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May 23, 2012 / Christian M.

Recognizing My Expertise

In March, I had a meeting with my academic advisor, David Shumaker. During the conversation, he remembered that he had been invited to speak on a panel for the Health and Human Services Librarians Consortium Meeting (HHSLC). Knowing my interest in health sciences, he asked if I would like to attend the meeting. Of course I said yes! He said he would check and see if that would be permissible and get back to me. Two days later he emailed me that the meeting organizers were looking for two students for the panel and asked if I would be okay with speaking. Of course I said yes (with some fear and trembling)! And that is how I received my first professional speaking invitation.

There were four panel speakers and our session was entitled “Fostering Innovation in the Library: Perspectives on Training, Engaging and Harnessing the Energy of New Library School Graduates”. We discussed the transition from library school to the workplace, and what employers can do to help make that transition successful. Panelists included me, Prof. Shumaker, my classmate Trevor Riley, and information analyst Ashley Conaway. Prof. Shumaker shared his viewpoint as an educator, Trevor and I shared our student perspective on expectations of the workplace after graduation, and Ashley shared from her experiences as a new librarian.

The Preparation

About a week-and- half before the presentation, the librarians organizing the meeting held a conference call for the panel speakers. It was an opportunity to ask the organizers any questions, share our talking points, decide on the format of the presentation (we decided no powerpoint), and just make sure we were all on the same page.

I also had a one-on-one phone call with Prof. Shumaker the next day to get some advice on how to plan my speech. Having been used to five-minute class presentations, coming up with enough content for 10-15 minutes seemed daunting. I was also nervous about repeating something another panelist said. Prof. Shumaker suggested a guideline he uses, which is that 700 words roughly equals five minutes. So for a ten minute speech, I should shoot for 1200-1500 words. He also said that even though there would be common themes among all the panelists, I should put my own spin on the topic and share personal anecdotes to illustrate my points. He encouraged me not to worry about repetition, but to focus on communicating the ideas that are most important to me.

The Presentation

The Health and Human Services Librarians Consortium is for librarians who work in agencies supporting the Department of Health and Human Services. This year’s spring meeting was held on April 12th, at the National Institutes of Health Library in Bethesda, MD. It was a full-day meeting. My presentation was one of the morning sessions. There were about 25-30 librarians present, plus the meeting was also video-conferenced to some librarians who couldn’t attend in person. Including questions & answers, our session lasted one hour, fifteen minutes and was very well received. Afterwards, many of the attendees came up to thank us and shake our hand. I was so nervous during the presentation – my voice shook a little and I was trying not to talk too fast. Either no one noticed, or no one cared. Everyone said we did a great job and that it was information that they needed to hear.

My panel was treated to lunch and we ate with a group of librarians who were attending the meeting. I really enjoyed this informal time to talk with health sciences librarians and hear about their experiences and what is going on in their libraries. I met librarians from the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Minority Health, National Institutes for Standard s and Technology and others. I didn’t know that so many of these agencies had librarians.

As guests, we were invited to attend other sessions in the meeting. After lunch, I stayed for two afternoon sessions. The first was on electronic resources management, and the second was a PubMed Update. The ERM session kind of went over my head since I have no experience with that aspect of librarianship. The PubMed session interested me though, as the presenter was sharing about changes to PubMed, which includes versioning, advanced search options, and faceted searching.



I really enjoyed this experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to network with federal health sciences librarians, but it is also the first time I felt like an expert instead of a lowly student still trying to learn everything. In his post, “You Are Now An Information Professional”, Chris Eaker shares about the importance of realizing he is no longer a beginner in library science. I can totally relate. This opportunity to speak at the HHSLC meeting helped me to realize how much I have learned, and that even though I am still a student, I have knowledge that can benefit others, and I can even teach other professionals a thing or two. I am definitely looking forward to future opportunities to speak, network, and share knowledge.


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Leave a Comment
  1. Lesley / May 23 2012 3:35 pm

    What an awesome experience for you! Congratulations! 😀

    • LibGirl09 / May 23 2012 6:48 pm

      Thanks Lesley!

  2. Evelyn N. Alfred / May 24 2012 6:37 am

    Now that you’ve done it once, will you look for opportunities to present at more conferences?

    P.S. The highly textured librarian post featuring you is live on Monday.

    • LibGirl09 / May 26 2012 1:34 pm

      Yes, I think I will. I’m interested in doing a poster presentation or another panel presentation. I just have to figure out where and what topic.

  3. Variegated Stacks / May 25 2012 2:35 pm

    Wow…it sounds like you had a lot of fun at the conference. I too can relate that I am no longer a librarian newbie. I love the beauty of this profession…first you become the student…practionner….mentor…teacher. Full circle.

    • LibGirl09 / May 26 2012 2:02 pm

      I did have fun. I am loving the librarian profession as well! 🙂

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