(The following is a blog post from Darcey Mulligan, MLIS, one of the 2019 winners of the UNYOC Professional Development Award).
As an early career librarian, my attendance at the annual MLA conference in Chicago was a whirlwind. I am so glad that I was able to attend and experience what so many others have told me about. My colleagues suggested that I attend the UNYOC conference as it would be a great chance for me to get my feet wet before attending MLA; wow were they right. The UNYOC annual meeting at Niagara-on-the-Lake was my introduction to professional conferences and was the much-needed stepping stone before heading into MLA.
I was able to take advantage of the CE class on teaching critical appraisal and it was an excellent kickoff to the conference. I learned so much about how to effectively teach critical appraisal and also what else I need to learn; which is half the battle sometimes. I am enthusiastic to put this new knowledge into practice and work it into the instructional sessions I have with students. I also made sure to take full advantage of all the opportunities available to new members. I paired up with a mentor, which is such an excellent program MLA offers. Leading up to the conference I spoke with my mentor and we met during the new member breakfast. It was an early morning, but I left with a belly full of coffee and an enthusiasm for meeting new people and learning from my peers. The speakers at the breakfast were warm, welcoming, and funny. I put into practice the words of wisdom they shared: make time to explore Chicago, move around from session to session, pace myself, and strike up conversations with strangers.
Throughout the conference I touched base with my mentor, popped in and out of sessions, talked with vendors who I had met at the UNYOC annual conference, asked questions, kept up with #medlibs twitter, pet some good boys (therapy dogs!) who help kids with reading, explored Chicago, attended vendor sponsored events, and found the plenary sessions to be exceptional ways to begin the day. Being so unsure of what to initially expect at such a large conference, I left wanting more time to see everything I wasn’t able to. I am looking forward to catching up with my MLA mentor in the upcoming weeks and keeping in touch with those I met at the conference. As a new librarian, this experience was much more than I could have expected in the best way possible.