An Interview with Dr. Jerry Baldasty

by Michael Wood, MLIS Day

The Voices in Academia lunches are a series of opportunities for graduate students to chat in an informal setting with an illustrious faculty member. On Wednesday January the twenty-sixth Go-MAP sponsored a tasty Thai lunch for about twenty students in a handsomely appointed conference room on the first floor of the bustling communications building on campus.

The Chairman of the UW Department of Communication, Dr. Jerry Baldasty, was the featured speaker. He shared his wealth of experience in a lunchtime chat entitled, "The Who, What, Why, and How of Professional Conferences." I had a chance to speak briefly with him afterward.

As many Silverfish readers know, the Washington Library Association's annual conference is coming up April 20-23 in that great city to the east, Spokane. In light of this, iSchool MLIS candidates are trying to decide if conferences are worth the time and money. I asked our Communication Department Chair to take a moment to answer a couple of quick questions about his views on professional development at conferences.

Dr. Baldasty attended his first con as a student in 1974. How did he feel at his first professional event?

It was kind of frightening, it was overwhelming. It was big and it seemed beyond me, but I met some interesting people there. People I've known ever since.

Dr. Baldasty, what sorts of career benefits might come from iSchoolers attending professional conferences?

Finding people with interests that match their own; having a better sense of the field that they are in.

Should our students try to attend as many sessions as possible?

I think it's a good idea to attend some sessions, but I think it's much more important to be thinking about networking and trying to meet people who have similar interests; that are interested in the field. So go with some sessions, but don't overdo it-there is a tendency to think that you need to go to every session. Actually a lot of the conference is not going to sessions; the conference is also sharing ideas and getting to know other people.

Should Information School students consider presenting at a library conference? Could this help to start our careers in the information world?

I think presenting at conferences is a great idea. It helps you to develop your own research agenda, it gives you visibility in the field, and it makes it easier to meet people at conferences.

Are parties and informal socializing after conference programming just a waste of precious sleeping time?

No, actually they are good ways to network with other people. So, go to them-and that would be one of the best things to go to. Again, I think that the goal of the conference would be to try to meet other people in your field; it's a good way to start networking, and parties are a good way to do that. So, they are not a waste of time at all.

If our iSchool students, searching for a place in the field, can accomplish only one goal in attending a conference, what might that goal be?

My advice to people going to conferences is that they ought to aim to meet at least one or two people that they didn't know already, who have interests that they share in the field.

There you have it. Get known. Get seen. Get to WLA.

For more information on the 2005 WLA conference in Spokane see:


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Page last updated: February 7, 2004