Surviving Conference Season

This week we are going back into the Brain-work archives to revisit tips on surviving and thriving during conference season. Happy spring everyone – let us know in the comments which conferences you are planning to attend this year and what your plans are to maximize your time and resources.


by Carolyn Doi
Education and Music Library, University of Saskatchewan
*originally posted May 3, 2016

It’s that time of year again: conference season. It seems like myself and all of my library colleagues are out there right now, presenting, networking, and gathering ideas to bring back to the workplace. That being said, not every conference experience is a positive one. Here are some of my tips and tricks for making it through your next conference like a pro!

1) Plan for success. Preview the conference schedule beforehand and prioritize the things you absolutely need to attend (committee meetings, chapter sessions, your own presentation (!), etc.) and then the ones you’d really like to see. Pick your scheduling method of choice. A colleague of mine prefers to highlight the heck out of the print schedule, while I’ve found that taking advantage of the conference apps such as Guidebook can be really handy.

Don’t forget to give yourself time to see some of the local sights as well! If there’s an afternoon you can get away from the conference or – even better – if you can book an extra day or two on either end of the conference, you’ll be happy you did. It can be really frustrating to travel across the country to only see the inside of a convention centre. Plus, exploring the city with your fellow conference attendees is a great networking activity.

2) Surf the backchannel. Find the conference hashtag and tap into real-time Twitter/Facebook/Instagram conversations to find out what folks are saying about everything from the conference sessions, venue, and the best place to grab a quick bite to eat. It can be a great way to feel engaged and connected. Just remember, if you’ve got something negative to say on Twitter, be sure you’re ready to have the same conversation in person at the coffee break.

When I’m presenting, I find Twitter provides a quick and easy way to see how my presentation went over with the audience and gives me an opportunity to answer questions or send out links following the allotted presentation time. It’s always good to include the presenter in the conversation as well with an @ mention and use the conference hashtag, so those following from afar can also tap into what’s going on. There’s a lot to consider about the merits, drawbacks, and etiquette of conference tweeting. Check out Ryan Cordell’s article and suggested tweeting principles for more ideas.

3) Making networking meaningful. Small talk can be intimidating, but it’s certainly not impossible. Fallon Bleich’s article Small Talk at Conferences: How to Survive It offers some good tips.

As much as it can be tempting to talk to the people you already know, try to also work in some conversations with people you’ve never met, or someone you’ve always wanted to chat with. When in doubt, ask them what they’re working on at the moment. You might learn something new or even find someone new to collaborate with! I’ve had some great collaborative research projects come out of a simple conversation at a conference reception.

4) Presenting like a Pro. So much has already been written about how to give a good presentation. But as a rule of thumb, whether you’re using PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, or Reveal, make sure your presentation slides aren’t more interesting than you are as a speaker. Selinda Berg discussed this in a previous C-EBLIP blog post where she argued for “PowerPoint as a companion…not as a standalone document to be read.” I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be outdone by your own conference slides!

5) Mindful reflection. Take time before the conference to set an intention for your experience there. Is there a particular problem you want to solve, certain people you need to have a face-to-face conversation with or vendors that you need to approach? Conferences can go by quickly. Make sure you’ve identified your goals in advance so they become a priority while you’re there. I like to use a free note taking system such as Evernote to write everything down. Once I get home, I reread my notes and reflect on my experience. How can I apply what I learned in my own practice or research? Who do I need to follow up with?

Everyone has their own approach to traveling, presenting, and networking at professional events. These are some of the things that have worked for me and helped to make the whole experience more beneficial and enjoyable overall. Whatever your approach, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the ride. Happy conference season, everyone!


This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Information Literacy: Stronger, Together

by Angie Gerrard
Murray Library, University of Saskatchewan

I heart information literacy! I am lucky that information literacy is intertwined with my professional practice and research interests. Most recently a team of us developed a framework for information literacy instruction for undergraduate students here at the University of Saskatchewan. A milestone of this project was a presentation to the university’s teaching and learning committee of council where our work was graciously embraced by fellow colleagues who also share a passion for teaching and learning. An unexpected perk of this presentation was meeting a colleague, who is an instructional designer outside of the library, who was interested in digital literacy.

Digital literacy was something that I did not have much experience with, or at least I didn’t think I did. I wondered how digital literacy was related to other literacies. My brain had been in overdrive trying to keep up with the new and improved concept of information literacy (thanks to the new ACRL Framework) so I questioned whether there was room in my heart and head for yet another literacy. Turns-out …. yes, yes there was!

My backstory: I knew that information literacy was alive and well outside the walls of the library (yay) but to be honest, I really had no idea of the scope. So, a focus of my research has been to try and uncover faculty perceptions and practices of information literacy. What I have learned thus far is that yes faculty value information literacy but not necessarily by that name and not necessarily delivered by librarians. Interesting stuff, right!? My point is that maybe we as librarians need not worry so much about what we call information literacy and who is teaching it but instead, focus our energies on collaborating with those who share our same overarching goals, i.e. improved student success, critical thinking skills, lifelong learning, etc.

Which leads me back to digital literacy. When I first started this collaboration I admit that I was trying hard to figure-out the perfect match and alignment between information literacy and digital literacy. Was there a hierarchy? Was one a subset of the other? What came first, the chicken or the egg? And yes, we were able to find many commonalities and overlaps of these concepts (ex: critical evaluation of information, understanding how information is produced, ethical use of information, etc.). But perhaps more importantly, through this somewhat unknown process, I’ve come to realization that we as librarians don’t always need to be waving the information literacy flag when we meet with colleagues outside the library. We don’t own information literacy nor we should we appropriate others’ conceptualizations of what we deem to be ‘information literacy’. The beauty of the recent reconceptualization of information literacy is that it opens the door to much wider conversations around information, research, teaching, and scholarship. And I welcome this!

To date, my collaborator and I have taught a few sessions on information literacy and digital literacy, mostly to faculty, and we are now looking into the future. We are also at the stage where we are trying to figure out what to call this beast (‘digital information literacy’ is a bit of a mouthful so I welcome any and all suggestions). The point is that we are working together, each from our own context, trying to come to a common understanding and a way forward. And really, isn’t that the exciting part?

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

The Librarian’s Guide to Surviving (and thriving) During Conference Season

by Carolyn Doi
Education and Music Library, University of Saskatchewan

It’s that time of year again: conference season. It seems like myself and all of my library colleagues are out there right now, presenting, networking, and gathering ideas to bring back to the workplace. That being said, not every conference experience is a positive one. Here are some of my tips and tricks for making it through your next conference like a pro!

1) Plan for success. Preview the conference schedule beforehand and prioritize the things you absolutely need to attend (committee meetings, chapter sessions, your own presentation (!), etc.) and then the ones you’d really like to see. Pick your scheduling method of choice. A colleague of mine prefers to highlight the heck out of the print schedule, while I’ve found that taking advantage of the conference apps such as Guidebook can be really handy.

Don’t forget to give yourself time to see some of the local sights as well! If there’s an afternoon you can get away from the conference or – even better – if you can book an extra day or two on either end of the conference, you’ll be happy you did. It can be really frustrating to travel across the country to only see the inside of a convention centre. Plus, exploring the city with your fellow conference attendees is a great networking activity.

2) Surf the backchannel. Find the conference hashtag and tap into real-time Twitter/Facebook/Instagram conversations to find out what folks are saying about everything from the conference sessions, venue, and best place to grab a quick bite to eat. It can be a great way to feel engaged and connected. Just remember, if you’ve got something negative to say on Twitter, be sure you’re ready to have the same conversation in person at the coffee break.

When I’m presenting, I find Twitter provides a quick and easy way to see how my presentation went over with the audience and gives me an opportunity to answer questions or send out links following the allotted presentation time. It’s always good to include the presenter in the conversation as well with an @ mention and use the conference hashtag, so those following from afar can also tap into what’s going on. There’s a lot to consider about the merits, drawbacks and etiquette of conference tweeting. Check out Ryan Cordell’s article and suggested tweeting principles for more ideas.

3) Making networking meaningful. Small talk can be intimidating, but it’s certainly not impossible. Fallon Bleich’s article Small Talk at Conferences: How to Survive It offers some good tips.

As much as it can be tempting to talk to the people you already know, try to also work in some conversations with people you’ve never met, or someone you’ve always wanted to chat with. When in doubt, ask them what they’re working on at the moment. You might learn something new or even find someone new to collaborate with! I’ve had some great collaborative research projects come out of a simple conversation at a conference reception.

4) Presenting like a Pro. So much has already been written about how to give a good presentation. But as a rule of thumb, whether you’re using PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, or Reveal, make sure your presentation slides aren’t more interesting than you are as a speaker. Selinda Berg discussed this in a previous C-EBLIP blog post where she argued for “PowerPoint as a companion…not as a standalone document to be read.” I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be outdone by your own conference slides!

5) Mindful reflection. Take time before the conference to set an intention for your experience there. Is there a particular problem you want to solve, certain people you need to have a face-to-face conversation with, or vendors that you need to approach? Conferences can go by quickly. Make sure you’ve identified your goals in advance so they become a priority while you’re there. I like to use a free note taking system such as Evernote to write everything down. Once I get home, I reread my notes and reflect on my experience. How can I apply what I learned in my own practice or research? Who do I need to follow up with?

Everyone has their own approach to travelling, presenting, and networking at professional events. These are some of the things that have worked for me and helped to make the whole experience more beneficial and enjoyable overall. Whatever your approach, I encourage you to sit back and enjoy the ride. Happy conference season, everyone!

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Useful, Useable, Desireable: C-EBLIP Journal Club, January 7, 2016

by Jaclyn McLean
Collection Services, University Library
University of Saskatchewan

At our first journal club meeting of 2016, I chose an article from Weave; a new peer-reviewed, OA, web-based journal, to start a discussion about usability principles and teams in academic libraries:

Godfrey, K. (2015). Creating a culture of usability. Weave: Journal of Library User Experience, 1(3). http://dx.doi.org/10.3998/weave.12535642.0001.301

I’ve been reading a lot in the areas of usability and user experience (UX), especially in libraries, as I build a foundation of knowledge for my program of research. This article seemed like an interesting introduction for those less familiar with usability principles, and the idea of a culture of usability across the library intrigued me. I also like the Weave editorial philosophy, especially their primary aim “to improve the practice of UX in libraries, and in the process, to help libraries be better, more relevant, more useful, more accessible places.” This aligns well with some of the reasons I picked usability and UX for my research, and ideas I keep in mind in my practice as well. And before I dig into the article, and our discussion, I just want to mention something about usability and UX. Weave is a journal aiming to improve UX, but the article we read was about usability teams and principles. Usability and UX are not the same (though you’ll see the terms used nearly interchangeably at times, incorectly).

Godfrey’s article could be divided into two broad sections: a description of usability and usability teams, and an examination of the local experience at Memorial University Libraries. In the first section, she frames her discussion with a literature search on usability principles and practices, and the newer concept of standing usability teams in libraries. She also discusses the importance of making usability a core concept in all areas of library development – physical, virtual, and service. She describes the core concepts of usability, and how Memorial is consciously applying the idea of examining pain points and other concepts usually confined to online environments, to their physical spaces. The challenges of creating a culture of usability (or of changing any culture), and especially the concept of join-in rather than buy-in when attempting such a significant change were very interesting to think about.

The second section gives an overview of the Memorial University Libraries context, and how the implementation of a usability team went there. Godfrey outlines how the team was formed, what’s been done so far, and some plans for the future. She identifies the creation of their usability team as “the first step to creating a culture of usability and improving the user experience.”

Our discussion ranged widely, from the style of the article, to ideas of usability beyond the web, concepts of building culture, and beyond. Several of us were hungry for more – details of the actual projects undertaken by the usability team and their outcomes – but recognized that this wasn’t the article we had in our hands. This article felt more like an introduction to the concept of standing usability teams in libraries, an overview of usability concepts, and some local experiences rather than a full case study or assessment of a usability team in a library.

The bulk of our discussion focused on local context. We already do a lot of talking about our different cultures and how to build them here, and have focused recently on building cultures in the area of leadership, project management, assessment, and EBLIP. How many cultures can one workplace consciously foster, we wondered? Could we honestly see something like a standing usability team happening here? In the end, we thought that adopting usability concepts and ideas into work we already do, and good standing committees that are already in place would be more successful in our context. In that way, we specifically talked about EBLIP – because by it’s very definition, EBLIP takes into account our users. So maybe rather than adding a new culture shift to our agenda, it’s more about keeping the user aspect of EBLIP in mind when we implement or assess services and programs – and use that as a reminder to stop assuming we know what our users need, or as a reminder to check in with our users on a regular basis.

Libraries have a bad reputation of looking inward and forgetting about our users – so even broad discussions of user preferences and initial user consultation could be a significant improvement. I know from my own area of work (technical services), a key example of how we fall down on user consultation is when a discovery system needs to be reconfigured, and only library staff are consulted for needs/preferences, rather than users.

In the end, this article made us hungry for more. As practitioners, we were immediately curious about the how and the what of the work. We wanted to see the outcomes of the iterative testing, the aggregated responses from the survey, and the results from this standing team. We hope that Godfrey is planning a follow-up with more of the details from on the ground, so we can continue to learn from what seems to be a unique project. Krista, if you’re reading this, I hope that you are planning to share more about the work you’ve done so far and what’s planned next!