending conferences:
  • Learning new ideas, techniques and strategies to bring back to your library and community. These can result in new and innovative services, unique ways of reaching patrons new and old, and even cost and time savings.
  • Networking and relationship building opportunities:
    • You will meet library colleagues (staff and trustees) from around the province, country or even world! These colleagues can be an important support network for asking for advice, finding new ways to solve old problems and building partnerships. 
    • You will meet vendors, which will allow you to learn about new products and services for your library. It will also allow you to comparison shop and find ways to maximize your budget, more quickly and easily than you could from your office.
    • You may even have the chance to speak with funders and decision-makers - a great opportunity to advocate for the library.
  • Conferences are a great way to re-energize yourself. There are so many ideas flowing at conferences that there will likely be at least one thing (if not many more) that gets you excited. It will renew your passion for your job and get you excited to try something new. The energy and passion for libraries at conferences is infectious and inspirational.
When asking for the support of your Board (or fellow Board members) to attend a conference, be prepared:
  • Gather all the information you will need about costs.  What costs are you asking them to cover? There is the registration fee, the cost of a hotel room, and the cost of travel. Of course, costs might also include having someone cover for you at the library, and meals (this cost is covered in the registration fees of some conferences - including SALC). Ensure that you register early if possible, as usually there are cost savings for doing so. You may also want to consider membership in the organization running the conference, as this sometimes saves money as well.
  • Look at the program, and plan your sessions and other conference events. This will help you explain what sorts of things you hope to learn, and what people you hope to meet at the conference.
  • Put together a plan - how will your duties at the library be covered while you're away? How long will you be gone (i.e. do you need a day or two for travel?). How will you be contacted, if needed, while at the conference?
  • Also, let them know how you will use the information you learn at the conference. Will you share it with them? With other staff? How will you implement new ideas upon your return?
Having this information ready will show that you are serious about using this opportunity for professional development and that the library will get a return upon it's investment.

If you haven't already got approval for attending SALC, do it soon! Early bird registration ends on January 11. This conference is extremely affordable and offers lots of networking opportunities.  Register at:

(Source: "Ask Gayle", Rural Library Services Newsletter, Vol 23, Issue 4, July/Aug 2012)

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