Re-CALLing Edmonton

From May 26-29, 2019, around 300 law librarians and legal information professionals flooded the dusty streets of Edmonton, AB to congregate for the 57th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries/l'Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit (CALL/ACBD).

#CALLACBD2019

#CALLACBD2019

Last year I said that last year was different for me, but this year was different. Being the face of a conference is an odd feeling. I had a pink “planning committee” ribbon dangling from my neck, an Edmonton conference logo sticker over my heart, people constantly approached me, and I kept being handed the mic! Let me tell you…that is not what my normal life is like. Despite how busy it got, this time - my fourth CALL/ACBD conference - was my absolute favourite to date.

The wonderful, smart, resilient 2019 CALL/ACBD Conference Planning Committee! Left to right: Shaunna Mireau, Josette McEachern, Kristin Hodgins, me, Julie Rainey, Katie Cuyler, Anke Eastwood, Gisele Abt.

The wonderful, smart, resilient 2019 CALL/ACBD Conference Planning Committee! Left to right: Shaunna Mireau, Josette McEachern, Kristin Hodgins, me, Julie Rainey, Katie Cuyler, Anke Eastwood, Gisele Abt.

The 2019 CALL/ACBD Conference Planning Committee - Gisele Abt (Social Committee), Katie Cuyler (Programming Committee), Anke Eastwood (Sponsorship Committee), Kristin Hodgins (Professional Development Committee Liaison), Josette McEachern (Co-Chair), Shaunna Mireau (CALL/ACBD Executive Liaison), and Julie Rainey (Communications Committee) - was a small, but resilient team. We overcame several challenges together over the last couple of years…

  • Several construction plans within downtown Edmonton were (and are) scheduled to continue until 2020 or 2021

  • CALL/ACBD’s event management company changed around the 1 year mark

  • A plenary speaker needed to be replaced in January (4-5 months before the conference)

  • Alberta’s provincial election writ was dropped in February (3 months before the conference)

    • This meant that the election communications policy hindered the participation of about half of the conference planning committee

    • We had to remove certain local sponsor logos and government employee bios and session descriptions from the conference website and program until the election period ended

    • We couldn’t advertise anything to do with provincial government programs or employees on CALL-L, In Session, the CALL/ACBD website, or social media

  • The Westin Edmonton (our conference venue booked 2 years in advance) flooded in March (2 months before the conference)

  • 1 of our social tours double-booked themselves

  • A number of flights coming in from BC were delayed within the first 2 days of the conference

  • 2 of our lightning talk speakers experienced medical setbacks during the conference

  • We were in the middle of Alberta’s fire season and there were 7 states of local emergency declared right before the conference started

The list goes on…but despite these challenges, these superstars pressed ahead made it happen. If you decide to take a ride on the emotional rollercoaster of conference planning too, curating a solid and reliable team should be a top priority. Of course, the credit for logistics and operations has to go to Taylor Green, Samantha Rosen, and Maggie Large at Redstone Agency, who run CALL/ACBD National Office and were our tag team on-site in Edmonton. Kudos to them on their ability to find us a replacement venue for our conference and all their other magical event management ways!

New Professionals SIG, represent!

New Professionals SIG, represent!

This conference was really special to me.

There were more opportunities for new professionals to connect. In addition to our New Professionals Special Interest Group (NP-SIG) business meeting, we organized 3 informal meet-ups. The first meet-up for casual dinner and drinks drew 22 new professionals at its peak. It gave those of us within the first 5-6 years of our careers to lean on one another and bond in a way that we can’t necessarily do with more established colleagues.

The conference program was more diverse and inclusive (but we can always do better). We had an equal number of men and women on our plenary speaker roster. We had 2 breakout sessions and 3 lightning talks that highlighted indigenous justice issues and work being done in that area. Our pre-conference workshop, delivered by Helen Frost, was on the Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) method of analysis, which encourages the integration of an intersectional lens into planning, decision-making processes, policies, and programs.

There were sessions that addressed topics that we have a tendency to steer away from. Kristin Hodgins bravely stepped up to the plate to facilitate an interactive session called, “Things I messed up: Stories of failure and how to lead, support and learn from failure in your organization” where colleagues shared stories of failure and their lessons learned. Dr. K. Jessica Van Vliet presented her session, “Feeling Like an Imposter? Opportunities for Improvement”, which addressed the commonality of “imposterism” and the “imposter phenomenon” faced by many of us. Judge Charles Gardner presented his session, “Indigenous Justice Issues Being Faced by the Provincial Court of Alberta”, where he spoke about the work being done and the work that needs to be done in order to decrease the over-representation of indigenous people cycling in and out of the court system in Alberta.

There were more opportunities to network throughout the conference. We opted to host a splashier Opening Reception, nix the Closing Reception, have Dine-Arounds on each day of the conference, extend refreshment breaks, and have social tours near the start and end of the conference.

There was a committee that meant something to me in both my personal and professional life. 2 years ago, Kim Nayyer founded CALL/ACBD’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization Committee (DIDC). 1 year ago, CALL/ACBD passed Resolution 2018/1 put forward by the DIDC, which acknowledged that CALL/ACBD would incorporate diversity, inclusion, and decolonization into its activities and partnerships. This year, I joined the DIDC as their Membership Development Committee Liaison and as a self-identified queer person of colour and new professional.

I’m so excited to continue my involvement with CALL/ACBD and stay in touch with my new professional colleagues until we see each other again in Hamilton for #CALLACBD2020!

Embracing Happenstance

On Monday, I had the privilege of participating in a panel for the Professional Development: Library and Information Studies Career Forum hosted jointly by the University of Alberta Career Centre and School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS).

In my presentation, I decided to steer away from simply talking about my day-to-day routines at work, and focused on what I felt students might be more concerned about - looking for employment in the field after graduating. At first, I was a bit hesitant to participate in the panel, because I knew that the other panelists would have years more of experience than me. I was reassured by the organizers that I would still have something of value to offer by speaking on my experience as a recent MLIS graduate, and I am so glad I did this.

And now, I'm going to lay out my talk here for the rest of the world to see. I hope that it will bring you some inspiration, a little "it'll all be okay" nudge, and maybe even some courage. 

I essentially covered the following 3 things to consider when job searching/hunting:

  1. Build a strong and diverse network.
  2. Develop a solid professional presence.
  3. Be brave.

To convey the applicability of those 3 things to finding gainful employment, I told the story of how I ended up with my first permanent position in the field as the Law Librarian for Emery Jamieson LLP, which I will gladly re-tell!

Back in August 2014, I completed my MLIS program and moved back to my hometown of Edmonton, AB. I was a bit wary of moving back with the economy being the way it was/is, but I was homesick, and decided that I could compensate for my decision by trying everything to find work. I sought after volunteer opportunities, even if it meant traveling a bit outside of Edmonton. I took on small contracts in the meantime so that I had some form of income. I reached out to librarians and asked them to tell me about their jobs and to give me tours of their libraries.

Then in December, my former boss from when I was a library assistant at the courthouse library told me about the Edmonton Law Libraries Association (ELLA) Christmas Mixer, where I could meet other law librarians and legal info pros. I actually have a lot of social anxiety, so I really pushed myself to go, but I am so glad that I did. At the mixer, I met a wonderful law librarian, and we chatted pretty casually, and continued so even afterwards, while traveling home. After we parted ways, I didn't expect anything to come from it, but I had already learned a lot by hearing from her.

About 2 months later, that same law librarian sent me an email saying that she knew about a firm that was seeking someone to provide consultation for library management. After expressing my strong interest, she provided me with the HR contact information for the firm, which I called up right away. After what seemed like less than a minute on the phone with HR, I scheduled an informational interview for the very next morning. When I visited the firm the next day, HR and I discussed what the needs of the firm were, and what I could possibly offer them. I felt that it had been a pretty constructive meeting, and learned a lot about corporate environments even from that conversation, so I walked away trying not to think too much of it. 1 month later, HR sent me an email requesting a meeting with the COO of the firm to discuss a job offer. It's been about 9 months now, and I'm still the solo librarian for Emery Jamieson LLP. I'm still constantly learning, but I have a much better grasp on things for certain.

I'd like to re-visit those 3 "things to consider", because these are things I did to actively better my chances in a not-so-willing job market. I'm going to elaborate on them in the same way I did for these students.

Build a strong and diverse network.

  • Think what you will about how much I preach about networking, but it is definitely something worthwhile. You might know everyone who you know, but you don't necessarily know who you know knows. I may only be in my first year in the LIS field, but I know wonderful individuals in the realms of public libraries, academic libraries, prospect research, competitive intelligence, knowledge management, and more! I even know a librarian in New York City, and another in Qatar! As it was iterated by another panelist, the library world is surprisingly small.
  • It's helpful even just to have a pep squad at hand for when you need some encouragement, support, or advice. And remember - networking does not have to be with those in your field.
  • And if you don't know where to start, start with me! 

Develop a solid professional presence.

  • Know your own resume inside and out. If there's something listed on your resume that you can't recollect or elaborate on, leave it out. Why take the chance of being asked about that one thing in an interview? Your resume should be a snapshot of you as a professional. And leave some things to mention in your cover letter and/or interview!
  • Keep a portfolio of your best work from classes, volunteer projects, and employment experiences that you can showcase. How much more convincing would it be in an interview if instead of leaving the panel to take your word for it, you gave them something tangible to take and consider? Think about policies you've written up, LibGuides you've done, instructional designs - whatever you think portrays your best professional self. 
  • Be present. Create business cards and/or a LinkedIn profile. Put yourself out there so that more people know your name. Even if you're still working towards your MLIS, just say that you're an MLIS candidate if it makes you more comfortable. A colleague of mine once told me, it's always nice when someone gives you their business card and you're able to give them something too. It helps them remember you better too!

Be BRAVE.

  • A quote by Ms. Frizzle best captivates this: "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy". 
  • Know that it's okay to fail or be rejected sometimes. Unfortunately, it's going to happen to you at some point, so be as prepared as you can be, and take everything on as a learning experience. So what if you didn't get this one! You can get the next one. You now have something to work on and improve to make sure you get something even better.

Just like I told the SLIS students, consider these 3 things, and I'm sure you'll be okay.

#SLAyingBoston

Last month, I attended the SLA Annual Conference in Boston, MA! It was my first time traveling to the US on my own, my first visit to Boston, but my second time to the SLA (last year, it was in Vancouver). I cannot express enough how gratifying and inspiring it is to attend a congregation of information professionals who share the same dreams and challenges!

2015-06-15 10.15.47.jpg

The conference badges only allowed you to have one occupation, so because I was presenting a poster for Musée Héritage Museum, and work there 3 days a week, that was what I went with. Regardless, I was able to attend sessions for each of my jobs, which were equally as informative and inspiring. 

This year, for the first time, the conference organizers held a Joint Poster Session and invited seasoned professionals, new professionals, and students alike to submit proposals based on the Be Revolutionary! theme. To my pleasant surprise, my poster on the marketing strategies used by Musée Héritage Museum was accepted! With a profound amount of support from the staff at the museum and from the rest of the Arts and Heritage Foundation of St. Albert, I was able to put together a poster that reflected how sometimes "being revolutionary" can mean using basic, grass roots strategies to draw interest. you can read more about my poster session experience on the museum blog!

SLA Poster.jpg

In the production of my poster, I utilized 2 great, free online tools! The first is Canva, a platform that allows you to make beautiful works of graphic design online at no cost! You do have the option of purchasing certain add-ons as on other similar media, but most Canva elements are available free of charge. You can use it to make anything from business cards to Facebook cover photos to menus to invitations and of course, customizable posters, down to its dimensions! After completing your design, you can choose to download it as an image file, or as a high resolution PDF. Canva is my new dear friend. My new dear addicting friend.

The second is called Spoonflower, which is actually a fabric-printing site. Did you know that you can print a poster on fabric too? Just as you would with creating your own printed fabric, you simply upload an image, and select the size and type of fabric that you would like it to be printed on. It makes for an easy, lightweight poster to travel with! Just fold it up, stick it in your suitcase, and press the creases out with an iron when you reach your destination. Who needs a poster tube?

Even though this was only my second time attending SLA, I felt so much more confident and relaxed. I already knew how to get the most out of sessions as possible, how to approach fellow professionals in the field and make connections with them, and how to effectively collect as much conference swag as possible. I went on extravagant adventures with librarians I didn't know before the Boston trip, in search of free reception food at the Westin (the primary hotel of the conference), listened to librarians rocking it out at the karaoke party, and danced the night away with librarians who just love to have a good time. 

I am still learning more and more about the field, but I am 12 months more of an information professional than I was at the last conference! I currently serve on the board of the SLA Western Canada Chapter as their Membership Chair, and because of that, I made an effort to connect with the other wonderful beings who also sit on this board, whom I had previously only heard the voices of via teleconference. It was great to match faces to names, bounce ideas off of each other over some delicious Bostonian food.

By the way, if you are in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut, please reach out to us as you belong to our chapter too! We always welcome new faces, and are constantly seeking new ideas and opportunities for our members :)

If you are on the fence about attending SLA, I would highly encourage you to take on the opportunity wholeheartedly, or even to attend any other library conference out there! Perhaps, I will see some of you in Philly next year!