Spring had come to Athens when a few dozen intrepid business librarians convened for the first-ever Southern Academic Business Librarians Conference (SOUCABL, pronounced “sociable”) on the last weekend in March.
SOUCABL was intended to be ‘an affordable opportunity for librarians to discuss business librarianship and to network with other librarians in the region,’ in my opinion the conference did just that.
I attended the pre-conference workshop on Friday afternoon with Celia Ross, author of the book Making Sense of Business Reference (AKA the business reference bible). It was a condensed version of her popular RUSA course. Celia asked us to rate ourselves in regards to “how ‘spicy’ we can handle bizref? (Mild, Medium, Hot, or On Fire)” Most of us labeled ourselves a variation on medium, however, after several hours together working through some tough ‘bizref stumpers’, I suspect we underrated ourselves. Also of interest was the opportunity to play around in a lot of databases thanks to Celia setting up temporary trials for us!
It was a jam-packed Saturday.
The conference had a great start with the keynote presentation by Susan Klopper, the Executive Director of Goizueta Business Library at Emory University. She went over the qualities and competencies she looks for when hiring business librarians. Though I have just somewhat recently just made it out of the hunger games of the librarian job search, this keynote’s content was still useful.
Klopper cut straight to the point about makes business librarians unique and how one can continue to grow these competencies, whether new in your position or more seasoned (sticking with Celia’s spicy metaphor here). Her suggestion to consider yourself as a business, was seemingly key to her main point of ‘talk the talk and walk the walk’ of a true business librarian. In this sense, Klopper stated that a business librarian should consider their competitors and customers, differentiate their services, negotiate their time strategically, and build clients for life. She highlighted the importance of knowing your value proposition, as well as figuring out what you love and then putting yourself out there. Kopper challenged us: “what kind of librarian do you want to be?” Her talk reiterated that we all can develop, define, and refine who we are today and grow into who we want to be tomorrow.
With Klopper’s motivation, it was easy for the group to transition into a competency brainstorming session after the keynote. During this session, we partnered up and discussed what competencies we were already strong with and of those competencies, which one would we want to develop. We then considered how we would develop that competency.
This realistic approach to improve on our strengths was practical and felt achievable, like I could go back to my office immediately and get to work! The encouragement from Trip Wycoff to actually pursue our development plan by keeping our partner accountable with the end goal of presenting together next year at SOUCABL was priceless. His suggestion helped collaborators move past just temporarily collaborating in the moment and instead paved the way to building lasting partnerships with each other.
Overall the conference was a great experience for me, the content really hit the spot and networking-wise it could not have been a better, more enjoyable group of people to get on with. Aside from BLINC meetings, I’ve never attended a full conference where every session felt so directly related to my work. This conference was more than worth its price tag and only a short distance from North Carolina. I look forward to going back and ideally presenting with librarians I made connections with this past year.