One of the best things about being a candidate for ALA President is the opportunity to get to know the different parts of the Association in greater depth. This week I attended the Public Library Association Conference (#PLA2016) in Denver.
What an inspiring and engaging event – very true to the conference theme: BE EXTRAORDINARY! I particularly love the booklet that all conference attendees received – Make It Extraordinary: A Little Guide to Your Big Ideas. I am also enjoying the PLA 2016 Be Extraordinary 30 Day Challenge on Facebook.
I spent most of my time at the conference at the #Lisa4ALAprez information table in the exhibits hall. I handed out 1400 bookmarks and 200 stickers and had a lot of fun meeting people who stepped up to a “pic with the prez” candidate photo booth at my table.
Many people commented that they had already voted in the election, which was great to hear. Even nicer was hearing how many had voted for me because they had read my candidate statement, An Ethos of Hospitality, and appreciated both the specificity of my statement as well as my emphasis on inclusion, support for new professionals, using technology to expand engagement in the work of ALA, and/or willingness to consider new conference models. I am pleased that my platform is resonating with so many ALA members.
A number of conference attendees also wanted to know more about my own work as a librarian and I was happy to share about my position as the Coordinator for Information Literacy in the University of Illinois Library and as Affiliate Faculty in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS). I was also able to share some advice as a mentor during Friday’s Speed Mentoring event – that was intense and fun!
On the last day of the conference, with the exhibits ended, I was able to attend a few sessions. Anand Giridharadas Big Ideas talk was challenging and a call to empathy and inclusion delivered with compassion and humor. I added my voice to his #aTrueAmericanIs Twitter conversation.
I next attended The Changing Landscape of Library Privacy, which provided a succinct review of library values and current challenges to privacy. Give my own work on privacy, data security, and civil liberties, I was pleased that the conversation was nuanced and acknowledged the tensions libraries are negotiating in our current complex digital environment. I next attended Blowing Up the PLDS: Measuring Impact. The Value of Academic Libraries was one of my initiatives as ACRL President (2010-2011) and an ongoing area of interest for me. I was intrigued with the Team-Based Inquiry model that was presented and look forward to learning more about it.
In the evenings, I enjoyed the camaraderie and fun of the conference receptions, social gatherings, and dinner with other Illinois GSLIS alumni. I was pleased as well to attend EveryLibrary PLA Afterhours event and contribute funds to their important political work on behalf of libraries and the communities that they serve. I think I introduced myself personally to about 400-500 people at these events! Though it was fast-paced, I learned a great deal about what people were taking away from the conference and what issues are most important to them.
Overall, I found the PLA 2016 Conference to be great fun, extremely informative, and always engaging. I hope to be back at the PLA 2018 Conference as ALA President!
P.S. With this chance to attend the PLA conference, I’ve now experienced all three of the “type of library” division conferences (I’ve attended the conferences of the American Association of School Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries many times). All three have an energy and pacing that reflects a different kind of event than the ALA Midwinter Meeting and Annual Conference. I’m more resolved than ever that now is the time to think carefully about our conference ecosystem and whether it is best suited to the current needs of our communities of practice. Maybe it is but I can’t help but wonder what we might invent that would be even better than our current models if we let ourselves free of current assumptions and practices. What we have now is good but maybe there is something out there that would be even better?