When I first saw OCULA’s call for student Lightning Strikes talks, I purposefully thought very little about the consequences of submitting a proposal despite never having presented at a conference before. Just do it! was my brain’s way of convincing itself that this was a good idea. What better way to try my hand at public speaking than a very short presentation based on a school project I had already completed?
Of course, it is easier to sign up for a vague future commitment than it is to deliver on that promise. For me, the real difficulty of the talk lay in paring down the ideas from a lengthy research paper into a 10-minute presentation, in a way that provided the context of my original work while retaining value for working professionals. I can probably speak for many of my fellow presenters in saying that the weeks leading up to the OLA Super Conference were full of nerves, hasty re-writes, and a few second guesses. But after weeks of preparation, the reality on the day of the event was the same: we had to just do it. And I’m so glad we did!
My Lightning Strikes talk was titled Books for Lazy People? The Place of Audiobooks in Academic Libraries. Inspired by a class project from the previous semester, my presentation discussed how stereotypes about audiobooks affect their presence on library shelves, and especially how and why many academic libraries have been reluctant to adopt them as a major part of their collections. I also highlighted the ways in which academic library websites tend to reinforce audiobook stereotypes by consistently associating them with leisure reading and disability.
Whittling that project down into 10 minutes was a bit of a struggle. But it all ended up being more than worth it! Not only did I get the chance to practice my presentation skills, but I also had the opportunity to meet and interact with so many different students and professionals from across Ontario. My fellow presenters were so fantastically brave and supportive of each other that it was impossible not to be inspired. I came away from each of their talks with a heightened enthusiasm for thinking critically and creatively as I begin my career in the profession.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to attend OCULA events—the Annual General Meeting and dinner. Although I had attended OLA the previous year, I had been hesitant to participate in much beyond signing up for a volunteer shift. The Lightning Strikes event provided an easy way to go beyond that level of engagement, through a specific goal and an invitation to networking events that I would otherwise certainly have missed. The OCULA AGM was particularly interesting because it featured several interesting projects and initiatives currently undertaken by members of the association. Hearing their personal stories afterwards at the dinner was definitely a highlight of the conference for me!
Overall, I had a great time at the OCULA Lightning Strikes talks. The entire process ended up being a fun way to gain experience, develop skills, and meet people from the across the profession. I would highly recommend the event to any student considering submitting a proposal in the future!
Erica Friesen is a second year Masters of Information student at the University of Toronto. She can be reached at erica.friesen [at] mail.utoronto.ca.
You can view all OCULA 2017 Student Lightning Strikes presentations on YouTube.