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Post Conference Blues, or: What to Do With the Information You Learn at MLA

With thanks to super-tweeter Emily Hurst, I’ll be attempting to tackle the question that your supervisor probably asks every time you turn in your conference receipts for reimbursement: “So, what did you get out of MLA?” (When what they really mean is “How is our library going to benefit from MLA?”).  Margaret Henderson’s covered the deeper topic of how to run with ideas discovered at MLA, but this post will focus on the more practical steps involved. 

 Here are three recommendations for what to do after you’ve gotten back to your office (and caught up on your email, of course):

Sort through your notes and conference materials

My bag is generally full with a miscellany of papers after I get back from a conference, and sorting through the papers always helps me get back into the groove of work.  My papers usually fall into a few general categories: vendor materials, business cards, conference schedules, and meeting notes.  I decide what to recycle, and what to keep. 

These days, most of my notes and materials are actually digital: I’m a fairly active tweeter on the conference hashtag, and I use the conference app to keep track of presentations and posters that interest me.  So I make sure to go through my digital notes and download/save what I want to keep. 

Write a reflection or report to share with your patrons & colleagues

When I’m sorting through all my notes, a theme or trend usually emerges in my conference activities, some topic that really caught my attention during MLA.  This year, it was definitely activism and current events: in my second year of three as chair-elect for the Governmental Relations committee, I made sure to attend the Activism Open Forum, the Legislative & NLM Updates, and of course, NLM Director Patti Brennan’s Leiter Lecture. 

Whatever theme emerges, I try to take it and run with it, either by writing a reflection of my thoughts, or doing something as simple as creating a Storify Story that collects all the tweets, links, and materials related to the Open Forum (for those looking for more collections of tweets from MLA, check out P.F. Anderson’s Storify Account – she’s got most major events covered).

Follow up with colleagues, committees, sections, & SIGs

This is the toughest one for me – in the mid-conference high, I meet a bevy of new best friends and have the habit of recklessly volunteering myself for all sorts of commitments.  But once I’m back at work, catching up on the slew of literature requests, consultations, and instructional sessions that have piled up in the short time I was gone, it’s hard to take to the time to follow up. 

What helps me is to write out (by hand, despite my digital native nature), a list of all the meetings I went to & people I met (business cards help here), and what commitments I made in those meetings.  I have also learned that it is important to reflect on whether those activities line up with my professional interests and fit into my workload – overcommitting hurts both me and the groups that I volunteer with.  So if I find that I’ve involved myself with an activity that I just don’t have the time or energy for, now is the time to email the chair/colleague and let them know, so they can make alternate arrangements.  This allows me to give my full attention to a few projects, so I can email my contacts and ask “We talked about this at MLA – what are our next steps?  Here are my thoughts…”  Summer is usually my goal setting/project planning time of year, so this is a great opportunity for me to integrate my MLA activities into my annual goals. 

These are my three habits for curing the post-conference hangover, but I’m sure that they aren’t comprehensive, and don’t work for everyone.  What do you do after getting back from MLA?  Share in the comments!

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