Attending national library conferences at least every few years is a must for librarians who wish to keep up with a quickly changing field. These conferences attract most if not all major vendors, publishers, and newcomers to the field of public libraries. The knowledge that can be gained and feedback given to vendors and publishers far outweighs the cost of attendance.
At a national conference, it is possible to set up appointments with vendors that your library uses. This is great for several reasons. First, if you are unsure how to use a product, the vendors are more than happy to sit with you and explain. This is their time to catch you away from your desk and live demonstrations as opposed to calls to a customer service representative are always better. Adults learn by doing, this is a prime place for that.
If new products have arrived on the market, and chances are great that they have given the massive changes in the field of librarianship over time, it is a great opportunity to take them for a spin free of charge. Many times, in order to receive your business, vendors will offer tremendous discounts for libraries who wish to try their products before committing to a long-term deal.
In addition to vendors, the publishing houses proffer their newest releases and book signings with the latest and largest authors from children to adults. This is a great time to offer feedback to authors, hear their process in creating the books they write, and gain tips to help hand sell their books in a readerís advisory transaction. It is also an opportunity to walk away with a pile of advanced reader copies, signed originals and other swag that publishers give away for free.
Besides the authors and vendors, many librarians speak from personal experience about what works and does not work in their library as part of the program. Hearing from librarians about their experiences can be a tremendous learning experience for both new and seasoned library staff looking to change up their daily routines and ways of doing business.
Lastly, one of the main benefits of attendance is the networking that happens. National conferences, at least those in the United States, are a major draw for librarians from around the nation and often around the continent. Brought together through seating arrangements, impromptu events at the conference, and hotel lobbies, many lifelong professional friendships have developed as a result of meeting a group of like-minded individuals and the synergy that develops through them.
If you have an opportunity to attend a national or even regional conference in your area, make every effort to attend. You will learn much and may even pick up a few friends along the way. Enjoy!