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James M. Matarazzo Student Stipend Award Winner Kelly Potter Reflects on SLA's 2019 Annual Conference

By Dana Eckstein Berkowitz posted 07-24-2019 13:30


In April, I was awarded the James M. Matarazzo Student Stipend Award to attend the 2019 SLA Annual Conference in Cleveland. SLA 2019 President, Hal Kirkwood and I shared something in common. Cleveland is our hometown; we were happy to be there and it certainly does rock (they had live music playing before and after select sessions). Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Christmas Story house and much more.  I do not have the same affinity of the Cleveland Browns as Kirkwood, which he proudly stated in his opening speech on Sunday, June 16th. I am more of a Cleveland Indians fan myself.

Cleveland Conference Center

            As a first-timer and recent graduate of Simmons University, going to the 2019 SLA Conference was exciting, nerve racking, and educational.  I was able to talk to professionals, see old friends and Simmons alumni, and attend sessions on topics that I was not able to take classes on. When registering for SLA, you can add on events to enrich your experience. Some of these events included a trip to the Cleveland Natural History Museum, the Cleveland Public Library, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

There was one museum that caught my eye. As a Cleveland native, I have never heard of the International Women’s Air & Space Museum. This museum is located at the Burke Lakefront Airport and is free and open to the public. Attending this tour allowed me to have a shared experience and discussion with other professionals. We learn about women who contributed to aviation and aerospace while seeing actual airplanes built by women. Some of items on display was Amelia Earhart’s scarf and the first drink dispenser used in space.

Harriet Quimby Display

Enough about my hometown and museums. The SLA 2019 Conference was what I expected it to be and more. Everybody I had contact with was pleasant and wanted to know who I was and where I was working. They were interested in learning how SLA can attract more students and why there was a lack of participation. These topics were also touched upon during Monday’s general session with Hal Kirkwood and iSchool leaders, Kendra Albright, Jon Gant, and Sandra Hirsh. They talked about the future of where our profession was going and this echoed Kirkwood’s remarks about how SLA is changing. He was very transparent and told members how their voices have been heard and what they are doing to fix the problems within SLA.

I was prepared and yet unprepared when attending the conference. I wore comfortable shoes and I brought extra layers in case I was cold. I did however forget to bring my business cards and a notebook. Thankfully, the Main Street vendors was able to provide me with a notebook. Business cards on the other hand, well I’ll remember for next time.  There were many educational sessions to choose from and it was hard to pick just one. The SLA Conference app helped me to decide as well as talking to other professionals. Some sessions in the app listed their slides which allowed me to view them before attending. As a first-timer, I would recommend reading the bios of the speakers.

Main Street Vendors

One of the best pieces of advice I received was to try out new sessions that you would never normally go to. I took this advice and attended the Business & Finance Division CUBL’s Breakfast and Roundtable discussion. As the SLA Secretary for SLA@Simmons, I was not aware of different divisions in the SLA except for being divided regionally. It was interesting to hear the issues of a business librarian and I was able to participate in the discussion. I would like to say thank you to the Business & Finance Division for allowing me to crash and eat their wonderful breakfast. I would also like to thank SLA New England for this wonderful opportunity. The 2019 SLA Conference certainly rocked and I hope to see you in Charlotte!

— Kelly Potter