This post was started last week. But, what with due dates, work, papers, and snow storms, it kinda didn’t get done. So, here it is, for your enjoyment!
A few weeks ago, I gave a poster presentation at CUA’s 6th annual Bridging the Spectrum symposium. And while this wasn’t my first LIS conference/symposium/get-together, it was — in fact — my first time presenting at one. My topic? Identifying Thesauri Selections of Repositories of Digitized Medieval Manuscript Collections.
My poster session was a great success. Loads of interested symposium attendees stopped by, asked good questions, and seemed generally interested in the topic at hand (namely, just what sort of thesauri do digital collections of medieval manuscripts use and why do they use them?) Now, fair reader, I can sense your budding excitement as you read this. Wish you had been there to see the poster in action? Well, look no further! A fellow cohort member was kind enough to capture my spiel on camera.
And while I could prattle endlessly about my survey, the interesting findings, and the possibilities for future research (if anyone reading is in a position to offer grant money, I won’t say no), I’d rather focus the environment of the symposium itself.
As with any profession, the work that we do as graduate students, as librarians, as information pros can sometimes be overwhelming. And when the responsibilities start to build up, we can bury ourselves in our own little worlds, focusing on the mountains of work that require our attention. I think that this is precisely why symposiums are so important: they allow us an opportunity to step away from our work and to be around similarly-focused professionals who wish to share their accomplishment in a public forum. Thanks to the many panelists, poster presenters, and attendees, I had the opportunity to learn about a whole host of new and interesting studies that are going on as I type this. Everything from indigenous modes of recordkeeping among the Sioux people to new approaches to faculty engagement at research libraries was on display. Conversations simmered at every table and the Twitter conversation was at a continual boil for most of the day (for those interested, check out #cualis14. Some great comments and a link to the Michael Edson’s keynote presentation, video is now available at CUA LIS’s homepage). While I won’t use the word ‘impossible,’ it would have been pretty difficult to have walked away from this event without feeling revitalized, fascinated, and totally revved up for the future of the Library and Information Science discipline.
After having such a wonderful time learning about new research, studies, and initiatives, I began to wonder about what some of the other motivations for attending conferences, symposia, and other LIS events. I was somehow reminded of John Falk’s “The Museum Visitor Experience: Who Visits, Why and to What Effect?” In this essay, Falk identifies several classes of museum patrons, including Explorers, Facilitators, Professionals/Hobbyists, Experience Seekers, and Rechargers, all of whom have a variety of legitimate but unique reasons for attending museums. While the format, structure, location, attendees, and overall attitude of a conference is different from a conventional museum, can some parallels be drawn between museum attendance and conference attendance? Some attend to expose themselves to new innovations in their given field while others attend to develop their professional calling or individual passion. Others still attend to meet others and make professional connections, others yet use conferences as an opportunity to refresh their professional outlook and workshop ideas & projects. While the comparison may be tenuous on first pass, it may bare up with increased consideration.
But still: the conference as a cultural engagement is an interesting idea.
Regardless, the Bridging the Spectrum symposium was a great experience. In the future, I would highly recommend attending. Major thanks to CUA and the Department of Library and Information Science for their efforts to organize such an awesome event.