Going International: Tips from a soon-to-traveling librarian

I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.

Well, technically I do when I’ll be back (that’s the handy thing about a plane ticket). But I just couldn’t resist making that John Denver reference.

In four short days I’ll hop on a plane and head to Italy to attend the Community Informatics Research Network conference in Prato (just north of Florence). Not only will I be attending the conference, but I’ll be presenting a paper based on research I conducted last year. My research was about the elementary students I worked with last year and their perceptions and uses of technology. For a brief peek into the research, check out this lightning talk I gave at my school’s Master Showcase this past spring.

Boeing 727

Photo from SDASM Archives on Flickr Commons. Licensed under CC 2.0.

It’s a pretty incredible (yet mildly terrifying) feeling. Lucky for me, HLS has had some great conference related posts over the year to help me prepare for my international adventure. From top 8 reasons to attend an international conference, to hacking a professional conference, and even how to prepare for life post conference. Check them out! They’re helpful!

So now it’s my turn to add to the conference discourse on HLS. Here’s my take on some things I’ve learned as I have prepared for Prato:

Seek out funding

The great thing about graduate school is that people are legitimately jazzed when a masters student does research and gets a paper accepted to a conference. So jazzed, they have money set aside to help you get to the conference. I was extremely thankful that my department gave me a stipend that let me buy a plane ticket. You might need to ask around, but those opportunities are there and you’d be foolish not to take advantage of them.

Pack light

This is always the hardest part for me. I’ll be gone for a whole eight days and have to stop myself from packing half my closet. I’m currently in the process of selecting a few key pieces that can mix and match over the week. The probability that someone I see in Rome will later see me in Prato is pretty slim, so duplicate outfits are definitely okay. One pair of comfortable walking shoes are also a must along with a second dressy pair that I can wear throughout the conference.

Understand I’ll get nothing “productive” done

I know that when I’m packing late on Wednesday night, I’ll justify a million ways to bring all my homework with me. You’ll do work on the plane and in the evenings when the conference is over. Let’s be real real…I won’t get anything done. Instead, I have this opportunity to explore two cities, talk to a whole host of interesting people, learn a ton, and share the story of my research with a whole new crowd. The homework can wait.


I think a previous HLS post by blogger Brianna Marshall does a nice job about laying out some barriers to graduate students presenting at conferences. For me, nerves are what I’m pushing to the back of my mind as I pack. Not only nerves about navigating cities I’ve never been to before (lots of maps will be printed off and tucked into a folder in my backpack) but also nerves about sharing and discussing my research with others. I want others to think my research is valuable and take me seriously (I’m not the classic academic librarian presenting research, I’m an aspiring public librarian who loves the center she worked at and did research to help share the kids’ stories). The initial paper feedback was positive and I’m hoping with the revisions I’ve been plugging away at lots of critical discussion can happen. I hope that when I return to Illinois, I’ve got pages of discussion notes that can lead to deeper research and understanding.

Share your passion

This, to me, is my greatest lesson during this process. I ended up with this experience because I didn’t stop telling people about what I was doing. I engaged in critical conversation in the classroom and went out and applied that conversation to lived experience. Those experience and conversations eventually that led to the formalized research, writing an abstract, and finally, creating the paper. When my department had the opportunity to share research, I jumped at the chance. I spoke to many of my peers and my passion shone though. People asked questions, we talked, and those conversations led to a greater understanding of the whole picture. When you have those conversations, you have to trust in the fact that people will gravitate to you to help you keep doing what you’re doing, no matter what type of librarianship you hope to pursue.       

Well, I better get back to packing. Cross your fingers for safe travel and I hope these tips have been helpful. Anyone have any other additional tips to add? Ciao!  

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