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These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

PLA 2008 review

I attended several sessions:

  • Trading Spaces: Everyday Transformations to Maintain Merchandising Momentum @ Your Library. Well done -- good, practical tips that demonstrated to me just how intelligent librarians can be if the objective is to move materials.

  • Making Libraries Stronger: Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development. Much good information was presented. But here's one of the things that bothered me. An economic development speaker invited us all to move to Minneapolis, where times are good. Later, in discussions with staff of the former Minneapolis Public Library (now merged to, or acquired by, the Hennepin County Library) it seems a round of layoffs is in the air. Good times? Amy Ryan, director of Hennepin, spoke of the now seamless connection between city and public resources. I wish her well; but I also wish she had spoken more candidly about the real difficulties of combining different types of libraries, with different histories and cultures. The purpose of these conferences, it seems to me, is to tell the unvarnished truth about what we've learned and are learning. That means we have to talk about the tough stuff, too.

  • Evaluating the Library Director. I presented with my counterpart Eloise May, and two Trustees (Howard Rothman from Arapahoe Library District, and Mark Weston from Douglas County Libraries). And kudos to my co-presenters: we did NOT shy away from telling the audience (of mostly other Board members) about the mistakes we'd all made over the years, and what we'd learned from them. The link to our PowerPoint is here.

  • Great Libraries for Dummies! Richmond, BC seems to me one of the best examples of 21st century librarianship. I was pulled away from the session by a conference call, and was sorry. The one thing that I don't see them addressing: responding to community needs OUTSIDE the library. That's a significant gap.

  • Dangerous Ideas: What if libraries.... I mostly breezed through this one. There's a wiki, if you're curious about some post-conference follow-up. whatiflibs.wetpaint.com One of the questions that stays with me was "What if we didn't make decisions based on fear or scarcity?" I still see a lot of that in librarianship; it's a box we put ourselves in.

  • Mission Impossible--Build Your Own ILS. Here's the third leg of 21st century librarianship, I think. (Where the three key trends are internal merchandising, community reference, and the collaborative development and sharing of the tools of our trade.) Again, these were good enough presentations, but I wish someone had done this kind of a review: here's what (so far) is better than the ILS we left, in real, practical terms. Here's what (so far) is kind of a problem.

  • First Impressions Last! Simple Branding and PR Tips for Libraries. Delivered by three of our own crackerjack staff (Katie Klossner, Susan O'Brien, and Aspen Walker), I thought this session was terrific: funny, well-paced, and packed with content. Aspen has a blog that captures it all.

Beyond that, a lot of talking to colleagues, a few passes through the exhibits (a lot of smart folks at LibLime), and a lot of walking in the altogether beguiling and walkable downtown Minneapolis. Light rail to the airport is $1.50, by the way, and much more interesting than a $26 taxi ride.

I go to conferences for several reasons: to present, to scout for new talent, and, with luck, to come back with something I can use to improve our services. To be honest, I'm also looking to grade my own library: where does it fall on the Bell Curve? Right now, we're still ahead of the pack. But that's not the sort of thing to get complacent about.

P.S. I forgot to record another session I attended: Kim Dority's "Building Your Resilient Career - Agile, Opportunistic, and Sustaining." Kim is a delight, too -- someone who passionately articulates the value of librarianship, in all kinds of non-librarian settings. I could tell that the avid crowd carefully attended her every word. I like Kim's message of adaptability, courage, and the willingness to learn.

2 comments:

Deann said...

My first time at PLA--I enjoyed it immensely! I just wanted to agree with your overall view,Jamie, that DCL compares very favorably to the other libraries I learned about. We are fortunate for many reasons.
From a training standpoint, I think we can always grow in exciting ways, but we are definitely on the right track! What a wonderful opportunity -thanks!

Kyra said...

Thank you for selecting me to attend PLA. It was my first professional conference. I took advantage of the opportunity and asked questions or commented at nearly every session I attended.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with such talented and knowledgeable people at DCL. I walked away with the impression that DCL is a progressive library district and ahead of the curve.

Thank you for your leadership and keeping us on the right track