It’s the final countdown…

First of all, you should all be incredibly grateful that I don’t know how to make songs autoplay on this post because (internet crime aside) I would be all over that. I’ll settle for infecting you with a magical, magical earworm. It will make today a little bit more epic, I promise.

So obviously I haven’t blogged much recently, despite a very huge motivation to do so – getting one of SLA’s Early Career Conference Awards and getting to go to the big conference in Boston. Which is now this week. This time next week I will be neck deep in day 2 of 3.


I am more or less materially prepared. I have business cards, and they are awesome – think Dulex colour cards – I have outfits planned, routes plotted, my hotel booked, flights booked (and seats selected!) and I’ve gone through the almost overwhelming and fantastic conference schedule and picked sessions. I’ve read and reread blog posts from past ECCAs and had meetings and discussions with my mentors, I’ve attended webinars and conference calls, I’ve even chosen my in-flight knitting. I am technically very prepared.

But what’s really kept me from blogging about this is the sort of nagging sensation that I’m genuinely just dreaming this. I’ve talked about it with friends and colleagues (oh, how I’ve talked about this, I’m so sorry, I’ll stop soon) but if I woke up tomorrow and it wasn’t happening I wouldn’t be too surprised. A lot of this is down to my current schedule, I think – thankfully with teaching being over I have a bit more time, but the week I got the news I had a massive piece of uni work due in, then I’ve had more coursework, an exam, extra hours at one job and just generally not a huge amount of time to sit down and let the news sink in. Plus at the actual moment I found out it was very late at night and even though I woke my flatmate up to tell her I’m fairly certain she had no idea what I was talking about, she was groggy and I was shrill.

So even with all my preparation and talking about this so much I’m still sleepwalking about a bit. I had a massive attack of the nerves when I found out – it’s a huge honour, obviously, and the old imposter syndrome snuck in (excellent recent post by Laura Woods on that topic here) but after that I squashed everything down into a ‘to examine later’ box and got right into the practical side of things, which I could deal with easily and which I’m really good at. I’ve even got the route to a wool shop planned and printed out to go in my travel wallet.

This week I have a lighter schedule at work and time to sit down and go ‘woah okay holy crap’ a bit. And get my final details worked out – successfully acquired a hair cut, because it was down to the small of my back and getting impossible to deal with, and I’m heading off to Muji (any excuse) tomorrow to get a travel pillow and other delightful Japanese inspired travel things that will make me feel like a proper Actual Adult. The fact that I’m taking an extra cabin bag just for things I am hoping to get in the INFO-EXPO hall (souvenir pens for all!) doesn’t diminish this, honest.

So it’s happening. It’s actually, honestly happening and I should probably sort out my ESTA sharpish. And buy some dollars.



So I’ve been ridiculously busy and it turns out that writing for another blog as well as two jobs and a degree means you use most of your brain power and have very little left for personal blogs!

And then I started on CILIP’s very shiny and new National Student Committee, and went for Chair. So now I am even busier.

Loving practically every minute of the degree, the blog and the chairing though, and I’m hoping to expand my professional activities even further with some conference attendance this year – successful bursary applications dependant!

Tips for conference first timers

I did my first bit of actual professional activity recently by attending the Rare Books and Special Collections Group’s annual study conference – this year, in Aberdeen!  My first lesson is that Aberdeen is very very far away (unless you’re also in Scotland, in which case everywhere else is very very far away instead).  For me, this meant travelling overnight on the Caledonian Sleeper from Eustion – convenient as I had an evening shift at the London Library that finished at 8pm, giving me just over an hour to get to the train.  I’ll be writing up my notes from the conference sessions in my next blog post, but here I wanted to reflect on the things I learned that I think other conference first timers might find useful.

  1. Use the hashtag. This might seem obvious for any avid or even indifferent twitter users out there, and was certainly a no brainer for me, but I got a lot more out of it that I expected, even if you don’t tweet mid session – I didn’t, as I was more than certain that I would do something spectacular with my new phone and end up blasting musicals instead.  The hashtag is great for getting other opinions on each session, for discussing sessions afterwards, and for working out where everyone is.  I had a few people recognise me from things I’d tweeted before the conference began, which was nice!  Our hashtag was #rbsgc14 which I saved as a twitter search so I didn’t have to type it out every time – your twitter app mileage may vary.
  2. Take notes – and swift photos of important slides if you’re worried about missing something. Reminder to note exactly who’s speaking and which institution they’re from in case you have any questions later – the field is a very welcoming place and a polite request to ask a few more questions will rarely be denied.  Write down anything and everything you think might be useful and remember to write up your notes as quickly as you can!
  3. Don’t be afraid – to ask questions, to speak to people (a conference badge or tote bag gives you free reign to say good morning to someone and introduce yourself!), or to volunteer for something. Especially don’t be afraid if you feel as though you won’t have anything to contribute – I’m a library assistant and I was speaking to qualified and experienced rare book librarians, but you will have something to add, even if it’s just questions!  There will always be at least one speaker who’s saying something new to everyone. Especially do not be afraid of the industrial hotel style toaster.  But do watch other people first so you don’t manage to fall in and electrocute yourself.
  4. Take every opportunity. This is definitely related to not being scared to introduce yourself to people, but look out for other things too – if people suggest the pub, go along, even if it’s just for a quick soft drink.  You’ll get to talk to people you may not have seen yet and you get to spend some time away from formal proceedings in whatever town the conference is based.  We went to a tiny pub in Old Aberdeen, which we filled to capacity (I ended up standing in front of the dartboard, but thankfully no one felt up to a game), and it was great to catch up with people I knew and to chat to people they knew.  Follow people on twitter who are using the hashtag, and try to find them in person at some point – a clearish twitter picture helps here…
  5. Make the most of it. The Rare Books conference was three very long days (including two journeys of 7 hours plus) and I’ll admit to being exhausted afterwards, but an awful lot was packed in to those days, and I learnt so much.  I really appreciated the opportunity to meet people I’d been speaking to online, to speak to people I’d met briefly before and to get my name into peoples’ minds.  This is the field I want to get into and now I feel like I’m starting to get to know my future (and alright, current) peers and possibly colleagues, depending on where I end up.

There’s nothing hugely groundbreaking here, but the key lesson I’d tell you to take away is that your first professional conference can be a scary experience but if you take a deep breath and try to experience as much as you can manage everyone will be very welcoming.

Also, if you knit, take your knitting.  Instant conversation starter.

And you should always invite the Queen to open new buildings.

Maps maps maps

Clearly the ‘blog once a week’ thing didn’t quite take hold!

I have been a very busy Sarah, though – I had a group presentation for my Collection Management module that took some organising – our peer feedback was very positive, so fingers crossed the final mark from our lecturer is just as good!  It was also my birthday yesterday, so I feel like I was allowed a bit of time off. Well, that’s my excuse anyway!

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Roaming round the Royal Academy

So this so totally counts as posting once a week, given that Sunday is part of the preceding week (shhh, yes it is) so hah, achieved a goal.

This week I learnt that trips to other libraries are not just for graduate trainees!  Which I did know, but in the back of my mind I decided that I’d not be going on any visits for a while (sob sob).

I was lucky enough to visit the Royal Academy library, across the courtyard from where I work at the Geological Society. My manager’s keen that I get to know the other libraries and staff, which makes sense since we rely on each other at times, and I’ll never say no to a visit!

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In which I try to sort my life out

I continue to be an awful blogger.  Last term was more full on than I was expecting – as I said, can’t imagine how the full timers are getting on! I also found that I didn’t really have anything to talk about – I was still settling in to my new job and working out what things are appropriate to talk about in a public forum, and came down on the side of ‘nothing, talk about nothing’.  My lectures were interesting enough but not really blog post-worthy, and after my culture-y post [which I now can see stayed in draft format… Hmm.] I wasn’t really up to much outside of work and studying, bar the never ending knitting. Though I feel the occasional post on my knitting is warranted, if only to justify the size of my yarn stash…

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