I just hit submit on my registration for the NEA (New England Archivist) Fall Meeting that is going to take place at Simmons! Ok, call me a nerd but I love conferences. What’s even better is getting to go to them for free by volunteering. A lot of conferences are looking for student volunteers to help run things like the registration desk and in exchange you get to go to the sessions after your shift is over. And since its Boston, a lot of conferences in a lot of topic areas come here. If it’s free, I’ll sit on just about anything. The more information, the better!
This summer I volunteered on the registration desk for the AALL (American Association of Law Librarians) conference. I had a two hour shift and the best part was my friend signed up for the same time and we were late in the day so it wasn’t very busy. In exchange for telling several women (I’m not joking, this came up at least three times) where they could buy (specifically) a Diet Coke and talking to my friend for two hours, I got to attend all the opening sessions, eat a free meal, get some vendor goodies and listen to a Congressman speak. Not too shabby. Not to mention that the night before the conference I attended a social at the Harvard Club (a place I’d probably not ever get into otherwise) and networked with some pretty interesting people. (Oh and did I mention the free liquor!)
Needless to say it was a good experience so I’ve been keeping my eyes open for others. Unfortunately, when it’s not summer it’s a little harder to fit things into my schedule. A symposium at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem last month looked very interesting but alas, I had class to go too (You know that pesky education part of going to grad school). Next month there is a Digital Humanities conference in Providence, Rhode Island which is about an hour train ride for Boston. I let them know I’d be willing to volunteer. We will see if I get a response. Also waiting for a response to my very first paper proposal to a conference….
And being in Boston there is also a lot of non-professional volunteer opportunities that can be fun as well as educational. Last year I volunteered to help at the Boston Book Festival. They also provided me with free lunch and a T-shirt (hey, we all know grad students need all the free lunches they can get). On my part, I helped in the children’s room as a “spotter” for the dressed up meet and greet characters, kept children in line and made sure Curious George didn’t step on anyone. 8 years of working in a preschool has finally come in handy. In addition to the free stuff provided to the volunteers I also got to see parts of the Boston Public Library not usually opened to the public (which as a prospect librarian, history buff and architecture marveler was great) AND meet the children’s author Mo Williams. (Which is not as great as meeting Angela Lansbury, but that was via my Simmons internship so that’s a whole other post).
But so the message of this post is….VOLUNTEER! It’s so much fun and you learn so much. Don’t be worried if you think you don’t have enough experience, volunteers come with so many varying skills and experience levels! You never know where you might end up.