Greetings, MLA! I’m Annabelle Holt, an early career health sciences librarian and a first-time attendee at this year’s MLA Annual Meeting. In preparation for my first MLA, my colleagues have been sharing a wealth of tips and advice to help me plan and make the most of my experience. Here are some ideas I’ve gathered from experienced MLA attendees and from my own personal travels to help prepare:
- Start planning early! Begin your MLA prep by scoping out the conference program and highlighting what sessions you want to attend. Every year MLA is jam packed with events, sessions, and opportunities to connect with your peers. Be sure to take time to plan and prioritize what you want to experience at the conference. I downloaded my own copy of the MLA program and highlighted my events by priority. Red = Must attend. Blue = Hope to attend. Yellow = Virtual sessions I’m interested in watching.
- Communities Lunch for MLA & SLA. If this is your first time at MLA or you’re a seasoned MLA attendee, be sure to take this opportunity to connect with MLA caucuses and meet new people on Wednesday, May 17th.
- Plan something fun around the city. Before you go, set aside some time to do something fun! Since I plan to arrive early, I hope to ride a bus over to Canada to cross another country off my list!
- Packing List. Ironically, the first item on the packing list is a packing list. For the past few years, I’ve kept a packing list in my Notes app. The perk of having a packing list is how it naturally evolves with each trip and helps prepare you for the next. At the top of my list, I have my most important items, such as a passport, work laptop, and other things that cannot be replaced. Next, I outline all my planned outfits for every day of my trip. Following that, I have a long list of items that can be checked off as I pack. This list can be as simple or detailed as you like. Ultimately, it helps me prevent overpacking when I can see what I need for each day of my trip.
- Business cards. Perhaps the most important packing tip I received from all my colleagues is to bring business cards to easily connect with new peers. If you don’t have any on hand or simply forget to bring them, you can create virtual business cards to share via this app: HiHello Business Card App.
- Check the weather. After last year’s meeting in New Orleans, I heard many tales of the lucky librarians who packed a personal fan to help with the heat. However, since this year we will be in Detroit, the weather will be a little different. I’m planning to bring versatile outfits to accommodate cool mornings and warm afternoons.
- Comfortable Shoes. Since you will be on your feet all day, plan to pack a very comfortable pair of shoes. Whether it be sneakers, loafers, or sandals, be sure that it will be comfortable for all day wear. I recommend packing a backup pair – you may need to change during the day to get through evening events.
- Sweater/Light Jacket. My colleagues have warned me that sometimes the air conditioning can work a bit too well at a conference. Much like a movie theater, I will be bringing a light sweater/jacket so I can add layers if it’s a little chilly.
- Reusable bag. Reusable bags are light, foldable, and easy to throw in your bag just in case you need to carry extra things during the day.
- Phone Power Bank. Since we will be out and about during the day, it’s a great idea to bring a small rechargeable power bank to keep your phone charged. I always want a fully charged phone when I’m navigating a new city.
- Stay hydrated. A lightweight reusable water bottle is great to have to stay hydrated during the day.
- Mints/Gum. After my last in-person conference, I soon realized the importance of keeping mints/gum to refresh throughout the day. After I’ve had my morning coffee and talked to new people all day, it really helps me power through if I can’t take a break.
- Snacks. Remember to pack granola bars and other snacks to keep in your hotel room during your stay. I always throw one in my bag for myself or a friend! These can be a lifesaver on long days.
- Rest. Be sure to set aside time to rest, whether it is before the trip, in the middle of the day, or turning in early at night to take time for yourself. Planning a short nap will help you return to the conference with more energy for the rest of the day.
- Take time for yourself. Spending time with colleagues, meeting new people, and attending sessions can be overwhelming. Even if it means missing a session you hoped to attend, it will be worth it to take some time for yourself.
- Prioritize your self-care. Conferences can easily become overwhelming because there is so much to do. Remember to check-in with yourself and plan ways to unwind. A couple of great options to unwind include journaling, brain dumping, or enjoying a hobby. I recently downloaded a self-care app called Finch to help take time for myself. Finch is a self-care pet app where you can take care of a pet bird while taking care of yourself: Finch App
- Quiet Room. If you don’t have time to get back to the hotel for a rest, you can take a break by utilizing the Quiet Room that is available each day from 7:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
- Start your day with yoga. Be Well: Chair Yoga will take place on Thursday, May 18 from 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m.
In my next life I hope to be a travel planner (specifically, Toula Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, complete with a headset), but until then, feel free to connect with me in Detroit at MLA ’23!