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Making New Connections: Librarians Meetup at ISSOTL 2017

If one theme stood out during the 2017 conference, is was the idea of “community.” However you identify with SoTL, the discipline’s mission and philosophy encourages community interaction, collaboration, and the exchanging of ideas.  This blog post is an account and reflection on how a group of  librarians found their community during the 2017 conference.

As a newcomer to ISSOTL, Erik Christiansen – a Librarian at Mount Royal University – was both excited and unsure what he’d find at the conference. He knew two things: on Thursday October, 12th he had a poster to present, and several librarians he’d never met, from around the world, were joining him in the exhibit hall for a meetup later that evening.

In the days prior to the conference, his colleague Margy MacMillan had introduced a handful of SoTL librarians to each other through an email introduction. The plan was for all these like-minded librarians to meetup and go for drinks. In hindsight, it made for a great social experiment. During the conference, a few of the librarians had bumped into each other at workshops and sessions. The email list grew and became more diverse. By Thursday evening, eight librarians showed up in the exhibit hall and awkwardly tried to make a plan. After some deliberation, the group decided to walk down Stephen Avenue in search for food and drinks.

While there was a brief awkwardness (as is often the case when meeting new people), the group quickly found common ground. The librarians had not walked 100 feet down the road, and already they were exchanging ideas and laughing. They quickly settled on a local pub, ordered drinks, and did a round of introductions.

What emerged from the meetup was quite remarkable. Two hours of rich conversation occurred – covering a wide range of academic topics such as how information literacy intersects with SoTL, alternative publishing methods, experiences during PhD programs, and perceptions of librarians as teachers. They also covered not so academic topics like: the Swedish pronunciation of phenomenology, the precise definitions of “Midwest” and “Eastern Canada,” the prevalence of hockey in Sweden and North America, white gravy vs. brown gravy, and the “Canadianness” of poutine.

This meeting inspired us to work together, think more deeply about librarianship as a field situated within higher education, and to confirm our beliefs that we are teachers. One thing that stood out to us was the common threads that united our conference experience. While academic librarians were a minority at ISSOTL, our shared presence bolstered us and made us feel more at home. We were able to look out for friendly faces during different conference sessions, and had ready colleagues with which to share ideas and discuss how we could take content back to our institutions. A few of us even brainstormed ideas for future conference proposals. Erik started a Google Doc, and the ideas have been flowing ever since.

We’re sharing this post not to talk about how great librarians are (because, well, hopefully everyone at ISSOTL knows that already!) but as a testimonial for the necessity of community, particularly at a large academic conference. While we made plenty of friends and new connections outside of our library community, nothing beats having a group that uniquely understands where your work is placed in a larger higher ed context.

The ISSOTL 2017 Librarian Group (list names and country + state of origin below)

  • Erik Christiansen — Canada, Calgary, Alberta

  • Claes Dahlqvist — Sweden, Kristianstad

  • Alex Deeke– United States, Ann Arbor, Michigan

  • Lauren Hays — United States, Olathe, Kansas

  • Melissa Mallon — United States, Nashville, Tennessee

  • Kari Weaver — Canada, Waterloo, Ontario

  • Asako Yoshida — Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Post correspondence: Erik Christiansen, Mount Royal University, Calgary (

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