The Commuter’s Guide to Library Conferences

PSLA 2014 Logo The Pennsylvania School Librarian Association (or PSLA) Annual Conference starts today, and like most years, I chose to save money by commuting to Hershey instead of renting a hotel room.  The PSLA Conference Committee already published an excellent conference tips post for attendees, all of which are excellent!  Commuting to a conference, however, has its own challenges, so here are my tips for others who live within driving distance:

1. Travel light! – I limit myself to my laptop bag and *maybe* a small purse.

Inside my laptop bag, I have: my 17″ laptop (wish it were smaller) and power cord; a small Belkin power strip/surge protector/USB charger recommended by the Daring Librarian; a USB charging cord for my phone/tablet; the PSLA-provided notebook

My purse contains more personal things: my wallet, PSLA badge, organic chai tea bags (because I’m a tea snob), phone, keys, business cards, and wrist brace.

It all packs up very nicely, and sometimes I even get it all into my laptop bag.  No matter what you carry though, keep it minimal.  Schleping it all across a convention center and around exhibits is tiring enough without a suitcase worth of gear.

2. Wear comfy clothes and shoes – Unless I’m presenting, I’m in jeans, a nice-ish top, and sneakers.  Dressing casually might seem unprofessional to some, but as an attendee, I don’t really have anything to prove or anyone to impress.  When I present on the PSLA Ereader and Ebooks Panel, I just swap the jeans for khaki pants.

3. Go paperless, if at all possible. –  I survive with just conference Wi-Fi and downloads from the PSLA Conference wiki.  I have a simple Word document for my notes, and if a handout isn’t editable, I just use to convert it to a Word document.

4. Focus on learning first, then worry about blogging/tweeting/social networking – The official hashtag is #psla14 this year, but I find I don’t have much time for tweeting or blogging when my brain is filled with so many new ideas in the short span of 3 days.  Friday is especially rigorous, so I just concentrate on learning and taking notes.  My brain absorbs like a sponge, and after a few days of processing, I’m finally ready to contribute to the library social media world.  Maybe others can listen, tweet, and think at the same time, but it just doesn’t work for me.

5. Get yourself to the Unconference. – I know it’s late, and I for one will be physically and mentally exhausted by that point, but it’s worth it.  Despite spending 13+ hours learning, thinking, writing, walking, and networking, it’s still worth it.

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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