You know, it isn’t just about the swag (although that’s certainly something to cheer about), or the fun cities (where I only really experience the hotels, the conference center and a few restaurants). It’s the people that keep me coming back. These are people that I share a career/vocation with, that I enjoy spending time with, and who understand many of the pressures and issues I face on a daily basis. They’re funny and fun to be around.
I also like the idea of learning from peers. Conferences are less than formal education, but more than on-your-own. For example, hearing Maureen Sullivan on Friday started some wheels turning. As the conference went on, I heard at least three other people – in presentations – talk about having her come and lead a workshop/session at their local LA or job. It’s fashionable to talk about synergy, but that’s what happens at conferences: coincidences that seem somehow planned. A random person you stand in line with tells you about some fabulous new product, or idea. And then you hear more about it and – wow – I really need to get/use this.
Most of my library life has been spent in a One Person Library, and conferences give me the opportunity to feel more a part of the group. Yes, there are problems with conferences, but overall, if I didn’t like ’em, I wouldn’t come back.