When I was selected as a recipient of the ACS Publications travel award to attend the 253rd ACS National Meeting and Exposition in San Francisco, I felt like I found the golden ticket in my chocolate bar. I am a brand-new chemistry librarian (graduating from library school in May 2017!) and only recently discovered that I could continue my longstanding and productive relationship with the American Chemical Society by being a member of the Division of Chemical Information, also known as CINF. I feel very strongly about the importance of new science librarians taking active leadership roles in the professional organizations that support them.
In preparation for the meeting, I used the ACS San Francisco app on my phone to set up the schedule of talks I was interested in attending each day. From the topics of the sessions that I selected, I knew this experience was going to be very important in my professional development journey because of the many successful chemistry librarians in attendance. How many opportunities would I get to meet so many of my colleagues in the field, in one place, only two months before the start date of my new job? The timing and content of the meeting couldn’t have been more appropriate for a new professional entering the field. It was truly amazing listening to the passionate professionals giving talks at the CINF sessions.
I received a great overview of the most important challenges facing the field from many different perspectives. Librarians like Grace Baysinger from Stanford University, Judith Currano from the University of Pennsylvania and Jeremy Garritano from the University of Virginia (previously from Purdue University, where I did my graduate work in chemistry) all gave exciting and relevant presentations. Besides learning about what other chemistry librarians are working on, I also had the opportunity to see a talk by UC Berkeley’s own Samantha Teplitzsky about the Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII). Another one of my favorite talks was by Martin Hicks from the Beilstein Institute regarding the Open Access 2020 initiative; only a few weeks prior to the meeting, I made a note to research the initiative after reading that my new employer had agreed to participate in it. I ended up being able to get a comprehensive overview of the initiative from someone with extensive experience in the European open access culture.
Although I spent most of my time attending CINF presentations, I also made my way over to the Division of Chemical Education symposium titled, “Advances in e-Learning and Online Chemical Education”. In this symposium, the discussion centered on new technologies being used to teach chemistry courses. My favorite tool to learn about was called Chem101, a classroom engagement tool for chemistry students in the form of a smartphone application. Though currently this tool is used for teaching specific concepts, I have always had an interest in creating an application that allows students to learn chemical information literacy skills. I have even had a conversation with Justin Weinberg, the CEO of Chem101, to discuss potential collaborations to develop a module for this purpose.
I also had the opportunity to have my first introductory meeting with a chemistry publisher during my time in San Francisco, an encounter that will be useful in the future. However, the most influential person I encountered during my meeting experience turned out to be the other award winner, Ian McCullough, a librarian with many years of experience. Ian and I engaged in several discussions about the programs he has implemented in his own library and exchanged many ideas about programs that I aspire to implement in my own space.
I can easily say that the week I spent in San Francisco was very influential in my professional development as the new Chemical Information Librarian at the University of California, Berkeley. I made many important connections that I imagine will only continue to grow and develop as I also develop into the profession. In my mind, communication is one of the most important factors in deciding future success in a field. Though many of us work primarily alone at our institutions, we all are dealing with the same struggles on a daily basis. The more we can relate to each other and share our interests at national meetings, the more likely we are to be able to tackle a situation as a unit or be able to understand why someone had to make a tough decision.
Attending the meeting was also reaffirming for me. Many presentations discussed topics with which I am familiar but cannot possibly understand the complexity of because I have never been a practicing librarian. Sometimes I wonder if I care about the right issues; I discovered that the problems I see facing the field are the problems other library professionals see, and that made me feel optimistic. What I also discovered is that these problems do not have an easy solution and t many players involved in the decision-making process. I also learned a lot about the nature of my role as a librarian. Though carrying out research in chemistry information management is something I prioritize, I understand that my role is heavily service-based. I exist to fill the needs of the researchers in whatever way I can, and research will not be on the top of my priority list as I assess the needs and wants of the stakeholders I represent.
To put my experience in information management terms, I entered the meeting with an information deficit and left with an information surplus. As a digital native, I have learned to use many technologies to accomplish my goals; something I undervalued was getting together with my colleagues and sharing our work and having important discussions. I had a lot of questions when I went to the meeting and admit I still have a lot of questions. The difference is that before the meeting, I had only a few individuals I could reach out to; now, I have at least 20 people that would be more than willing to provide me with their perspectives. Though I still feel pressure to excel in my new position, I also recognize that everyone in my field is extremely welcoming and kind and will help me adjust to my new post-degree life. I also look forward to becoming more involved in CINF and aspire to organize my own symposium at a future national meeting.