The Conversation Behind The Post

Hi everyone, Micah here. I am incredibly fortunate and honored to be working with my co-editors on this blog. We are in communication and conversation regularly on current LIS events, preparing and sharing our posts before they go up, and generally encouraging one another professionally. In the spirit of that, and in keeping our process open, I thought the conversation leading up to Julia’s post today on Student Programming at Conferences was important enough to share with our readers. Please feel free to join in the comments, and let us know what you think of conference programming as it relates to students, what could be better, and your experiences. Remember our charge is that if something sucks, or doesn’t serve our needs, we are responsible to change it. Be heard. Go Forth. (Yes, I totally just quoted a Levi’s ad campaign.)

The Conversation via email via our Google Group.

HLS - behind the scenes

March 14

Julia’s original email

So I’m thinking of waiting on doing the conference post and instead doing something else we could include in the Road to ALA series. On the ALA Think Tank pg they are talking about what programming to include in the ALA virtual conference, and I suggested programming for students. My thought is that I could talk a little bit about what sorts of programming I like to see at conferences and why, and then use it as a way to gather input from others as well. My thought is that it’s a good way for HLS to have an impact on ALA, and a great way to get students involved since many probably can’t afford to travel to ALA Annual. Thoughts? Other things to add? Yay HLS!!!

And a selected flurry of responses:

  • Aside from NMRT events, ALA was hit and miss for me last year, and I did not attend a single event especially for students (there may have been one event on the program though – I can’t remember). I definitely think there should be student/new librarian social gatherings (or maybe more mentoring programs like NMRT’s mentoring program last year – perhaps we could suggest that other divisions take on a similar program?), as well as actual programs aimed toward students. Topics I can think of have probably already been covered (or will be covered) by HLS posts — things they don’t teach you in library school, or what it’s like to transition from student to librarian, etc.
  • True–maybe we could suggest those topics as possible ALA virtual sessions! I felt like there was very little focus on students too, except for maybe a couple scholarship dinners or something. I also feel like NMRT doesn’t really meet our needs fully, which I totally understand because they have to try and work with new members from so many walks of life. I haven’t taken advantage of the mentorship program, but that would be a good thing to mention!
  • I actually did take part in the NMRT mentorship and found my mentor to be a bit of a dud unfortunately. I felt like I disappointed him because I didn’t want to go to 100 vendor things. And when I emailed him afterwards to thank him for his time he never even replied.
  • I’m sorry you had a bad experience! That does sound weird. I mean, I understand learning about vendors, because we don’t get a lot of that in library school, but it’s definitely not the end-all be-all, and not the way I want to spend the conference! I did the mentor program, too – mine was ultimately a good experience, although I haven’t spoken to her since the conference last year. I do feel as though I could email her tomorrow and ask her advice (she was very kind and helpful), so it’s always good to have an extra contact you didn’t have before. Actually, since we went to a social for her roundtable, I have at least two other contacts that came from meeting her. I guess mentoring experiences make or break on the quality of the mentor.
  • Glad you’re taking this topic on, and I think you already have some great stuff to go on from what others have said here. I wonder if it would be so brash to say that perhaps the ALA Virtual Conference should be ENTIRELY student focused (as in – student in-school, and re-teaching those who need to re-learn things about LIS and ALA). As for student centeredness at the actual conference, I think we should definitely plan a post highlighting student-focused events, panels, meetups etc.
  • Oh boy, I need to look into what stuff I am going to do at ALA. My 2 friends who I am driving down with just paid for exhibitions, meaning I think I will be wandering around alone a lot. Also, I’ve never been before…when I am get home I’ll look into what programs they have to offer.
  • I’m not planning on going to ALA. Mostly because of money. However, if there was an HLS program, or break out session that would 100% change my mind. I also think its a needed event. Getting people together (by which I mean students, HLS peeps, alumni, and adminstrators/professors) would be awesome, and I think its definitely needed. Maybe the focus of the 25th piece can be asking what people want to see form HLS at ALA, and a summation of some of our ideas from this discussion.
  • It makes me really irritated that not all programs have money for students to go to conferences. My friend at Emory and his cohorts all have a set amount of money from their departments (yes multiple) to be able to travel to these things. The MLIS is unique because it is part professional training- why why why wouldn’t our programs all have just a little something set aside for us to go to conferences? Sorry, I’d love to meet everyone and I hate that funding it what stops people from going. You know how I got funding? Because the president of our student group accidentally found out that our department qualified for a travel grant. Maybe if you talk to the ALA student chapter at your school to see what they have to offer, they’d have at least something. I didn’t go to the ARLIS/NA conference this year because I looked at the programing and it didn’t seem student friendly. I’m hoping ALA will be better.
  • We have a student travel grant that a few people can get a semester, but you have to actually be presenting something at the conference. And there’s ALA student to staff, but you have to be an officer of the ALA student group to qualify. There really just aren’t a lot of opportunities at some schools to go to the national conferences, unfortunately. 😦 If I weren’t working right now, I would totally go and pay my own way like last year, but I am (presumably) still going to be at this job. If so, and if the director doesn’t let me have ALA funding (I’m brand new, so it’s really 50/50), I won’t be able to go since I’d have to take off work. However, even though I don’t know if I’ll be at the full conference yet, I know I plan to come down for the weekend, so if we have some kind of official HLS meetup, I hope it’s Saturday or Sunday!
  • I also remember seeing a resource list somewhere on getting other people to pay for your conference. I’m applying for one of these; otherwise I won’t be able to afford it either, esp. as I may be moving the week after Annual. If I end up working for LAPL, though, I won’t be moving, and any of you would be welcome in my apartment for Anaheim 2012! I’ll check and see if I can find that list when I get home.
  • I was just amazed at the expectations and resources that my friend has. As a grad student, it’s assumed that you will or should go to conferences, so the department should help students. I know it’s more of an ideal than reality but funding really should be there.
  • What kind of program is your friend in? Most graduate programs accept 25-30 people a year, tops (for master’s, at least). My graduate program accepted 65 for the fall semester alone, and there are 300+ in the program total. If SJSU gave travel support to all of its LIS students – 2,500 people would be very happy (I just received a copy of the finished ALISE statistical report that I worked on – it is very enlightening, numbers-wise). Ideally, LIS programs would be a LITTLE bit smaller so students could get more support.
  • We have 70 residential and 70 online students at UW. Our ALA Student Chapter is talking about providing support ($100 or so) to someone who is already registered to go — through an essay contest or something. It isn’t organized yet, though. haha! I figure $100 is something. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get it organized sooner, though.
  • I’m a bit late to the party but thought I would add what Simmons does for Professional Development Reimbursement. A portion of our student fees that we pay goes to LISSA (Library and Info Science Student Association) which is the umbrella student org for all the MLIS student org groups (ALA, PLG, etc). Each student can apply for professional development reimbursement from LISSA for up to $150/semester or $300/year. Membership to prof organizations and conference expenses can all be covered with this. So for example, since I can’t go to ALA this year I’m renewing all of my prof org memberships (ALA and SLA) and applying for reimbursement. It’s pretty sweet. The sad thing is that I’m sure many students don’t take advantage as they should… The other thing I wanted to touch upon was this idea of how many students are accepted to LIS programs. Has someone blogged about this? (maybe Andy Woodworth?) I understand that we want people in the profession but I always wonder how responsible it is. I was talking with a friend who is applying to grad programs in architecture and programs are taking less students because there are less jobs. I mean I get that universities want to make money but it is still an interesting topic… I think Simmons has about 300 students.
  • Simmons prof development sounds awesome!! I wish we had something like that here. As far as how many LIS students are out there, I wrote about it here: and quoted 3 librarians (including Andy Woodworth) who were all in the ballpark about the issue.

Categories: Behind the Scenes

3 replies

  1. There’s almost too much in this post to be able to adequately respond to it all. Thanks for sharing this discussion leading up to yesterday’s post. It was really informative to see what other students are dealing with. I had started to try to find funding for an ALA adventure but learned about the majority of opportunities far too late. ALA scholarships of most sorts seem geared toward incoming students who don’t yet know the importance of attending professional development events. If they had different deadlines, I’m sure they could increase the number of applicants they receive for those (unless keeping that number down is in their interest, and if it is, I would question how well they are serving this part of their constituency).

    My other burning question is, do we know if we’d get rejected if we came up with a brilliant idea of what we could bring back to our department and approached potential faculty sponsors with a funding proposal? If we can hack library school through an online community, what can we do for and with our departmental community? As students, we have to be opportunity-minded–bold and strategic. And something like I’m proposing might best be approached after building good connections and a reputation as an active, involved student–someone who’s work would make a return on their investments–but I don’t think it’s out of the question.

    I’m a believer of this now after being an organizer for the conference that inspired Julia’s March 25th post. We were able to organize the event because she and our other B Sides leader had the idea, got us associate editors to consent to it, and the approached our faculty sponsor with specific goals for the SLIS students in our department. Is there any conference-based research faculty might be interested in? What data can be gathered there? What might lead to a publishing or promotional opportunity that would garner positive attention for the LIS program?

    Grad school is a time we can be privileged with focusing on our own goals and interests. I’d argue that we must stay self-focused while being community-minded and opportunity-driven.


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