Applications are open for the 2014 SLA Europe’s Early Career Conference Award (ECCA) and I would encourage all new professionals to apply. The application deadline is 14 February2014. Winners receive the opportunity to attend the annual SLA conference, one of the largest conferences for information professionals in the world (I’ve heard it described as “the Glastonbury of library conferences”; strangely accurate!) The award is extraordinarily generous, worth around $4000, and this year’s conference will be held in Vancouver. Awards are being offered with three Divisions of the SLA: Academic, Leadership & Management, and Legal.
What is the SLA?
Granted, I had never heard of the SLA before I applied for the conference award. The SLA is a U.S based professional organisation for library and information professionals working in special libraries around the world. The SLA includes many different Divisions, bringing together people who practice in a unique discipline of special librarianship (e.g., legal and academic). It is one of the largest organisations for information professionals in the world, with over 9000 members.
I was fortunate enough to receive the 2013 ECCA award, co-sponsored by the Legal Division. It was a real privilege to attend the conference in San Diego; it’s almost difficult to describe the whirlwind of the experience, but it truly was the experience of a lifetime.
The conference is humongous and provides an excellent opportunity to attend seminars and network with fellow professionals from different sectors all over the world. Each year there is an allocated conference theme and this year, the theme is Beyond Borders, reflecting the increasingly international nature of the SLA. As well as the many seminars, lectures, workshops and social events, the conference also has a large INFO-EXPO, an exhibition of the latest industry products and a place to network with vendors and other information professionals.
The Legal Division affectionately nicknames their ECCA recipient “Paddington”, in reference to the fact that the winner is allocated a mentor to “please look after this bear”. I was duly awarded a cuddly bear on arrival to keep me company (it acted as a great ice-breaker for networking!).
Seminars are varied in topic and format; in San Diego I attended a fun lecture on the “Science of Wine”; an interactive “Sharepoint speed-dating” session; and my favourite seminar, “Ninja Skills for Librarians”, whereby two law librarians demonstrated how their martial arts background lends itself to librarianship.
But the real benefit of attending the SLA conference is the networking. Through social events (my favourite being a baseball game in San Diego’s Petco Park), talks, and random encounters drinking coffee in the convention centre, the conference allows you to meet other information professionals and share ideas and experiences.
Why should I apply?
What makes the conference such a special event for a new professional to attend is the infectious enthusiasm the SLA has for its members; the organisation is passionate about supporting new professionals. The emphasis is on the support and encouragement of its fellow members, and I was constantly reminded of this.
Applicants must be within their first 5 years of post-qualification work in the LIS sector. For further details, see the application guidelines.
You can read my conference report for the SLA Legal Division here.
Post by Lauren Lawler, A&L Goodbody.