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2019 OLA–WLA Resources & Clock Hours

Making Your Case to Attend

The following tips and tricks for making your case to attend a conference are courtesy of the American Library Association.

Making the case for time off, support, and travel and expenses to attend a conference requires a solid understanding of the potential benefits to your institution, supervisor, and colleagues. And you need to be able to communicate those benefits clearly—especially if your company is experiencing tight budgets and/or reduced staff. Use the following information to help "make your case".

Steps:

  • Familiarize yourself with the points in “Why you'll be more valuable to your library after the conference,” and read the quotes from your colleagues. 
  • Tally your potential costs, demonstrating how much you can save if you register and book travel and housing early. This sample budget worksheet might be helpful. 
  • Study any preliminary information about the program. Identify sessions, events, and programs that you believe can help you be more productive and efficient. 
  • Share any preliminary program information with your colleagues. Let those who might not be able to attend know that your attending can benefit them. Inform them of the type of information that you can bring back to help them, and which sessions you can attend on their behalf. 
  • Share program information with your supervisor. List the sessions and programs that you think will be of greatest benefit to your workplace. 
  • Review the topic-specific preconferences and institutes. Are any especially applicable to you and your workplace? 
  • Draft a plan listing how essential tasks will be handled while you're away. Include how, if necessary, technology can easily keep you accessible. 
  • Draft a plan noting that when you return to the office, you’ll share action items and fresh ideas learned at the conference  (e.g., notes from speaker presentations and discussion groups, knowledgeable vendors you spoke with, best practices, contacts you made through networking, etc.) with the rest of the staff. 
  • Inform your supervisor that you can focus on implementing one new idea that will pay back many times over the investment of time and money spent to attend. 
  • Put your request in writing. Feel free to use this sample memo and sample budget worksheet. If you need more ideas about funding, check out the helpful tips and links listed in this YALSA blog post.

Resources for First-Timers

The following tips and tricks for attending your first conference are adapted from and courtesy of the American Library Association.

The Basics

Be sure to wear your nametag to meetings, social events, and on the conference shuttle buses - but not on the street. Always carry snacks, drinks, and business cards.

  • Reference the maps provided in the conference program book to find out how best to get around town, the hotel, and exhibit floor.
  • Explore your interests - or - learn something new. 
  • Take notes during, or just after sessions, while the session content is still fresh in your mind. 
  • Take the opportunity to meet people. Pass up listening to music, social media, etc., when you could be networking.
  • Be sure to note travel time when scheduling your conference activities. Have alternate events in mind in case you don’t have time to travel from your hotel to the event, the program you intended to attend is at capacity, the event is not what you expected, or cancelled. With so many people onsite, it's ok to arrive late or leave early if necessary! 
  • Allocate enough time for the Exhibit floor; there's lots to see! But you might not want to pick up all the “swag” you see - it gets heavy. 

Network & Get Involved

  • You are not alone!  Ask questions and learn from thousands of librarians and related professionals from a myriad of backgrounds who are attending the conference with you. These individuals may currently, or in the past have, faced the same challenges as you. If so, they'll have acquired the solutions you may need. Some may also have the position you aspire to, so seek them out as a potential collaborator or mentor. 
  • See a panel guest or facilitator you respect. Don't hesitate to introduce yourself - exchange business cards or contact information. 
  • If you want to get involved in the association, a specific division, round table, and or committee, attend meetings and introduce yourself to the chairperson, director, etc. Note that it’s acceptable at times to arrive late or leave early committee meetings if necessary. 

Stay Connected, Apply & Share the Wealth

  • Make and keep connections!  Make a note on the back of business cards you receive to trigger your memory of the exchange. Send follow-up email messages to the contacts and presenters you meet. 
  • Apply your experiences. Take time to review the notes and materials you collect as soon as possible when you return home, and how you plan to use the information in your position/library. 
  • Share and discuss the new ideas you learned with your co-workers.

Additional Resources

How to Conference Like a Champ

helpful and tip-filled blog post by ALSC member Amanda Yother after her first ALA conference.

Ten Conference Tips for a First-Timer from Leigh Milligan

Based on her experience at 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Leigh Milligan wrote an article for INALJ (the I Need a Library Job eResource center) for first-time attendees like her. Read the full article.