I have downloaded the app, I’ve been emailing my conference mentor and a couple of other delegates, and I have listened back to the pre-conference Q&A. As long as I have packed the right attire for “semi-arid with possible monsoon showers” I am all set.
Going to a conference in somewhere as removed as New Mexico is a little bit daunting. Luckily, I feel like I have already established a basic connection with a few attendees which is easing the fear. This is not entirely by design, so how have I reached out to people in a very different circle to the usual Irish and UK library professional network?
The mentor system
Available to all First Timers, not just award winners, is the conference mentor system. I have been assigned an experienced NASIG member who I will meet at the First-Timers reception. We have been communicating via email and Jill has a huge amount of experience in libraries, eResources and the NASIG committee and conference organizing. Having a designated Mentor who I can ask questions and turn to if I’m stuck with anything over the conference is brilliant. I am especially grateful as this conference is a world apart from the typical Irish conference where I am lucky to always know quite a few friendly faces.
Writing a conference report
Once registered for the conference, I was added to the NASIG mailing list. Through this I received an email looking for attendees to write reports on each session. As I will be taking notes, tweeting and trying to write a couple of blog posts, I felt this was definitely something I could commit to, pushing myself to write for another outlet and experience a different approach to conference reporting. In general, the conference reports I have read, and the few I have written, usually take in the whole conference, highlighting particular talks of interest to the reviewer, or their key learnings. I will be writing up my NASIG review on Session E5: Open Access in the world of scholarly journals
Signing up to an additional activity
Another email that came through the mailing list suggested that taking a hot air balloon ride was an unmissable activity whilst in Albuquerque and asked if delegates would like to form a group to go together. This is something I have dreamed of doing ever since I was about 4, so I jumped at the chance. It turns out that Angela, the organizer of this excursion, was the NASIG Merriman Awardee last year. So tomorrow we get to share our experiences of the award, and take a sunrise hot air balloon trip, all before the conference begins!
Finding my Twitter community
With the help of #nasig16 and #librarianwardrobe I have found my Twitter people. As I and others have noted numerous times, the back-channel of conference discourse that takes place on Twitter is exciting, rich, and certainly adds to the whole experience. Hopefully I will talk to these new Twitter contacts in person – “I recognize you from Twitter” is a perfectly acceptable ice-breaker in my book. If I don’t get to talk to each and every Tweeter it’s not the end of the world, in fact some people might prefer to just exchange a few Twitter insights and skip the awkward chit chat. This can definitely make networking easier!
I have just remembered that I read a previous ALA Early Career award winner recommending that you bring a business card. This isn’t as common for Irish and UK conferences, so I though this was a good tip for those of us going to a US event. I read that several years ago though, and now there is obviously not enough time to order some up! Hopefully I won’t miss them too much.