On Fire: How Conferences Changed my Professional Life

Kelly Bennett —  June 17, 2013 — 4 Comments


This title is more than a little dramatic, but those of you who have the uncommon delight of meeting me in person know that this is perfectly appropriate for me. I would never have dreamed that a Circulation Assistant, without a Master’s at a Class IV library in Michigan would ever have been allowed, never mind welcomed at state-wide conferences let alone national ones. I was lucky to have been introduced to the world of library conferences by a former director who saw potential in me even though I felt under-qualified to attend, let alone present. I started out with a poster session where I honed my schmoozing skills. It was low-stress and I gained practice talking to people briefly about what I did. Then came the lone presentation at MLA. I’d built confidence and a small audience with my session and now knew the parts of my spiel that really grabbed people. My attendance wasn’t standing room only, but I drew some attention. It set me up for sharing a stage at a national conference (thanks Kevin!).

A major benefit of conferences is connecting with people. Nothing is more energizing than meeting new people who understand you, your work, your life, your challenges. Have you ever had that head-nodding moment with another library employee? You say two words, “copy machine” or “James Patterson” and you’re suddenly sharing the same head space, picturing that perfect frustration either of those phrases brings to mind. This is, at it’s most simplistic, why conferences are great. Yes, the sessions are frequently amazing, innovative, inspiring and brilliant. You come back to your town bursting with new ideas. Often, when I come back I come back bursting with experiences, they were just as likely gained from sitting in the hotel bar with one or two people as from sitting in a crammed conference room.

As managers we should take these networking opportunities when we can. But don’t forget to offer them to your staff, especially those who think they don’t qualify for such things. Who knows who will be inspired to be a department head, come up with an innovative program, present next year or even pursue their Master’s of Library Science.

Image: Flickr Creative Commons

Kelly Bennett


Kelly Bennett has worked in libraries for nearly half of her life. She is the Head of Circulation at Ferndale Public Library, where she also purchases music, curates a local music collection and runs a monthly rock concert series, First Stop Friday. She has presented on her music programming at the Michigan Library Association annual conference and at Public Library Association's national conference. Follow her @stomper4x4 and check out her blog http://780s.blogspot.com/ for more information about her concert series and music collection.

4 responses to On Fire: How Conferences Changed my Professional Life


    Thanks for the “shout out” Kelly.


    I’ve always been grateful that I was sent to a national conference when employed at a public library during my undergraduate days. It demonstrated they were committed to me and wanted to give me opportunities to explore the professional scene. When I returned from the conference I could then share the fire with co-workers. Good stuff.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Found: June 17 – 21, 2013 | Library Lost & Found - June 23, 2013

    […] got fired up about […]

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    […] provide them with networking opportunities as well. They are encouraged to attend conferences, workshops, webinars, staff in-services, and cooperative level meetings. When they go into the […]

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