My first PaLA Annual Conference.
A week from today, I was out in Valley Forge attending my first Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference (PaLA). I tried to briefly organize my thoughts below utilizing the classic “bulleted list.” I’ll probably be posting later about my poster session.
- Location: The conference location has got to be one of the most confusing buildings, ever. From my observations, it is essentially three different entities all joined together (in a very ramshackle manner): the Radisson Hotel, the Scanticon, and the Convention Center. I give the signage committee major props because directions were plentiful, clear, and concise. If not for those big white signs, I would have spent the majority of the conference lost in the bowels of the employee only entrance (seriously, it’s scary down there). Overall, I did not think the place was all it’s cracked up to be (or maybe it’s not, I don’t know, I’m the neewbie here). In more than one session, the drop ceilings were missing panels, you could hear other presenters (even though the Scanticon website touts “Acoustically designed space”), and the provided food was not very good. I suppose certain things have to be sub-par with such a large group, but it’s disappointing to pay $50 or $25 for a meal and not be able to eat it (I was able to enjoy at least some portion of each meal, mainly dessert, but some of my colleagues found theirs entirely inedible). I am very excited about the 2009 conference at the Harrisburg Hilton and even more so for the 2010 conference which is being hosted by the Lancaster County Convention Center at the Marriott Lancaster!
- Sessions: I enjoyed most of the sessions I attended. My favorites were Supervisory 101 (which I hadn’t initially planned on attending and am now glad that I did) and Creating a Brand Identity for Information Resources (I mean, come on, it blatantly screams my name). Highlights below
- State Award Winners Share Their Marketing Success Stories - So much can be accomplished with dedication! Two of the three winners coordinated award winning outreach events & services with less than five full time library staff members (Matthews Public Library & Village Library of Morgantown). The third designed a promotional campaign that invited patrons as participants, making it wholly successful (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh).
- Reading People: Successful Advocacy for Savvy Trustees - “It’s all about who you know” – Janice Trapp, James V. Brown Library… ’nuff said.
- Ourselves and Our Colleagues: Librarian, Faculty and Administrator Relations in a Changing Academic Setting - The number one threat to higher education is resistance to change. Attributes for success include ability to innovate, sense of mission, and executive leadership. “Expectation shapes reality” – Terence Mech, King’s College. What does a “desk lunch” say about your institution? Think about it.
- Help! I’m in Charge!: Supervisory 101 - Help them see how their piece fits in to the overall organization, give sincere praise and recognition, facilitate open communication, and allow participatory decision making. Power is often confused with leadership. When there is an issue, “listen more than speak” – Tracey Carey, Public Library for Union County.
- Navigating the Future in Libraries - I tried to attend this, but the room was literally full! No floor sitting or standing room. I tried standing outside the door but then I couldn’t hear. It’s telling that so many of us were interested in hearing Norma Blake (Library Journal’s Librarian of the Year 2008) speak about upcoming changes in libraries and how to stay motivated in the midst of change! I’m betting it was good!
- Creating a Brand Identity to Market Information Services - Refocus vs rebrand, see it from the customer’s perspective, characteristics of a brand identity are memorable, noticeable, unique & purposeful. Why is it important to have a brand? Because we’re in a changing marketplace, we have competition, differentiation is more and more challenging, and choice is informed by belief as well as emotional values – Betty Jo Hibberd, Thomson Scientific.
- Academic Library Reorganization - The first library (Villanova University) changed “departments” to “teams” and replaced “reference” with “academic integration.” Academic integration includes collection development, liaisoning, research support & instruction. Research support = most librarians do consultations in their offices. The second library (Bucks County Community College) showed some awesome pictures of their new library spaces (I totally want to take a trip there and scope it out) and mentioned that they will be closing their library on Sundays this winter to cut down on fuel costs but will be having someone monitoring IM from home. Interesting!
- Other (?): On Tuesday I had the chance to meet and hear Joe Janes speak. He was wonderfully motivating! And an SU alum like me! The best quote from his talk: “I don’t teach reference, I teach interrogation.” I also got to attend the Annual Awards Banquet where I watched “statebrarian” Clare Zales receive the PaLA Distinguished Service Award. She’s the Pennsylvania State Librarian who recently testified for Congress regarding the importance of libraries. She’s done a lot of other amazing things too, and it was great to see her accept this honor. At that very same banquet, I ate some delicious chocolate raspberry chambord cake and heard author Mary Doria Russell speak about how libraries have impacted her life and writing. She is an amazing speaker! Tuesday was a busy day; it was also when I spoke briefly about being selected as the PaLA sponsored ALA Emerging Leader at the annual PaLA business meeting. Of course, I couldn’t figure out the microphone (again), I hate those things! But it was great to say thank you to all of the PaLA members who made this sponsorship possible.
- People: The best, best, best, BEST thing about the conference was the people. As a newcomer to Pennsylvania, I know practically no one here, let alone library people. But the conference allowed me to meet so many bright PA library people from all over the state and from all kind of libraries. I feel like I had a strong introduction to what could easily become a very positive and supportive base of peers, colleagues, coworkers, and collaborators. Thanks to everyone who gave me a warm welcome! I enjoyed meeting each and every one of you and look forward to working with you in the future!