By Kevin Ford, Training and Library Solutions Consultant for Special Projects
Originally I wasn’t supposed to be there. The Access Services Conference in Atlanta has been one of my favorite conference-type trips in recent years but this year John Brunswick and Angela Mott were selected to attend, given their primary roles working with both ILLiad and Ares customers. As with all the conferences Atlas Systems attends, we want to be sure we have the right staff to interact with the attendees—whether to answer questions from current users or introduce prospective customers to our products and services.
Those of you who know me also know that I’m usually the quiet one in most social situations. There’s a reason I’m the “database guy.” Shuffle a couple of random databases together into one, and make the thing function properly? Yeah, that sounds like fun. Put me in a room full of people and expect me to hold semi-coherent conversations for several hours? Not really my thing. So you might be surprised to hear that I was a little disappointed when I learned I wouldn’t be traveling to Atlanta for the conference.
Fast-forward a few weeks. Atlas’ fall conference planning is in full swing and I am asked to attend a meeting about the Access Services Conference. That’s when I learned that I’d be going to Atlanta after all. Apparently, we’d had such a great response to invitations to the Ares Users Group and Happy Hour meeting that we needed another person to help out at the conference. And that third person was me.
Throughout the conference, whether at the Atlas table, at the welcome reception, or in the Users Group, I talked to many people, some familiar to me, some not. I fielded several support-related questions from current customers and talked with potential new customers about Atlas’ software solutions.
I chatted with long-time customers who have now become friends--about spouses, children, dogs, cats, their latest trip to someplace exotic, and on and on. You know, the normal so-called trivial things that, ultimately, end up being the most important. I reminisced with several people from my old ILL days back at Virginia Tech, half a lifetime ago.
And that’s when the true value of attending conferences really hit home. It’s all about the people. It’s the people we have the pleasure to deal with on a daily basis. It’s the people we never hear from unless something catastrophic has happened. And it’s the people in between. From the customer-turned-friend discussing the latest antics of her dog, or the newly-met customer whose support issue I’ve successfully resolved, it’s the personal interactions that make working for Atlas Systems and attending conferences as a member of the Atlas team a rewarding personal experience.
So next time this shy, database guy thinks he’d rather stay home than travel to where the customers are, I will take a step back and remember why we do what we do. It’s the people. It’s definitely the people.