This is the second blog post in a series authored by individuals who received scholarships to attend the 2018 Science Boot Camp held at Brandeis University on June 13-15, 2018. Please watch for more posts about this event and from scholarship recipients in the upcoming weeks. Read the first post here.
This June, I was the recipient of an early-career librarian scholarship to attend New England Science Boot Camp. I was incredibly excited to go to the original such boot camp for librarians and to reinvigorate my New England ties. Most importantly, as a new professional with lots of experience in science but not much in librarianship, I was eager to meet and connect with more seasoned science librarians who could share their wisdom and help me get up to speed as fast as possible.
My experience began with an exercise in soldering, something that I had never done before but found enjoyable nonetheless. Soon after, though, we were learning about ecology, the discipline I’d dedicated myself to in my pre-librarian days. It was great to see everyone get excited about the topics I’d geeked out to for so many years, from theoretical population models to the very practical life cycle of Lyme disease-carrying ticks just a couple of miles away. The evening talk from Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch was also great, as it touched on several important topics in scholarly communication and laid bare the incentive structures in scientific publishing. It integrated quite well with the rest of the week’s programming.
Thursday was even better, because that day I got to hear about subjects that were truly new to me. While the genetic counseling segment went into plenty of scientific detail, there was a heavy emphasis on the communication aspect of the field, which has a lot of parallels with being an effective science librarian. Just like the genetic counselors, we’re expected to discuss complex, detailed information with people who have only begun learning about the topic, so good communication skills are critical. Later, in the materials science segment, we had an enjoyable show-and-tell where we all got to handle the materials of the future. I got a real kick out of the fact that one of us broke the non-deformable wire – because of course we did. Both of the presenters carried a sense of optimism and opportunity that I found refreshing.
Perhaps the best part of boot camp was all of the interactions I had with the other attendees during breaks, meals, and evenings back at the dorm. Surprisingly, I did run into a couple of librarians I had met before at other conferences, but for the most part, I was introducing myself to people for the first time. In addition to comparing work-related notes, we had some great oddball conversations on regional flavor, family ancestry, and the relative merits of classic sci-fi and fantasy authors. I thought there was a great mix of newer and more experienced librarians there, and everyone was approachable and easygoing. I should note that despite the tight scheduling, there were still opportunities to retreat to a quiet space now and again and decompress, so boot camp was introvert-friendly.
On the final day, we had a presentation on data, and as a data librarian it made me happy that everybody got a taste of my typical responsibilities. Despite my experience in this area, my activity group ended up sifting through a dataset that was unlike what I usually work with, reinforcing the point that you simply never know what you’re going to get when it comes to the world of data. The second part of the capstone activity was all about assessing journal quality, and I found this so valuable that I’m going to be presenting a summary of that information to my colleagues at an upcoming department meeting. This fulfills one of my goals for boot camp, which was that I would have something useful to bring back to my coworkers so that they could benefit from my attendance, as well.
New England Science Boot Camp was a fantastic experience. In addition to being a valuable professional growth opportunity, it was just plain fun. I hope I can make it back for next year!
-Ali Krzton, Research Data Management Librarian and Geosciences Liaison, Auburn University
For more about this year’s Science Bootcamp resources or other upcoming events, please visit the NNLM NER website, or contact anyone in the NNLM NER office.