UNYOC Professional Development Award Blog Post – Suzanne McCormack

UNYOC Professional Development Award winner Suzanne McCormack talks about her experience at the CHLA/ABSC 2018 in St. John’s, Newfoundland below.

Introverts of the world, unite!

or, go off and do your own thing…

Thanks to UNYOC’s professional development award, I was able to attend my first-ever library conference, CHLA/ABSC 2018 in St. John’s, Newfoundland. As a first-timer, I didn’t know what to expect – or what to wear, who I would talk to, or what to do once I got to the conference — but I was concerned about being expected to be “on” and around people for a whole weekend.

Although there are many different definitions of the concept of “introvert”, and the MeSH scope note defines introversion as “a state in which attention is largely directed inward upon one’s self”, a more common definition (at least, by introverts) might be that introverts “are people who find other people tiring”. (Rauch 2003)

If you’re an introvert and even the thought of attending a conference makes you exhausted, I’ve prepared a battle plan. Feel free to borrow it.

It’s based on 3 strategic paths:




Plan: Preparation is key. Look over the program and, decide which sessions are of interest to you. It’s easy to get overwhelmed once you’re there and in the middle of a big group of people. Mentally (or physically) block off down time in your schedule during the day. Go outside or go somewhere else on your own and just take a moment. Or more.

Stay: Consider staying off-site. I rented an Airbnb about a 10 min walk away from the conference hotel. It gave me a bit of time in the morning to mentally prepare for the day, and a bit of compression time at the end. Physically walking away from the conference at the end of the day was a welcome break for my brain and body. Knowing I would have 10 hours without having to see or talk to anyone was something I desperately needed some days.

The commute was good exercise!

Leave: You don’t have to go with the (literal) flow: I took advantage of a long coffee break to check out the posters while the room was empty. The exhibit hall/snack central was crazy crowded, but the poster room was pleasantly quiet, tucked away around the corner.

Go to the receptions and networking events, but know you don’t have to stay until the end! I use advice I’ve taken from Quiet by Susan Cain, for my daughter (who’s even more of an introvert than me!). If you arrive on the earlier side to an event (before it gets really crowded, but not so you’re the first one there), it can be easier, because there are fewer people in the room when you arrive. Walking into a crowded, noisy space can be difficult for a lot of people. If you’re there early, it almost feels as though people are coming into *your* space. And when you’re done, you can graciously leave (or just disappear) when you need to.

It’s ok. We’re all adults here.

The opening reception of CHLA/ABSC 2018 was at The Rooms, a beautiful archive/museum/art gallery. It was loud (from a great local band) and crowded. I took a break and went through the gallery and an A-Z of Newfoundland display, giving myself time to regain a bit of energy. I wandered around the city after the reception and enjoyed the view and being by myself (full disclosure: when I say wandered, it was more like “walked 10 blocks in the wrong direction so then had to walk back”).

I walked up Signal Hill between an afternoon session and a fish and chip dinner.

I went to the breakfast AGM [really interesting Keynote], a session of lightning talks [fantastic], manned the CHLA/ABSC 2019 booth for an hour [come to CHLA in Ottawa – June 2019!], and listened to a panel discussion [very well done, but now I’m a bit concerned about the rise of the machines].

That was all in one day. So I went hiking while everyone else was at the closing banquet, and watched the sun set over the rocks and waves.

And I was able to breathe.

Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon.

~Robert Fulghum. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Those times alone, in the morning, afternoon, or evening — whenever I could squeeze them in… they were my nap.

CHLA/ABSC 2018 was a fantastic conference and I’m very grateful I was able to attend. I felt like I learned a ton of new things about medical librarianship and searching. It was (professionally) energizing being around so many people who think about things that are related to what I’ve been studying for the last four years, and to see where they take some of their ideas.

I also really enjoyed being able to attend a conference before I help organize one [come to CHLA/ABSC in Ottawa — June 2019!]. And St. John’s was beautiful — the colourful houses! the hilly, hilly streets! the view!

Some days the view was better than others
The hills and colourful houses!

thanks again, UNYOC!


Rauch,J. (March 2003).  Caring for your Introvert. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/302696/

Cain,S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York: Crown Publishers.