MLA '08: Seven Great Reasons to Attend
People attend meetings for a number of reasons. However, MLA annual meetings present unique opportunities to broaden your perspective of the profession and connect with fascinating colleagues, when you participate in the vast melting pot of knowledge, interest, and enthusiasm.
Call it what you will, but one of the key things to learn early in your “meeting-going career” is to schmooze or network. Getting out and meeting people has great benefits. Social settings, more than meeting sessions, offer easy venues to talk to like-minded (or not so like-minded) librarians. Unique knowledge and interests can pollinate new ideas and provide springboards for interesting discussions. Don’t worry—most librarians do not bite.
How can you stay current when the landscape of the profession continues to be very dynamic? While it helps to read publications like the Journal of the Medical Library Association and to participate in online forums, MLA meetings bring the significant points all together under one roof to give you the big picture view of today and show you what to expect as the next big thing.
Learn Best Practices
MLA annual meetings offer opportunities for members to give back to the profession and share best practices through papers, posters, and roundtables. Having access to a room full of expertise and experience opens up avenues for growth as well as for sharing of successes. Learning how libraries deal with similar issues in different settings is often invaluable. Although you can read journals (hopefully, open access journals) at home and learn about best practices, think about how often you have the opportunity to ask innovators in the field about their experiences, both positive and negative. Your experience at MLA meetings will include learning, not only acquiring skills through formal continuing education, but also learning from others.
Another way to give back to the profession is to mentor members new to the organization. Mentoring can be a rewarding experience for both the mentor and mentee. It can also help some of us MLA veterans see the meeting from a fresh perspective. Remember, you can learn creative ideas and approaches from seasoned professionals and from recent graduate students. While you are in the process of schmoozing, remember to introduce those new to the field to the folks around you.
Aside from the wonderful food and tchotchkes in the exhibit hall, MLA exhibits generally provide an opportunity to compare a wide array of services and resources in areas related to the library field. They also give you the opportunity to meet with knowledgeable and helpful sales representatives to discuss existing subscriptions or learn about new offerings. Attending the exhibits allows you to gather a large amount of valuable information in a short period of time.
Separate Fact from Fiction
The MLA annual meeting provides attendees with a unique venue for openly discussing innovative technologies and experiences with vendors, allowing you to differentiate between the hype that some publications promote and real world experiences. Vendors offer a number of early morning opportunities for customers to confront spin or hyperbole head-on, especially during question-and-answer sessions.
Enjoy the City
The meeting’s organizers understand the role a location has in contributing to a successful meeting. Taste the specialties of Chicago, visit the many museums located within just a few blocks, take a walk through Millennium Park. You might get “conferenced out” after several continuous days of meetings, so take advantage of the local tour offerings or venture out on your own.
Register for MLA ’08 today!
Adapted from Gabriel Rios’s “How to Best Enjoy MLA ’05,” published in MLA News, March 2005.
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29 July 2010