Pigeons and Snacks: PLA 2016

My experience at PLA can basically be summed up in the only two pictures that I took the whole time I was there:

1) On the first day walking around the exhibitor hall we encountered a sad, anxious pigeon that somehow ended up in the convention center. He was wary and clearly overwhelmed. I was wary and clearly overwhelmed. We found in each other a source of kindred connection. It was a special moment. For me, at least – the pigeon was probably just desperate to escape.

2) A friend immediately texted and berated me for taking a picture with furries at a convention, but hey, I am NOT SORRY. I saw cats and I jumped on the opportunity. Also, this picture absolutely captures the weirdness of this conference. There was a point where a coworker and I simultaneously pointed at something in opposite directions. She was pointing at a laptop vending machine, I was pointing at a half-naked man in a toga. There’s something for everyone at PLA, folks.

Besides these exhibit-hall encounters, however, I did actually learn some stuff! Here’s some notes from my favorite sessions:

Bubbler @ Madison Public Libraries: A System-Wide Approach to Learning through Making, presented by Trent Miller, Jesse Vieau, Alexandra Lakind

  • Did you know the Bubbler was initially funded by Beanie Babies? The Bubbler was initially funded by Beanie Babies.
  • Really important work with court-involved teenagers – a great lesson in meeting patrons where they are and serving those who need it most – why doesn’t every library have a program like this?!
  • They used the Give & Take Project method for running meetings, and it was delightful – eagerly awaiting the day when I have enough power to encourage others to operate this way.
  • If you tweet about snacks, Trent Miller will follow you on Twitter.

Immigration Reform: Is Your Library Ready? presented by Angelica Fortin, Luis Guerra, Miko Osada

  • This session enlightened me to an opportunity that we’re really missing at my library – I had next to no knowledge about these updates to immigration reform, and I feel much better equipped to assist with these programs.
  • The presenters made excellent points about being proactive – we can’t wait until reforms are passed because of the intensive processes involved. We need to be ready for them before they happen.
  • We need waaaaaaay more staff training on immigration in general. Way more. Thankfully the only patrons I’ve ever assisted with immigration forms knew exactly what they were looking for, but my colleagues and I should know more.

Where the Black and Brown Boys Aren’t (and Why), presented by Nichole Shabazz and Phyllis Hunter

  • This was the best session I went to at all of PLA. I think it should have been mandatory attendance. If you didn’t/couldn’t go, they also recorded a podcast.
  • We, as library professionals, should have cultural awareness and recognize and respond to the following 5 factors:
    • Regard: many black and brown boys don’t see themselves highly regarded in library collections, programming, or promotion
    • Representation: most library professionals are white and female – people need to see themselves in the library
    • Relevance: perception that libraries are not important, interesting, or worth knowing
    • Responsiveness: librarians don’t react in a desired or positive way to their needs
    • Relationships: libraries have not done the best job of building relationships and engaging them
  • As library professionals we need to admire black and brown boys (believe in their value), have authority (cultural competency), and act as advocates (risk takers and change agents).

Looking back at my notes, I’m realizing how much truly valuable information I was able to pick up during these and other sessions despite how overwhelming it felt at the time. I’m pretty lucky to have attended my first national conference before I’m even finished with library school – it has given me a really good taste of how others are innovating, what I can look forward to, and where I can contribute.

Finally, if you’re ever at a conference or have an opportunity to participate in a resume review or interview coaching session, DO IT! I learned so much valuable information from having someone who didn’t know me at all look over my resume and give me interview pointers. It’s kinda scary, but it’s worth it – you’ll leave feeling equipped to move forward.

I tweeted throughout the conference, so you can read more of my thoughts from PLA here.

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