My First Professional Conference: PLA 2014

I had a great time at PLA 2014.  The conference was held here, in Indianapolis. As a Student Clerk, I wouldn’t have expected to be given the chance to go.  But I have an excellent Director who works very hard to see the library and its staff succeed.  She closed the library for a day so that even the Student Clerks could attend.  The Librarians were able to attend the full conference. But I’m very grateful I got to be there at all. It was an exciting experience I wouldn’t have wanted to miss.

My big take-away from the day is that I’m not a librarian yet.  Observing the wide variety of topics and listening to everyone else ask questions of presenters made me realize I couldn’t even begin to imagine what things I still need to know or what questions I might ask.  I also realized how much I miss learning about libraries since I finished my LTA degree.  Now I want to hurry and finish my BA so I can start the SLIS program.  I’m also inspired to find other ways to continue learning until I can get to SLIS.

The first program I attended was the Debut Authors Program.  Five authors spoke about their books.  The program description called them “the most outstanding authors who are being published for the first time.”  Several commented that they wouldn’t have written successful books if they had been trying to write successful books. (Which was a relief to hear, because I’ve got some strong opinions about college writing programs and faculty, at least those at my current school.  My experience 15 years ago at another college was quite a bit different.  But that’s another post for another time.)

  • Natalie Baszile talked about the process she went through to determine what crop her main character would grow, and how this process changed the book, Queen Sugar.
  • Nickolas Butler spoke about his book, Shotgun Lovesongs, mostly about how he came to write it, going back to school, and struggling financially.  I started reading his book between programs.  It is very hard for me to find books that I enjoy.  But this one has been great from the first page.  So far, it’s about four friends who grew up in Wisconsin: a farmer, a rodeo performer, an investment banker, and rock star.  I’m really enjoying it, and I would recommend it for any adult fiction collection.
  • Drew Chapman is a writer for TV and movies.  He said he wanted to write a character like Edward Snowden, who half the country thinks is a hero and half thinks he’s a criminal.  But he thought the character might be too political for television, so he wrote a book.  He said he knew nothing about how to write books and believes that’s why the book was successful.  The Ascendant already been picked up for a TV series.
  • Erika Johansen spoke about Queen of the Tearling.  She’d been working at trying to write “real” novels for years and did not have any success.  Finally, she decided to write the kind of books she likes to read, fantasy novels.  She made a distinction between writing for college writing courses and writing for readers.  I started reading her book between programs before I picked up Butler’s book.  The main character is a 19-year-old girl raised to be queen, who doesn’t want to be.  I thought the characters and the language felt a little too contemporary for a fantasy setting.  I might give it a couple more chapters, but I don’t know that I’ll finish it.
  • Jacinda Townsend was the last author to speak, about Saint Monkey.  I think I was getting restless at this point.  I don’t remember anything she said or even what her book was about.  So, go read it and find out.

Next, I was supposed to go to the Jane Pauley lunch.  But because of some confusion with my student registration and an accidentally deleted email account, I didn’t have proof the ticket was paid for.  So I missed out on that.  🙁  But that was the only down spot of the day.

Then I went to Signature Events for Small Libraries.  Although this was a program more about creating fundraisers rather than programs, it had good information about how to do a lot with very little.  Examples included a giving tree that was nothing more than a stick stuck in a pot of dirt with leaf-shaped tags representing items or services that needed funding, or a really fancy cheese platter put together with a few blocks from the supermarket and some toothpick labels. (Although I might add that other parts of the country don’t have access to the kind of resources Wegman’s provides…)  The librarians I work with are all really good at doing a lot with a little, but it was very helpful to me to have a more formal lesson on how to go about it.  Also, I found that the presenters were from WNY. They talked about the libraries in Holley, Brockport, and Caledonia.  I was born in Brockport, and raised in Churchville, which is pretty much right in between those other towns.  So, that was neat!

Finally, I went to Technology’s Future at Public Libraries.  This presentation was given by Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project; Jackie Nytes, CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library; Ryan Vaughn, Chief of Staff for Mayor Greg Ballard; and Chris Jowaisas, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  Together they discussed the Pew Research Center’s report on libraries, underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, released that same day.  It contained some great news for libraries, and I was glad I went, although I probably wouldn’t have chosen this program if I understood what it was going to be about before-hand. I was expecting something much more technology-focused, something about emerging technologies and how libraries are integrating them.  I thought I might learn some new ways to use existing technologies or new ways to present them to patrons.  That wasn’t the case, at all.  I realized, though, as I listened, that this was a program I should have chosen to attend, even though I probably wouldn’t have. Next time I’ll look at the schedule a little bit differently.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience.  I’m very much looking forward to the next time I get the chance to attend a library conference.And if anyone isn’t aware, the handouts and slides from a lot of the conference programs are here:

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