Written by Chad Hutchens, E-Resources Librarian, University of Wyoming Libraries
The Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference has something to offer every librarian, no matter your area of emphasis or time in the profession. From point of content delivery to the back-end management of electronic and digital resources, ER&L offers a variety of presentations, pre-conferences, and engaging keynote sessions at a very affordable price. Having attended and presented at ER&L a few times, here are some ideas about how to get the most out of this year’s conference in Austin.
ER&L is a very accessible conference and although attendance has grown every year, it is a small to medium-sized conference by many standards. Most events are held in the AT&T Conference Center on the University of Texas at Austin’s campus meaning you won’t be pressed for time running from one session to the next. Like most conferences, ER&L offers concurrent sessions and sometimes it’s hard to decide which presentation to attend. The preliminary ER&L 2014 conference program is available now, but please be aware that times and locations have yet to be determined. Presentations at ER&L fall into different “Tracks” according to topic. If you’re interested in one or two areas primarily, you can easily look at what sessions are offered in those areas by looking at the track (they’re color coded in the printed conference program too). ER&L has always offered a USB drive pre-loaded with presentation content for attendees at registration. Don’t have a laptop to bring? No problem, there are fully networked computers at the venue for use by attendees. If you’re having a hard time deciding what to attend, you can get a better look at what will be covered in most sessions with the pre-loaded content. If you’re absolutely torn on which concurrent session to attend, keep in mind that ER&L records many of the sessions so you can view them later on the web if you wish. In fact, for the first time, ER&L will be offering an online conference option whether you attend the conference in Austin or not.
Speaking of laptops and other mobile devices, if you follow anything on Twitter and are connected while you’re at ER&L (yes, the AT&T Conference Center has great wireless connectivity), keep an eye on ER&L’s Twitter handle, “erandl.” During the conference, attendees frequently post about something they saw or heard at a session, will link to outside information, and there are sometimes enlightening debates going on there!
If you’re keen on impromptu or more informal discussions, be sure to attend the Roundtables and Lightning Talks. Usually offered on different days, both of these sessions offer an opportunity to engage in very informal discussions with colleagues about whatever you (and everyone else in the room) may want to talk about. These tend to be very candid discussions and are great opportunities to ask questions about something that may not be covered during the formal presentation sessions.
Lastly, as a smaller conference, ER&L offers a lot of opportunities to meet with and talk to people you may already know, but haven’t met, or just people you’ve never met at all. If you can make it to Austin in time, go to the Welcome Reception; it’s the first opportunity to meet with colleagues in an informal setting and is also a great way to get the ball rolling. The Vendor Reception offers a similar opportunity on a different day. Both are great networking opportunities as well. Don’t be bashful and don’t worry about staring at someone’s badge to find out who they are…most of the time others are just as curious about where you work and who you are too! Ask questions during the Q&A periods of presentations…chances are, someone else has the same question.
If you found something you really enjoyed at last year’s conference in Austin, think of something that you wish you had known before you arrived last year, or if it’s something that you just can’t keep to yourself, please tweet those ideas…again the conference’s Twitter handle is “erandl” (http://twitter.com/erandl) and that will show up on the conference’s home page for everyone to see.