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!

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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!

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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!

For the Prospective Prospect Researcher

Recently, President of APRA Canada (Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement), Tracey Church came to speak to one of my classes about prospect research as an alternative career in non-traditional librarianship. She spoke to us  about ongoing education, mentorship, and other opportunities offered through APRA, as well as the basics of prospect research as the Senior Consultant of Research & Analytics for KCI (Ketchum Canada Inc.). Tracey encouraged us to engage in webinars, join APRA, get involved with not-for-profit organizations, and consider prospect research as a career option.

It reminded me of a blog post I created for the UWO SLA student group following a Skype Interview with Research Officer, Carmen Lee of the Toronto East Hospital Foundation. You can follow this link to the original post on the UWO SLA blog or read below to view it!

On Wednesday, March 12th, following our student group business, we were joined by Carmen Lee via Skype. We actually had the opportunity of meeting Carmen on our Toronto Trip at dinner during the reading break. I spoke casually with Carmen about the idea of possibly doing a Skype interview on prospect research, and it ended up happening!

In the interview, Carmen gave us some great insight into the world of prospect research - what "prospect research" actually means, what her role as a research officer entails, how prospect research fits into special librarianship, and pointers on finding employment in the field!

Carmen Lee is the Research Officer for the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation, as well as the Membership Director of the SLA Toronto Chapter. She graduated with a Master of Information degree from Toronto's iSchool, and took every single research course available in the program at the time. She also took a continuing education class called "Prospect Research for Information Professionals", which was incidentally taught by a graduate of the iSchool. Initially, in her job search, Carmen started out in an academic library setting, but had a chance to move around within the field during her practicum. She found her current position through Charity Village, a database of non-profit professional job postings in Canada, and by employing her Boolean searching skills looking for things such as "research job career", "research identification", and "research analyst". Before attending her interview, she reached out to a colleague in the field via LinkedIn to learn more about prospect research and prepare herself.

What does this tell us?

  • We need to employ the skills we attain through the Library and Information Science program outside of situations simply involving assignments and papers. Abilities such as Boolean searching can be used immensely for the purpose of a job search! 
  • We need to prepare. When going in for an interview, don't wing it. Prepare in advance so that you can present yourself as professionally and suitably as possible! Make the employer believe that you are the best fit, and you are exactly who they are looking for! 
  • We need to network. They say that connections are how you get jobs, but that doesn't translate to "inheritance". Networking means reaching out and connecting with others - even better, with professionals. Harness the networking opportunities you get from talks, conferences, socials...basically any situation that puts you in touch with professionals. Start right now and connect with Carmen Lee on LinkedIn! 
  • We need to look at the non-profit sector. Because we are continually exposed to the distinct areas of public, academic, and special libraries, many of us don't stop to consider the fact that there are jobs out there with non-profit organizations. 
    • Carmen has recommended taking a look at these three places to start: 
  1. Charity Village
  2. APRA (the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement)
  3. AFP (the Association of Fundraising Professionals)

  But, what is prospect research?

  • According to Carmen, prospect research is the act of gathering and analysing information, and presenting and interpreting the results. Prospect research can be divided into two main branches...
    1. Active research, which concerns things such as competitive intelligence.
    2. Passive research, which concerns more reference-oriented work. 

What are the responsibilities of a prospect researcher/research officer?

  • It is your job to connect the dots. Rather than simply stating things, prospect research entails strategically connecting what you find to meet your client's needs. Keeping in mind your clientele/audience, you need to mine the information and data that you collect, compile the information into a cohesive, presentable format, and as Carmen described it, "make your client look amazing"!

Are there jobs for librarians in prospect research?

  • Yes! Majority of Carmen's colleagues are librarians and hold the MLIS degree we are currently in pursuit of! 

Who are the clients of a prospect researcher/research officer?

  • The clientele will vary depending on the organization. Carmen works for the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation, so most of her clients are from the foundation board members, as well as the hospital board members. 

What are the most important questions to consider when serving a client?

  • What are they using this for? For instance, if the client is meeting with someone important, what would they need to know about that person to help meet their initiatives?
  • When do they need it by? If the time frame is shorter, the client would need key points. If there was more time to work with, more in-depth information could be useful.

What resources does a prospect researcher/research officer use?

  • Free and open sources. The Toronto East General Hospital Foundation is a non-profit organization, so Carmen's research tends to employ the use of free databases and resources, much of which can be accessed through the Toronto Public Library. 
  • Direct data collection. In addition, Carmen finds other information through  a more direct approach by consulting her colleagues. 
  • Mainly online material, with some offline. Carmen described her work as being very online-heavy and if she does conduct offline research, its purpose would be more for establishing a historical context. 
  • Social media and news. Carmen has a daily routine of looking through national news sources, and social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and RSS feeds.

If I'm interested in finding a career in prospect research, where should I start?

  • Carmen suggested consulting Prospect Research for Fundraisers: The Essential Handbook by Jennifer J. Filla and Helen E. Brown as a worthwhile read that includes important terms and definitions, as well as databases. Luckily for you, this book can be found at most public libraries!

I hope that you have found this post helpful, and explore the possibility of a non-traditional library science career in prospect research! If you have any other questions about prospect research, Carmen's contact information, along with the other SLA Toronto Chapter executive members can be found here!

Re: My Experience at #SLA2014

I have just returned from the SLA 2014 Annual Conference held in the beautiful city of Vancouver, BC from June 8-10, 2014. Perhaps it’s the post-conference adrenaline rush, but I am feeling more educated and inspired already!

Speaking of inspiration, sparked by one of the sessions I attended, below, you will see an infographic of my exciting adventures during the conference! (You, too, can make your own free infographic via Piktochart!)


Over the span of 3 days, I connected with many interesting individuals I didn't know before, attended a number of networking events, presentations, and vendor/aggregator demos, and collected a LOT of library-related “swag". For my first time to a big conference like this one hosted by SLA, I left feeling pretty accomplished.

If I learned anything at all, it came down to these 4 things:

  1. The importance and how-to of networking
  2. The need to have a broad scope and flexibility as an information professional
  3. How to create and maintain a professional presence in the Information Age
  4. How to conduct efficient and effective meetings

(Honourable Mention: How to use Twitter through practical, hands-on experience - if you follow me on Twitter @megscellany, you'll notice that majority of my Tweets were about #SLA2014.)

These are all useful things to know as an MLIS student transitioning to professional! I could make a lengthy write-up based on my notes from the conference, but I'm going to hold off until I learn even more about these topics.

To start off with #1 on my list, I am very excited to be presenting a talk on Tuesday, July 15th entitled, "How to Network (on Purpose) and Why You Should" in a series called the GRC Presents. I will be covering what I learned from the SLA Conference and other networking events and sessions, and sharing this information with my peers! I will definitely be posting a blog entry shortly following my presentation, so please look forward to that!

The GRC (Graduate Resource Centre) is the library within my faculty's building that serves mainly the graduate students of the MA/PhD (in Media Studies or Popular Music and Culture),

MAJ, MHIS, and MLIS programs at the University of Western Ontario. The GRC Presents series talks are generally held on Tuesdays, and free admission is offered to faculty, students, and staff of the Faculty of Media and Information Studies. I think that the series is a wonderful program hosted by the GRC as an opportunity for students to learn and share what they have learned!

The thing is that there are actually so many opportunities out there for you to develop yourself professionally and expand your horizons, but you just have to put the effort into finding them! Attending the SLA 2014 Annual Conference was a great addition to the final months of my MLIS program - especially when it came to networking, and I hope to possibly join everyone next year in Boston, MA! We hear very little about networking in our classes, and there just isn't enough emphasis on how important it is. I met some amazing people over the course of the 3 days, but they all had a lot to offer to me, in terms of knowledge and experience, and I hope that I was able to do the same for them. 

It's almost as if until you are immersed in a sea of people working in the field, you don't get to see even half of what is out there, beyond traditional librarian roles! I am all for libraries, but our roles as information professionals are constantly changing and evolving, and we need to be open an flexible in that way as mediators of information sharing everywhere!