- I received a scholarship offer from UW-Madison.
- I received a scholarship offer from Indiana University.
Last week from the 27th through the 29th of April I attended the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians conference in Stevens Point. My first professional conference!! It was a momentous occasion.
I really wasn’t sure of what to expect. I arrived in Stevens Point at about 9:30 PM on Tuesday the 26th. My scholarship covered a hotel room for 3 nights, so luckily I didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn on Wednesday to drive there. The conference was located at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center, and my hotel room was wonderful–I had a whole king-sized bed all to myself! The best part was the silence. I love solitude, and the last few years have been packed full of non-stop interactions with people. Even when I’m at home there will be a faint buzz from a TV or radio in the background, so being in a spacious, clean, silent room was blissful.
The next morning I woke up, grabbed some breakfast, and headed to some presentations.
Melissa Cragin from the University of Illinois gave the keynote presentation on data curation, which was fascinating. A little overwhelming for someone who is new to the field, but it definitely made me want to look into data curation more. Afterward I went up and chatted with her briefly and she offered to set me up with some contacts at IU, which was very kind.
I met the mentor I had been paired with as a scholarship recipient, Sheila Stoeckel from UW-Madison. She was very nice and also very busy, as she was on the WAAL Conference Planning Committee.
That night I went to a hole-in-the-wall type bar called Rusty’s for dinner with one of the grad student scholarship recipients, Ashley, and some her friends and colleagues from UW-Madison. It was amazing to be around librarians letting their hair down, as most of the interactions I’d had with librarians up until that point had been very formal.
The next morning I woke up, got breakfast, and attended more presentations.
Thursday was a fantastic day for presentations. The first presentation I attended was by a graduating SLIS student, Andrew Johnson, about his work with LOCI on the Madison campus. He talked about the challenge of adapting to such a vastly different environment than he was used to, and about finding where he fit amongst computer scientists and biologists and professionals from all different fields. The instruction potluck was by far the most dynamic presentation I saw at WAAL; there was a lot of small group work and collaboration, and it was interesting to talk to librarians from large and small universities and compare the challenges they face working with students. And of course, I couldn’t leave out the last presentation, which was given by UW-L librarians John Jax and Bill Doering. I had never been exposed to structured studies on library collections before, so the idea of tracking browses and checkouts was interesting to me even though they found that adding table of contents info did not ultimately alter checkout and browse rates in a statistically significant way.
The poster presentations were Thursday afternoon, and it was wonderful to see what current SLIS students were doing–I started to envision what sort of projects I might undertake over the new few years. So, so exciting! While looking at posters I ran into Andrew, whose data curation presentation I’d attended earlier, and we started talking about his presentation and librarianship in general. He introduced me to some of his SLIS friends, and I ended up going to dinner with them and ended up hanging out with them all night. They claimed to have adopted me, and I was altogether too happy to be taken under their experienced wings!
That afternoon as I was near the lobby and heading up to my hotel room on the sixth floor, I heard a woman ask me, “Excuse me, do you know where the elevators are?” When I looked over, I instantly recognized the woman as Char Booth, Friday’s keynote speaker. Rachel had talked about her in the past as a library hero of hers, I had seen her picture in the WAAL information packet, and I’d been perusing her blog the night before… so to run into her as she was looking for the elevator took me aback in the very best way. I introduced myself and fessed up to knowing her, and later at the Tilted Kilt (I know, I know…it was part of the conference center) she hung out with the SLIS grad students and me. I was able to ask her for some tips on blogging. She laughed and very self-deprecatingly talked about her first year or so of having a blog, how she didn’t know what to write… she mirrored many of the feelings I have about this space. She said to just keep at it. Do it even if it doesn’t feel like a significant contribution, because it is a good space to play around with. She also admitted to having “blogger’s block” for the first time. I think I fell in love with her a little…
On Friday, breakfast with my new SLIS friends as we laughed about the previous night’s antics and watched news about the Royal Wedding, then more presentations:
Char’s presentation was mind-blowing for everyone in attendance, I think. I would purchase her book if it were not prohibitively expensive!
Then I said my goodbyes, stopped at Noodles & Co. and hopped on the road, totally refreshed by WAAL. It was a great first-time professional conference experience, and I came away with a lot of business cards! I met so many different kinds of librarians, and I am reminded of how excited I am to be going into a profession filled with such eclectic, innovative people.
Lately I’ve been so enmeshed in libraryland that it feels as though I’ve been here at SLIS for years, when in reality I’ve been here just under two months. Amazement that I’m not in fact stuck in some bizarre time warp got me thinking about the process by which I arrived here, and I realized that the fall of 2009 and the fall of 2010 was when I met the two awe-inspiring librarians who acted as my first mentors and laid the foundation for my journey to library school: Teri and Rachel. That’s makes this fall a mentor-iversary (mentor anniversary, get with it y’all), doesn’t it?
Two years ago, I was trying to get experience in a library for the very first time. After working at the local historical museum, a coworker suggested I approach UW-La Crosse’s Special Collections to volunteer, so I did just that. I showed up with only the slightest understanding of what went on there and an avid appetite to learn more. Teri welcomed me completely from day one, while I am certain that others (understandably) would not have wanted to deal with the hassle of training a volunteer. She let me wade into the culture at Murphy Library, sharing her opinions on library school and her experiences as a librarian in an academic library, and introducing me to other librarians in Murphy. We became fast friends. She acted as my undergraduate research adviser and opened her home to me multiple times–I have the utmost respect for her as a cultured, intelligent woman.
One year ago I had yet to even undertake the daunting grad school application process; I was facing a lot of question marks in my future… where would I go to grad school? Would I get in? Would I be separated from my long-term boyfriend, and was that a good or bad thing? If I pursued an MLS, would I even be getting a degree that could get me a job? At twenty years old, I felt young and still pathetically inexperienced. Teri suggested I meet Rachel, who was the new E-Learning Librarian in Murphy Library. Rachel had just graduated from Indiana University with her MLS, and because IU was one of the library programs I was considering, I was extra-intrigued about this mysterious new presence in the library. I had absolutely no idea what to expect as I prepared to meet her. I knew I had nothing to offer besides enthusiasm (which some equate with childishness, I think, because of the crazy idea that competent professionals should be serious verging on grim) so I only really hoped to make a new acquaintance that would perhaps give me some tips on what I could expect from library school. When I met her I was stunned by her huge smile and HER excitement about me. Me! The only library-related thing I’d done was volunteer in Special Collections and benefit from Teri’s charity, more or less, and Rachel was telling me at our first meeting that she was inspired by me!? Her support hasn’t wavered since. I acted as her intern during the final semester of my senior year, and she introduced me to the non-Special Collections side of the library. Rachel is often is my sole commenter on this little blog of mine, a kindness I appreciate.
Both librarians’ support has been instrumental to the development of my understanding about this profession. I think back and I have no idea if I would have gotten into library school, gotten jobs here at IU, or made connections to many new librarians (even new librarian mentors!) without the doors that Teri and Rachel opened. They wrote me letters of recommendation, listened to me vent my frustrations, fed me… the list goes on and on. I used to feel awful that they had given me so much while I felt I had so little to give back; but now I realize that mentoring is cyclical process. Their endless patience and openness to sharing their experiences has shown me what it takes to be a mentor. Besides paying homage to them every once in a while, I plan to pay it forward by mentoring others as I go forward in my career.
With that said, I’d like to wish a very happy mentor-iversary to Teri and Rachel! I miss both of you!