Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Comfort Zone, Shmomfort Zone, or The Benefits of Presenting at Non-Libr* Conferences

I presented a paper at the Midwest Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association (MPCA/ACA) annual conference this year. My talk was titled   "Zombies 101: Humans vs. Zombies at a Small Academic Library," and it was part of the Libraries, Museums, and Collecting panel. The kinds of topics that were presented at that conference varied a lot, from the highly esoteric to the extremely practical. Presenters ranged from undergraduates (they have a fab undergraduate paper competition) to well established scholars. It was a bit overwhelming and intimidating at first, but overall I had an amazing time.

The best part of it, in retrospect, was stepping outside of the library science bubble/echo chamber. Yes, I was part of the library-related panel, but that was only one part of one day of a three-day conference. During the course of the entire thing, I talked to scholars who study the "Harry Potter" series, representations of disability in popular media, parenting magazines, and so on. One particularly good talk I attended was all about how the presenter uses the "Hunger Games" series to teach undergraduate teacher candidates about class and social structure. Most importantly, the MPCA/ACA annual has a mostly non-librarian audience. This gave me the opportunity to talk about what I'm doing and why libraries aren't just storehouses for books on college and university campuses to people outside of Biblioterra.

I don't know if I'll go back to that conference any time soon, since what I'm working on now doesn't quite fit topic-wise. However, there are other non-libr* presentation opportunities out there that might suit. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not advocating a complete abdication of library science related conferences. For instance, I submitted a proposal to LOEX (wish me luck!) for the 2012 conference. I'm just saying that it's worth the time and effort to move beyond libr*, especially if we want to be seen as relevant.

What do you think?


  1. Oh, I definitely think it's worth it. Like you said, we need to stay relevant. When we're out in other arenas, the value of our positions increases. I've spoken at Rotary, and this spring I'm going to be speaking at your workplace, at a lunchtime convocation in the music building. I'm really excited about getting the presentation together.

  2. Agreed. I just presented at NASAGA (North American Simulation and Gaming Association) which is mostly corporate trainers. It was a great experience and a great chance to show off the creative things we do in libraries.