LOEX was lots of fun!
I felt a good measure of relief that this was my last conference of the month. So far, so good: no illness, no devastating embarrassment. It was all going quite well. I surprised myself by feeling very little at LOEX. Mostly I just bided my time, waiting for my workshop to be over, spending time with instruction librarians in the awful conference hotel during the day and the Honky Tonk district at night. I saw familiar faces from last year’s LOEX conference and met new people, too.
It was really bizarre to wander around during the grad student poster session and think, This was me last year! It was only at that point that it hit me that I was one of the only (if not THE only) grad student doing a non-poster session. I felt kinda proud then.
Throughout LOEX I tried to secure a job for my friend and co-presenter Ted. I’d find myself sidling up to him and a colleague, saying some variation on, “Have you met Ted?” Much in the same sense of Barney introducing Ted in How I Met Your Mother–though of course, the goal being employment rather than a date.
Our workshop (“Remix Your Data: Visualizing Library Instruction Statistics“) went well. The room was packed. I was overheating and trying to breathe. Ted and I had made so many alterations to our presentation… originally we had a lot more introduction but chose to pare it down because we absolutely wanted to get through all of our content. Because we were encouraging participants to follow along on their own laptops, we had a hard time estimating how long it would take everyone to get through the exercise. I prefer to underestimate tech skills than overestimate, plus we needed to make sure we have some padding in case of technical difficulties. After lots of back and forth, we chose to slim down our introduction, move quickly through the visualization walkthrough, and leave time for questions and discussion.
In the end, I think this was the right choice. Few people chose to work on their laptops, which was probably a good thing as we only had two people roving to help. Some people seemed happy and excited by our workshop, some still seemed confused. We did our best to answer questions but I understand the confusion. There’s a steep learning curve to the basics of data, data visualization concepts, and the softwares we used, Sci2 and Gephi. Hopefully the fact that we passed out flash drives with the dummy data and documentation pre-loaded was helpful to attendees.
A few weeks after LOEX, I received our attendee evaluations in the mail–and promptly got a sinking feeling in my gut. After staring at the envelope for probably 15 minutes I finally opened it. Most of the responses were positive, with only a few stating things like, “This wasn’t appropriate for beginners.” All in all, I feel good about what we provided to attendees. It was a great learning experience for me, too–structuring technical workshops is tricky business.
I fell in love with Nashville while I was at LOEX. I forget that it’s only a four hour drive from Bloomington and now I’m determined to make another trip before ending up somewhere else in the country next year.
One last thing I want to note for any grad students who end up reading this. If you are at all interested in public services librarianship, and certainly if you are interested in instruction or assessment, strongly consider attending LOEX. It is a very accessible and friendly conference that is organized exceptionally well. And student rates are cheap! I’ve had a great experience both years, and especially now that I can compare it to a conference like ACRL (which was amazing, in its own right) I can appreciate the smaller size and focus of LOEX.