Philip Gatzke, one of the 2010 SLA Europe Early Career Conference Award winners, has written up his experiences of this year's Annual Conference in New Orleans.
Great Conference, Great People, Great City
I must admit that I had my doubts before the conference. Meeting new people, talking a lot in a foreign language, the big size of the conference and all these things made me really nervous. However, it turned out to be an incredibly great time. The experiences I had during those days were priceless. It is not only the conference itself with its various possibilities to attend speeches and seminars but also the many social events that give you the opportunity to talk to people with the same interests but different backgrounds. Making contacts and building up relationships with other people is probably the most important benefit of this conference.
Everything was very well organised and people were always friendly and helpful. This is important for a ʻfirst timerʼ like myself because everything is so huge and there are so many possibilities to go to that you are dependent on people who guide you a little bit through the conference. Especially as one of the award winners, you have some special benefits that others do not have, such as attending free lunch and dinner parties, being publicly announced on some occasions and getting a certificate as an award winner. Besides that the conference offers lots of sessions you can go to. It never gets boring.
I attended some very interesting sessions. One of them was called 'Emerging Technologies: Real-Time Search'. Steve Arnold talked about evolving technologies such as Twitter, Facebook and other social media and how they affect information research. He presented several opportunities to look for information in the so called ʻreal-time sourcesʼ that occur due to the fast development of the Internet and the independence of the end-users.
Celebrities like the Washingtonʼs couple James Carville and Mary Matalin, and Nicholas Carr, the author of the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, were the main speakers in the opening and closing sessions. Carr gave some interesting impulses to think about an information revolution, or an information shift that affect our mental flexibility, learning skills and concentrations. He claimed that, due to the use of the Internet, our brain learned to skim over the surface of a webpage but we lose the ability to read deeply.
ʻMaking friendsʼ could also be one of the conferenceʼs titles. As I mentioned above, there are so many occasions where you can meet people from different countries or areas of information management, which is actually the real value of the conference. The librarian Geoff Walton is one of the people I met. He won the SLA Europe Information Professional Award (SLA Europe IP 2010) and talked in his session about the changing landscape in information services and information literacy. He stated that ʻInformation professionals are in a constant beta.ʼ This is exactly the point why these conferences are so important. Information professionals have to adapt their skills all the time because of new developments in the information landscape. This conference gave many opportunities to learn about new technologies or methods, to discuss theoretical aspects of the information management of the future, to exchange experience and to get inspiration for further work and your own career.
Besides the sessions, several companies had a booth in the exhibition hall were you could talk to vendors from many different sectors of the information management realm. Well, and they have sometimes nice giveaways and I could have won an iPad, unfortunately, I did not.
New Orleans was the place of the conference and is really worth it to visit. I started to fancy Jazz music after I heard so many talented musicians playing life music on the streets and in the bars. The city on the Mississippi River has a special atmosphere. There is the wonderful French Quarter, awesome food and friendly people. This city is just great and I would really love to go there again. Unfortunately, after Katrina in 2005, they have to suffer the consequences of BPʼs oil accident.
Winning the SLA Europe Early Career Award supported me the best they could. SLA Europe were very kind and helpful and arranged everything for me. I am happy and grateful that I got the opportunity to attend the SLA Conference 2010, to meet wonderful people and to visit New Orleans. It was an amazing experience. I really can encourage everybody to apply for this award or to attend one of the SLA conferences. It is really worth it!