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BIALL Conference 2010: General reflections

Last week I attended the BIALL annual conference in Brighton. I will be writing up some of the sessions I attended over the next week or so. Probably not all of them – I’m a little short on time! – but I will write about the ones I found most useful/interesting. In the meantime, I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts on the conference overall, while it is still fresh in my memory.

Although this wasn’t my first library conference – I attended several last year – it was my first conference as a New Professional, not a student. It was also my first time attending a conference specifically about law librarianship. I really feel like I got a lot out of it – certainly far more than I would have done had I attended this time last year. I’m sure the conference would still have been useful to me as a student, but much of it would have gone straight over my head (in fact, some of it still did!). Having worked in a law firm for almost exactly a year (I think it’ll be a year next week) gave me a much better base level of knowledge to work with, so the presentations meant more to me. I’m really glad I had the opportunity this year – and many thanks to Sweet & Maxwell for the bursary that allowed me to attend 🙂

My second observation – BIALL are a really friendly crowd! I knew a few people who were going beforehand, but not many, so I was a bit nervous about turfing up on my own and having to make conversation with a bunch of strangers, but it was actually really easy to get chatting to people. It helped that BIALL organise a “buddy scheme” for first time attendees, which I signed up to – basically they pair you up with someone else who’s attending for the first time, so you’re not just thrown in on your own. It also helped that there were a lot of Twitterers going to the conference. Although I’d met very few of them in person before, having chatted online it was easier to start talking to people. Before the conference a few people had suggested printing off your Twitter avatar to stick to your name badge (apologies, I can’t remember who actually came up with that idea!) – I did this, and it really helped in identifying people I knew from Twitter.

The final point I wanted to make was, never underestimate the importance of free WiFi at a conference! The conference centre were charging a substantial amount for WiFi, and I wasn’t lucky enough to stay in a hotel that provided free WiFi, so that severely limited the amount of Tweeting I could do. I do have a smartphone, so could have used 3G, but that really drains my battery! There were also a lot of people who didn’t have smartphones, but had brought laptops and netbooks with them to use in the conference centre, but were unwilling to pay the amount the conference centre were asking for WiFi access. As a result, although there was a conference hashtag which had been publicised beforehand, there was very little usage of it. I really thought that was a shame – I’ve got used to seeing high volumes of Tweets from library events, so it was odd not to be able to share the conference proceedings in real time. That’s something I think the BIALL conference committee should perhaps look at for the next conference.

Watch this space for more comment on the individual sessions!

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7 comments on “BIALL Conference 2010: General reflections

  1. Laura – thanks for the post, really interesting to hear your thoughts about the BIALL Conference. Did you also complete the online questionnaire? My main bugbear about the BIALL Conference this year was the lack of free WiFI, granted I didn’t have a laptop this year but for those people who did it would have been useful to have free WiFI or at least WiFI offered at a reduced price. Certainly something for the BIALL Conference committee to consider next year at Newcastle. I’m glad you think BIALL are a friendly crowd I wholeheartedly agree with me I’m happy to say that many of my best friends are from the BIALL community. On this basis can we expect to see you at Newcastle next year?

    • Yeah, I did the online questionnaire yesterday – think I commented about the lack of WiFi on there too!

      I certainly hope to be at Newcastle next year, budget allowing 🙂

  2. I brought my netbook to use in the Umi Hotel where I was staying but the free wi-fi wasn’t working there. Big shame!

    Many thanks for lending your photographic skills to BIALL Laura. Much appreciated. By the way if there any bad ones of me could you please delete them.

    Ta.

    Jackie

  3. Ooh, think I’ll nick the idea of printing off my Twitter avatar for the conference badge – excellent!

    Going to a lib tech conference last week where wifi will be £27 for the whole event or £10 a day, which is irritating, though the conference itself is reasonably priced and I know the organising committee did try to get it included. Don’t understand in this day and age why so many hotels still don’t include free wifi in their room prices.

    • I know what you mean – I guess many hotels still think of it as an optional extra, whereas I see WiFi as a pretty essential part of the accommodation. Especially if I’m travelling for conferences or other work-related stuff!

  4. I was fully expecting to be able to follow the BIALL conference on Twitter so I was surprised by the relative silence. It felt quite odd, actually, having been used to seeing a flurry of activity around specific events, to see practically nothing anywhere (except people saying ‘wifi is expensive!’).

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