While I admit that I have not gone to many library conferences, I thought I would reflect on attending my recent outing to Seattle.
Funding & Limitations
Fairly obvious, but it was important for me to know how many conferences I might be able to attend in a year. If hired as a permanent position, most librarians get a set budget for attending conferences and other events, but on contract, it’s a per-event approval process (as it tends to be at most institutions).
Based on what I heard from others, I think it is key to know what kind of policy administration usually has. I’ve heard from some that non-permanent full-time librarians get absolutely no funding, and even permanent full-time librarians sometimes have to wait 1-2 years before getting funding.
There is, of course, the choice of funding a trip yourself on your own time, but these costs can be prohibitive for new graduates or those with lesser financial means.
Choosing the Right Conferences
On a bit of a side note, I think it is also up to the individual to pick and choose what’s right for them. There are so many conferences being held all the time, it can be very difficult to choose. Being able to only choose 1-2 conferences in a year, I decided against the larger, more general conferences (such as CLA, ALA, or the provincial ones) because I felt that many of the sessions were just not relevant to my interests and position. Instead, I decided to focus on technology related conferences, namely Access and Code4Lib.
Other more local events, which only involves work time, with little or no fees and travel costs can help to supplement or be alternatives to larger events as well, especially regional versions of larger events. Once again though, depending on the policies of the organization, this might involve an individual paying their own way and using vacation time to attend.
How Can We Help?
One of the discussions I got involved with while in Seattle was, how can we help new graduates/librarians (and librarians in more restrictive positions perhaps) attend conferences?
While many conferences offer discounts on registration fees or free attendance for volunteers, registration fees are not usually that high (at least not at library conferences). Even airline tickets are fairly low cost when flying within the US (though admittedly to/from/within Canada can be quite expensive). What makes a trip prohibitive then is usually the hotel, which generally costs at least $100/night.
Then, what can be done to help with these costs?
- Scholarships: many have student scholarships, which is great, but maybe they can be opened up or a couple can be made for those in need (who are not necessarily students) – it was the only reason I could attend Code4Lib this year
- Roomshare/Rideshare: while we had this at Code4Lib, I’m not sure how well it was advertised (but then I got in late in the game). Maybe if it was advertised on the main webpage or somewhere in the registration process, a list of people willing to share can be generated.
- Hostel Room: Similarly, facilitate a way for a group to get a hostel room together (while they might still be strangers, personally, I would not mind so much with fellow conference attendees as opposed to complete, possibly unfriendly strangers).
- Ask Locals to Offer a Couch/Floor/etc.: I admit that this would be probably difficult for large conferences, but if locals could offer a place to sleep to those in need, I think it would be a great way to encourage new folks to attend. (Organizers can consider writing a simple guideline, such as only if a person doesn’t have any funding sources to attend.)
I’d love to hear other ideas, which might be passed on to conference organizers, especially for Code4Lib 2013.