UNT Student Shares Insight & Lessons Learned from her First TLA Conference
Qwame Nelloms is a student in the Master of Library Science (MLS) program. She is a school librarian, and attended the Texas Library Association (TLA) conference for the first time this year in Austin, TX, an experience that she says is a “necessary experience for all library students during their career development.” Qwame shares with us her perceptions, lessons learned, and the details of her experience at her first TLA conference below. (First posted on informationscience.unt.edu; re-posted with permission)
The wonder of TLA was phenomenal and completely changed my perception of possible professional career options. As a distant learning student, I felt that there seemed to be difficulty truly connecting with members of my cohort. I am a school librarian and was under the incorrect notion that I was limited to remaining at the same level. I did not know which direction to pursue, what career options were available to me, or how to pursue those options. However, this week of TLA participation has kindled a fire within me of possible career interests. All of the sessions attended were educational and provided me with the information I did not know I was missing. At the conference, I had the ability to speak with people whose careers are rooted in a multitude of different experiences and expertise. TLA, in my opinion, is a necessary experience for all library students during career development.
During the TLA conference, my understanding of school, public and special library divisions became much clearer. Each session was typically focused on one sector, and attended by many veteran librarians invested in related segments of the market. I was given rare opportunities to build relationships and absorb priceless advice from experienced information professionals. Session attendance and participation resulted in invaluable feedback and differentiated points of view. Benefits, concerns and opportunities within each division were made clear, and provided me with access to little known resources and contacts.
As a first-time participant, the extent of diversity in activities was quite overwhelming. Being connected to my educational institution by communicating with professors and cohort members gave a foundation and starting point. The ability to network and being open to direction was vital to my conference involvement. While being an online student has been an amazing experience, seeing the faces of peers and professors magnified the excitement of future career goals and expectations. Although I have been told multiple times during my graduate program that getting connected is important, I truly did not understand how much of a difference being relatable and personable makes.
As my graduation date nears, networking was a great concern of mine, however, I was able to connect to many professionals during the conference. However, it has become clear to me that conference networking is only part of the journey. I have made plans to volunteer in various environments to gain hands-on experience. Simply meeting a person will not allow a clear enough picture of what a job requires. You must be put into real-life situations to ensure that you have the ability to achieve your goal.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my first TLA annual conference. It was enlightening and changed my thoughts on many library science issues. I would suggest that every student beginning their journey in library science attend a TLA conference as soon as possible. It is well worth the time and money invested to receive a clearer picture of which direction your career will go.
About Qwame Nelloms
Qwame Nelloms is a student in the Master of Library Science (MLS) program, and will graduate in August 2019. Her future goals include completing a doctoral degree in Information Science and continuing to build her career as an Information Science professional.
Qwame’s career began in 2008, teaching 7th and 8th grade social studies in Aldine ISD. This developed a love of learning deep within her soul. However, after her fifth year, she began to dream of leaving the classroom and finding passion within her established career. Since she is an avid reader, she considered the school librarian position as a great job and something different. She randomly took an MLIS class and has never looked back. After completing the mandatory 12 credit hours, she found ‘ONE’ school library position posted. The rest is history and she “cannot imagine working in another field.”
Qwame now works in a school library as she completes the coursework for her Master’s. During her first TLA conference she did not let any opportunities slip away, and became a member of TLA’s Black Caucus Round Table (BCRT), Government Documents Round Table (GoDort) and Special Library Division Round Table (SLDRT).