Discussion topic: Meeting and greeting part 1: getting the most out of conferences

For the second month of the program we’re going to be focusing on how to get the most out of conferences and events.

Conferences are common in library land. Some of these are small, local events, and some are huge affairs – such as the annual conference of the American Library Association, which typically attracts in the area of 20,000 librarians. Conferences offer great opportunities for professional development, but they can also be expensive and time consuming, and may not be available to everyone. We can share what we learn at conferences with those that are not able to attend.

Some questions to ask your partner, to kick off this discussion, are:

  • Have you ever been to a library conference? Where and when was it?
  • What was the best conference you’ve ever been to? What was good about it?
  • What should we do before a conference to prepare?
  • What do you think is the best bit of a conference – the program, or the informal networking? Or something else entirely?
  • There’s a lot of information presented at conferences – how to you remember it all when you go home?
  • Are there conferences that you’ve heard about that you’d like to go to?

We’d also like you to think about non-traditional conferences. These might include unconferences or online conferences.

Unconferences started in the IT world, but are increasingly popular in library land. You can find out a bit more about what they are here. Some recent unconferences have included Cycling for Libraries in Europe, Unmeash2 Unconference in Australia, and IFLAcamp2 in Singapore.

  • Have you ever been to an unconference?
  • What was the experience like?

There are an increasing number of conferences being held online. On the 18th and 19th October there will be an online conference called Library 2.013, and the ILN Program Coordinators will be speaking about the ILN. This conference is free and ‘attended’ over the internet, allowing for people to participate from around the world.

  • Have you ever ‘attended’ an online conference?
  • What was the experience like?

Finally, we’d like to take you into the realm of fantasy:

  • If you could see a conference presentation by anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
  • Why did you choose that person?

We hope this gives you plenty of material to discuss with your partner, and we encourage you to share your views in the comments below. If you’d like to take the discussion to Twitter remember to use the hashtag #InterLibNet. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Discussion topics, General, Round 1 and tagged .


  1. One of the best conferences I’ve been to was the ALIA New Librarians Symposium, which is an Australian conference aimed at new graduate librarians. What made it so enjoyable was the attitude of delegates – more than half of the delegates had never been to a conference before, so everyone was new and excited, and it was really easy to meet new people. No one looked at you strangely if you just walked up to them and introduced yourself! It can be hard to do that at the bigger, mainstream conferences because it can feel like everyone already knows each other.

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