Get your backchannel on at #MLAnet13

One of the best parts of major conferences such as MLA is the opportunity to meet and engage with people with shared professional interests.  As a relatively new medical librarian and a first time MLA attendee, I am looking forward to deepening my professional involvement and gaining new perspectives and fresh inspiration, not only from the prepared material of speakers and presenters, but from the impromptu contributions of other attendees (perhaps even you).  For it is in those moments around and between the sessions that we share our own stories and expand on specific facets from a presentation or discussion.  This is the critical mass of professional engagement that fans flames out of sparks.  This is old-school crowdsourcing.

And yet, it is limited severely by physical proximity and timing.  If you’re not in precisely the right place at the right time, you may never even know about conversations in which you have a particular interest or expertise.  And for those of us who are still getting our bearings, it can be even more of a challenge.  But we have technology in our hands to solve this problem.  We can use the #MLAnet13 backchannel to take the conversations online and drastically extend their reach (even to those unable to attend). Here’s how:

  1. Log into Twitter on your phone or tablet
  2. Search for #MLAnet13 (the backchannel hashtag for MLA ’13) to see what conversations are taking place
  3. Tweet about the key ideas from sessions or from online conversations that you find most pertinent
  4. Make sure you include #MLAnet13 (or #MLANET13, #mlanet13, … case doesn’t matter) in your tweets
  5. Just don’t tweet while walking between sessions… let’s stay safe out there!

Whether you follow the conversations going on behind the conference or, even better, take part in them yourself, making use of the #MLAnet13 backchannel can greatly enhance your convention experience. Also, the backchannel will be recorded on (, preserving a wealth of spontaneous content (grey literature, anyone?). One great thing about this is that even if you don’t have time to keep track of the responses to your tweets, you can go back and review them later. I can’t tell you how many pertinent ideas, links, etc. I’ve found sifting through backchannel transcripts (a lot).

I’m looking forward to attending my first MLA. I hope to meet many of you and share stories and ideas, if not in person, then on the #MLAnet13 backchannel. See you there!

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About Keith_Engwall

Keith Engwall (@librariandad) is the Web and Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Library in Rochester, MI. His interests are in finding better ways to communicate, collaborate, and access resources through technologies such as mobile platforms, social media, and open source software. He is still not entirely accustomed to writing about himself in the third person.