A unique conference – alumni, undergraduates and faculty

Every three years, my alma mater, St. Lawrence University, hosts a unique conference experience for its current and former geology majors.  Alumni return to campus while classes are in session to present research related talks, discuss career paths and network with current geology students.

I had an opportunity to attend one of these conferences when I was an undergraduate. The ability to chat with recent grads about the realities of graduate school was incredibly useful.  The opportunity to see what kinds of careers the alumni had pursued was helpful for me to answer that ever present question – what exactly can you do with a degree in geology?

As an alumna, I have a great opportunity to talk to current undergraduates about the opportunities available in librarianship/information science.  I also have a chance to catch up with some friends from college.

Some highlights of this conference:

    • The variety of talks from practicing professional geologists.  Although academic presentations still outnumbered the more practical ones, the talks given by professional geologists were engaging, interesting and very informative (perhaps more so than the academic presentations?).  I think they were very helpful for the students.
    • Giant chocolate chip cookies from the “Pub”, one of the on campus eating establishments.
    • A chance to chat briefly with the new president of the University who wrote an excellent article describing libraries as “the most dangerous building on campus“.

      Intellectual chain reactions exist in an air of danger, daring and human hazard; transforming elements of thought require the chase, the hunt, and the adventure of traversing narrow cliff-side paths and box canyons.

        • Talking to a former classmate whose old nickname was based on the beer he drank about potty training and the challenges of having a newborn baby at home.
        • The opportunity to chat with old friends and current students.  Seeing my friends is great, but it is wonderful to chat with highly intelligent and motivated young people about what they want to be when they grow up.  And I love giving advice, so that is fun too.

          This unique conference will happen again in 2013, and I’m already looking forward to it.


          “A blog of substance” meme

          John Dupuis from the excellent Confessions of a Science Librarian blog tagged me with this meme, so here’s my take on it.

          I’m supposed to “Sum up [my] blogging motivation, philosophy and experience in exactly 10 words.”  After that I need to tag 10 more blogs.  It’s like a chain letter.  I figured it would be a good exercise to sit down and think about my motivation, but I’m only going to tag a couple of blogs.

          I started this blog as I was starting back at work after a maternity leave as a way to help me make sense of my job and my place in the larger worlds of science and librarianship.  My 10-word blogging motivation would be in the form of a question:

          How do library and science communication issues apply to undergraduates?

          A lot of the conversation about science communication issues surrounds researchers at large universities, or graduate students at those same universities.  How do these issues affect undergraduates (and faculty) at a predominantly undergraduate institution?  What are the differences?  What are the similarities?  I feel like a large part of my job is to figure this out at the moment.

          I’d like to challenge some of the members of my writing group to think about the same question for their blogs – what is your blogging motivation, philosophy and experience (in exactly 10 words)?

          • e-Merging – Reflections on collaborative information literacy instruction
          • The Delicious Burden – From Milne Library’s collection development librarian

          The “undergraduate” part of a science librarian

          I keep up with my professional colleagues through blogs, listservs, twitter and social networking sites. Many of the science librarians I connect with have the advantage (or disadvantage) of being the library liaison to just one or two academic departments. As the sole science librarian at a largely undergraduate institution, I am the liaison to many academic departments:

          • Biology
          • Chemistry
          • Physics and Astronomy
          • Geological Sciences
          • Mathematics
          • Computer Science

          I can’t be an expert in everthing, and the past few years have been a learning experience. I have a masters degree in Geology, so I am the most comfortable with the subject matter in that department, but I have been doing most of my library instruction sessions in the Biology and Chemistry departments.

          In addition to learning about organic chemistry and vertebrate zoology, I am slowly learning about the culture of the various sciences.

          For example, the emaphsis on primary, peer reviewed literature is stronger in Biology than in Geology (where technical reports make up a large part of the literature). Physicists are more receptive to Open Access models of publication (as seen in the dominance of the arXiv.org preprint server) than their counterparts in Chemistry (which has strong disciplinary ties to the chemical and pharmaceutical industries). And I just read a very interesting article discussing the tendancy of Computer Scientists to publish via conference presentations more than peer reviewed publications.

          Learning about the publication cultures of the various scientific disciplines has been one of the most interesting parts of this job, and I feel as though I have only skimmed the surface.