APLIC Reflections: Part 1

Before another week is overtaken by other pressing priorities and slips away from me, it is about time I put my APLIC experience into words. Or at least words beyond the tweets I sent, the notes I made on my phone, the pages of my career journal and notes from a workplace report back session.

The Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference (APLIC) was an industry event put together in collaboration between the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA), and Library Association of Singapore (LAS), and was held on the Gold Coast on 30th July to 2nd August 2018. You can read more about the conference and see the papers on the website.

APLIC wasn’t the first conference had I attended, nor did I present for the first time. But there were other ‘firsts’. My reflections will follow the 3-2-1 method that was presented by the closing keynote, Dr Michael Stephens. This not only makes the reflection task easier for me, but hopefully easier to read and digest too. This method involves three sessions that amazed me, two concepts I will focus on going forward, and one idea to apply immediately (which I am pleased to report I have already completed). So, here we go.

Firstly, some ‘firsts’

I didn’t realise how much attending APLIC would mean to my career. As my experience unfolded, this surprised me because I had attended national industry conferences in the past. I had a good understanding of my limits in terms of how much I could take in over a day in terms of content and my skill in talking to people while trying to eat lunch with one hand (I’m no good at this and I’m okay with not possessing this talent. I will go eat somewhere and finish my meal before seeking out a conversation. Trust me, it’s better this way for all concerned.) I had presented internationally for the first time last year at the CILIP Conference.

So showing up and experiencing the conference, at least in my mind, shouldn’t have been a big of a deal as it turned out to be. My attendance at APLIC this year showed me my career had definitely shifted. I wasn’t a newbie anymore. I’m moving into ‘mid-career’. I had known this for a while now, but I hadn’t been confronted by it or experienced it so much as at an industry conference. And with that, I felt enormous pressure (mostly from myself).

Apart from a shared registration for a ALIA National years ago, APLIC was the first conference I attended where I had been funded by my employer. I’m a big believer in self-funding. ue thoughts like ‘How the hell am I going to make best use of someone else’s money?’ and ‘How am I going to cross off every person on my list I want and need to chat with?’

Not the first presentation, but felt a bit like it

APLIC was the first time I have co-presented and presented in a topic area I am 1) passionate about, and 2) have a reputation to know a bit about. When you’re a newbie, you don’t necessarily need to be an expert on your presentation topic. You can give your ‘fresh perspective’. Or tell a story about how you achieved something for either your career, workplace or wider community with some super cool idea or innovation. But the presentation I gave with my boss about evidence based practice was probably the most vulnerable I had felt, because in this presentation I put forward many hours of work and thinking into a few minutes about where evidence based practice needs to head if it is to progress and continue to advance our professional practice. That sh*t’s scary.

If you’re keen and haven’t seen it yet, you can go view the presentation slides and read our paper. I have also recently published an article in the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice journal about my framework for evidence based libraries.

First time chairing duties

I also chaired a session for the first time at a major industry conference. The session was straight after the first keynote that ran overtime. I had a couple of minutes to familiarise myself with the room, the chairing notes, make myself known to the AV person, chase down the speakers and negotiate when they’d like to be notified of their time. Some people want a bell at 5 minutes, some 2 minutes etc.

I managed to skip a few lines in bios and put question time at the end to save a bit of time and respect the speakers’ allocated times. There were also people coming into the room at lunchtime, so I was conscious of respecting their time too. For the most part, this worked well. The other part, well, I give this little piece of advice to future presenters – Do not argue with your chair over how much time you have for your presentation. Read the program. Prepare your presentation accordingly and respectfully. I was shocked, to say the least.

Moving into mid-career

A little bit of a side step there in my APLIC reflections. I’ve turned this into a two-part series. But I thought it was worthwhile noting one of the challenges of moving into mid-career. Conferences and other industry events can look a bit different once you have years of experience and potentially a job role that signifies you’re no longer on the bottom of the profession hierarchy. My APLIC experience certainly did to me.

My challenge this year has been how to navigate this weird place I find myself in. I’m no longer a new graduate or new to this profession. But I’m not solidly in a mid-career stage, if that makes any sense. It is like I had made steps over the last five to seven years to achieve where I am today. And now I’m here, I’m trying to figure out the steps needed to take me to the next milestone.

Attending APLIC has been one thing I have done this year that has contributed to a better understanding of this. I have also concentrated on other areas of both my professional and personal lives and have participated in a workplace mentoring program that I have found most helpful so far. However, a number of factors compete for priority at this stage of my life now, too. I’m also not in my 20s anymore. I’m a 30-something, married and with a mortgage. Life looks different.

Part 2 will cover the 3-2-1 method I mentioned earlier, I promise. I share my thoughts on the sessions that stood out to me and what I took away.

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  1. Thanks for sharing your reflectons Alisa – on APLIC and the career journey part too. The vulnerability of stepping out of the early career label possibly stops a lot of us in our tracks… I am now sitting on the Ipswich – Toowoomba shuttle and reflecting on my own trajectory…

    1. Thanks Rowena. It is comforting to know I’m not the only one that feels this way about the career shift. I’d welcome your thoughts (and any advice) when we catch up next.

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