Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

My first PaLA Annual Conference.

with 3 comments

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!

Some other thoughts about the conference can be found at Open Sesame by Nicole C. Engard, Library Alchemy by Leigh Anne Vrabel, the PaLA South Central Chapter blog, It’s Academic! by the PaLA College & Research Division, elizabeth in libraryland by Elizabeth Davis, & Sellers Library Teens blog. Next year we have to get an official tag going so it’s easier to find all of these!


Written by Erin Dorney

November 17, 2008 at 2:06 AM

3 Responses

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  1. Wow! You went to so many sessions! How was the conference schedule? One problem I found with NYLA was that it seemed nearly every session I wanted to go to was at the same time as the rest of them. The first day was especially badly planned, with one block of sessions in the morning, then a break when there were none for about 3 hours, and then only one more block of sessions. During the break between, I had more than enough time to go back to my hotel, volunteer at the NMRT booth and eat lunch.

    Also, not many librarians used this for NYLA, but many did use it for ALA: when you post a tweet on your Twitter that’s related in some way to your conference, begin it or end it with “#” plus the acronym for your conference. When you want to read what everybody is saying, you can go to sites like and add the acronym you used at the end of the URL. (For instance, this was NYLA: )


    November 18, 2008 at 4:26 PM

  2. The schedule was fine at PaLA, plus my hotel was attached to the conference area so it was easy to go back to my room a few times during the day. That stinks about the NYLA schedule, it’s always so difficult to choose between two good sessions! I’ve seen that Twitter thing before, and would love to try it out! Do they usually make one for Midwinter? Thanks for sharing! 🙂


    November 19, 2008 at 12:43 AM

  3. Just using #Midwinter08, #ALA08, or whatever you want to call it will create a page for that tweme… I’m not sure what you’ll find everyone else using, but you could always use multiple twemes in a tweet while you figure out which is best to use. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is not super popular at Midwinter… There are usually many many many more people at ALA Annual, but you might start a trend! 😀


    November 26, 2008 at 4:59 AM

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