Five tips for the New Librarians’ Symposium first-timer

If the New Librarians’ Symposium 8 (NLS8) is the first symposium you’ve ever attended, this post is for you.

This is my third NLS. Way back in 2013, I attended NLS6 in Brisbane. Still a student at Charles Sturt, my decision to attend  was mainly due to my enthusiasm for my studies being at an all time low and NLS6 seemed like the perfect chance to learn more about the industry and see if I was on the right track. Because I self-funded my trip there was a steely determination to enjoy myself, meet people and essentially make the most of the experience.

Make a deal with yourself

At NLS6, I didn’t want to travel to Brisbane, spend my hard earned dollars, attend an exciting event and not meet anyone new. So I promised myself that I’d introduce myself to people and generally push myself to network.

My first “hello” was awkward (from my perspective), I introduced myself to someone I follow on Twitter but it was worth it. Then I thanked a speaker for an amazing keynote, literally jumping out in front of her and saying “thanks you were amazing!”.

Yes, some people at NLS8 know each other already

That’s the nature of the beast. At NLS6 it felt like everyone knew each other. Not true. A lot of people at the symposium may know each other online and are meeting for the first time IRL. Some people are there on their own and don’t know anyone at all. Some people are there with colleagues. It’s a mix.

Everyone is probably feeling a little bit anxious or nervous

Yes they are. Yes they are. Even the keynotes, committee, speakers and volunteers. Harness your nerves into energy and enthusiasm to make the most of your time in Canberra. If it helps, spend the first break observing and familiarising yourself with the NLA and then in the next session, say hello to the person sitting next to you. Just a hi and smile, nothing more (unless you strike up a conversation which is highly likely!)


Be early

This is my own way of feeling a little calmer when doing something new. I like to be early. Sometimes a little bit too early but that’s ok with me. I can sit in my car or in a quiet spot and watch people arrive and think “Oh, you go to the registration desk first and then to the XYZ”. Helps me feel a little more confident when I’m stepping into that unknown space for the first time.

Seize the day

You’ve spent the money, travelled, slept in a different bed, thought about what to wear (or not), selected comfortable shoes (wear them please! your feet will thank you), charged your device, packed your charger and your business cards.

This is your two days to meet people, learn, connect with your industry. Do as many things as you can, make a deal with yourself to meet 5 people a day, smile at the person standing next to you in line for lunch. Thank a speaker after their session and tell them what you enjoyed about it. High five a volunteer or committee member. Spend some time in the break out space and make sure you leave time to explore the NLA. You’re at the National Library of Australia!

Make the most of the symposium. Don’t go home with “I wish I…” regrets. And most importantly, enjoy yourself in whatever shape that takes.

Find me and say hello at NLS8, I’ll be wearing a white t-shirt and meeting as many people as I can!

One thought on “Five tips for the New Librarians’ Symposium first-timer”

  1. Great post Sally!

    Another tip is to propose a tweetup if you are on Twitter (set a meeting time and place, print a picture of the Twitter bird) and meet whomever turns up.
    Or a Facebook/Snap group – whatever works for you

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