The annual meeting of the South Central Chapter of the Medical Library Association is one of our biggest events of the year. We hold our advisory board meetings, exhibit, and sometimes offer continuing education. One of the highlights for us is being able to bring our Library Outreach Student Award winners with us to show them the ropes. In this three-week series, we’ve asked some of them to reflect on their experiences.
In my former life, I thought I wanted to become a music theory professor. Like any good professional, I attended music theory conferences, which were 2-day meetings with paper presentations, posters, business meetings, and luncheons. Like a true theorist, these conventions were succinct and scholarly.
When I went into the SCC/MLA conference, I had a similar set of expectations. Although there were many parallels, no amount of orientation could prepare me for the event in San Antonio! The best way, in my opinion, to describe the experience is a professional conference meets family reunion. There was even a family pet/mascot, the armadillo!
SCC/MLA was bursting with information. We discussed outreach, took Stop the Bleed training, gained in-depth knowledge about the PubMed database, attended committee meetings, and learned how primate research has helped make medical breakthroughs. This was the schedule for the first two days!
The last two days provided opportunities to hear library research through poster and paper presentations. Librarians are finding better ways to serve their communities through systematic reviews, scholarly communication, and data management. Other keynotes included timely topics like the opioid epidemic and disaster readiness with the Red Cross.
Even though SCC was an exceptional learning experience, this conference was unique because learning is sprinkled with social events. As a new member, these events felt a bit like attending a family reunion for the first time. Perhaps this is because everyone seems to know each other. Medical libraries are a niche group and SCC, SCAMeL, and the SCR/NNLM cover the same five states. Maybe the library profession in general is a friendly group. All I know is that the meeting felt a bit like family, warm and welcoming with a hint of endearing quirkiness.
There was a focus on togetherness as we ate hors d’oeuvres underneath the stars at the Alamo, snacked on popsicles during a new member reception, danced after the farewell dinner, and had a chance to show off at a karaoke fundraiser. None of my music theory conferences ever had karaoke…and we are musicians! The armadillo was also prominently displayed throughout the conference with pins you could purchase, figurines at the silent auction, and a giant talking and dancing armadillo from Oklahoma!
Compared to other professional conferences, SCC will meet expectations of research, news, education, and keynote speakers. Yet the atmosphere is different. For those librarians who are new to the medical library profession, SCC/MLA exceeds expectations as a networking experience for meeting new colleagues who are supportive of burgeoning careers. If you are truly lucky, between the social events and learning opportunities, you will meet that long-lost “cousin” you always wish you had.