Top 8 Reasons to go to an International Library Conference

I recently traveled to Barcelona, Spain for BOBCATSSS, a library conference organized by European library science students. Upon returning I realized that many of my peers were unaware of the variety of international library conference opportunities that students can take advantage of. As LIS students, we are frequently encouraged to attend conferences, create posters, and present papers. So why not do so in another country? It may seem scary, but attending an international conference can be a great way to open yourself up to new things, make new connections, and meet new people!



Here are some observations, gleaned from my BOBCATSSS experiences, on why you should consider international conferencing: 

  1. Language doesn’t have to be an issue.
    If you’re like me you studied a foreign language in high school, maybe some in college, but you don’t necessarily feel comfortable going to an academic conference and presenting in another language. This is fine! Many international library conference are in English and others offer translation services for the larger sessions and programs. This is, of course, something to look into before submitting a proposal; but it is rarely a true barrier to your conference attendance. International conferences want people from a variety of countries to attend, so they find ways to bridge language gaps.
  2. The funding can be found. 
    I know what you’re thinking: “Nicole, I don’t have money for international flights!!” To this I say: you might not have the money, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be found! Many of the students I met at BOBCATSSS had received some kind of funding to attend the conference. Whether it be from your library school, your graduate college, or a scholarship through a library association, there is travel funding out there and you can get some of it. Plus, the plane tickets are the main hurdle; once in another country you can usually find ways to stay on a budget (e.g. staying at hostels and finding 1€ tapas…).
  3. You will get to present your ideas to an international audience. 
    The feedback I got from the audience at my presentation was extremely helpful in terms of opening up the small international segment of my research. I left the conference with new ideas and strategies for incorporating more international elements and data.

    My presentation!

    My presentation! Bonus: since BOBCATSSS is a smaller conference, the room only held about 40 people, which mitigated my presentation anxiety.

  4. You will gain an unprecedentedly complex international perspective. 
    Even if your research area is solidly rooted in the U.S., by going to an international conference and listening to the ideas, struggles, and victories of non-U.S. librarians your mindset will be changed in a way that no course or seminar could accomplish. It will give you a wonderful new lens to view your studies and practices through.
  5. You get to go on library tours!
    Many international conferences know their audience and arrange for “social programs” that involve tours of local libraries! Thus, not only do you get to fulfill your LIS-driven desire to see new libraries, you often usually get a behind-the-scenes tour!

    BOBCATSSS 2014 featured a number of library tour destinations, including the National Library of Catalonia, pictured here.

    BOBCATSSS 2014 featured a number of library tour destinations, including the National Library of Catalonia, pictured here.

  6. You will meet fantastic library students, professors, and professionals from all over the world.
    Networking is always one of the primary functions of conferences – you meet new people and establish contacts in other places. Now imagine you have contacts in places like Sweden, Iceland, and Latvia! It never hurts to expand your networking pool to include international professionals.
  7. When asked about a topic or issue in an interview, you can say things like “Yes, well, I favor the approach they’re taking in Germany, which is…” and actually know what you’re talking about
    Knowledge about international issues in LIS will make you seem more engaged and globally-minded to potential employers.
  8. You get to experience a new place! 
    This one goes without saying, and is also an element of conferences in the U.S., but it’s definitely a major pro. Navigating a new culture and country may seem like a lot to tack onto the already somewhat stressful experience of going to a conference. But the benefits and experiences are too great to pass up!

    The rooftop of Casa Mila, a house designed by Gaudi - just one of the many sights I was able to see while in Barcelona.

    The rooftop of Casa Mila, a house designed by Gaudi – just one of the many sights I was able to see while in Barcelona.


So start researching international library conferences today! Groups like BOBCATSSS and IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) host annual conferences, so your next international opportunity may be just around the corner!

How about you? Been to any international conferences? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments!

11 replies

  1. Thanks for writing this post! Not only am I a sucker for list-style posts I love the photos you’ve incorporated. I have never really considered an international conference (beyond two in Canada), mainly because of the money issue. Thanks for this illuminating post – it seems actually quite doable. I’m curious – did you get to hear about what students in other countries thought of their programs?


  2. I totally agree with you about the benefits of attending library conferences. I also think it’s great to branch out and attend international conferences outside library science (maybe in one’s liaison area(s)). It can be an effective way to promote interdepartmental research collaboration. I think it’s useful for scholars to team up with librarians when conducting research, and international conferences are a great way to network. I am attending and presenting at the Royal College of Nursing conference in Glasgow this April and am very excited to meet and network with nursing researchers. Thanks for the post!


  3. i am a lilputian in library issues, i am likelyto start attending now as most of my attendance are muti-disciplinay,at any rate i eenjoy the post i will try to attend this year


  4. Nicole – thanks for sharing your experience at BOBCATSSS. Sounds like it was very worthwhile and set you on the road to international conferences and enjoying the varied experiences that attendance brings. I’ve been lucky enough to attend international conferences (usually in US) for the last 14 years. Amongst the many benefits have been: seeing the world through others eyes; visits to some fabulous libraries and information centres; the chance to share best practice with others in my sector and to learn from others in completing different sectors; the opportunity to practice and develop presentation and public speaking skills; gain confidence and experience in chairing meetings; build a network of valuable colleagues and friends; to have some fun in a different country.
    It’s worth hunting out scholarships, awards and stipends for international conferences and applying for any relevant ones.

    One example,that has unfortunately just closed, is SLA Europe’s Early Career Conference Award (now in its 8th year) Keep an eye out for the call next year.


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