Sunday, 4 September 2011

23 Things for Professional Development: Thing #15

So, on to events then. Before I started in my role as Repository Manager, I didn't really attend that many events. It was only really the big ones that held any interest, and usually on more of a general level. These days, I always seem to be getting ready to attend an event of one kind or another...

I guess it's the nature of the job I now do. Repository staff are, generally, fairly isolated within their universities. I'm lucky in that there are now two of us working on the UWE Research Repository, but for a year or  so it was really just me. So attending events is one of the best ways (along with mailing lists, blogs and all the other social media out there) to get to hear what other repository staff are thinking about, and doing. And it's often the only way to get to talk to them face-to-face. I almost always come away from these events with new ideas, motivation - and the sense that I'm not the only one experiencing this, which is a very nice feeling! I'm lucky that my organisation is very pro staff-development, and rarely says no to me when I request to attend an event. I'm also lucky that many of the events put on for repository staff are free, so all that needs to be paid for are the transport costs.

Of course, repository events aren't the only ones I attend. Other events I attend are often ones arranged by a really greatm pro-active local group called AULIC (Avon Libraries in Cooperation). These events mean I get to learn about other types of libraries and things going on out there. After all, working with repositories all day can result in something of a one-track mind!

I think my best advice when attending conferences would be to go in with an open mind. I've attended conferences because my boss has told me to, believing them to be of little use. Then it turns out they've been very, very useful. Conversely some that have sounded perfect have had little in them to keep me interested. Obviously you need to assess how useful you think an event will be before you decide whether or not to attend it, but once you've decided it's worthwhile (or someone's decided it's worthwhile for you), give it a chance. Don't write it off before you arrive! Other than that, try and talk to somebody. When I first started attending conferences I found this really, really hard. I've gotten better at it, but it does take guts to go over and introduce yourself to a random stranger. Commenting on the weather/ tea/ biscuits is perfectly acceptable, and chances are the person you've just approached will be very grateful that you did, as they're not talking to anybody either.

I've not yet spoken at a conference, and I have to say that I find the prospect pretty daunting. I still feel that there a lot of people who know much more than I do about the topics at the conferences I attend, so I still have a lot to learn. Having said that, if/ when I get involved in a project that other people want to know more about, I'd be happy to speak at a conference and share what I'd learnt. Basically, I'll speak at a conference when I feel I have something worth sharing.

I am, however, slowly getting involved in organising events. They've all been small-scale enough not to give me too many sleepless nights - basically they've just involved sorting out events running at my university. Earlier this year I helped to organise a CILIP Chartership event, and it wasn't actually too tough. This was probably because I wasn't involved in preparing the actual event. My role was purely a logistical one, for example I booked the rooms and car parking spaces etc. This was quite a nice way to ease myself into the world of event organising. I'm now in the process of organising an Open Access Week event for the end of October. This will be somewhat more involved, as (along with the rest of my team) I'm going to be arranging speakers etc. for it. I won't be presenting, but I will be running around a lot I imagine. It will be a fairly small-scale lunchtime event, just for researchers and staff at the university, so will, I hope, be another good way to ease myself into the world of event organisation.

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