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While the PLA Conference program helpfully lists sessions by “Program Tracks” (Administration/Management, Facilities, Serving Youth, Technology, etc.), I ignored this and approached my first day of the Conference with the unsurprising strategy of dabbling in a  variety of, well, everything.

My first session of the day at the ripe hour of 8:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m. Seattle time) was “Books and Authors: The Top 5 of Another 5”, which brought together five panelists to talk about five genres: romance, sci fi, suspense/thrillers, literary and historical. It’s always a treat to hear a librarian speak about those types of genre books of which they are a fan; in this case Roberta Johnson, Kaite Stover, Barry Trott, Rebecca Vnuk and David Wright listed the up-and-coming authors in each genre as well as their personal favorites. The handout from the session can be found here.

Next I heard Jinny Baeckler, Linda Raymond and Cathy Dean discuss different strategies they used at their respective libraries at “Creative Funding: How to Afford the Services Your Community Wants.” These ladies are fierce, proud and they’ve gotten results! In their own unique ways, each library system was able to partner with local businesses, community groups, and/or solicit literally pennies from concerned citizens to plug the holes and keep their lights on. My favorite quote of the session went something to the effect of, “At first we thought we were too good to put a sponsor’s name on something. Then we became so desperate … if we could have gotten a Chick-Fil-A sponsored branch, we would have done it.”

My day’s third session was a presentation from the leadership team at the Digital Public Library of America. This project — known as DPLA — is taking shape as an effort to digitize America’s cultural heritage by developing mass-market, open source digitization strategies which public libraries can tweak to meet their needs. Although DPLA is still gaining a solid mission and model via its six workstreams, the effort has identified five main elements which it is looking to define: code, metadata, content, tools & services, and community; and the project is currently working with the National Archives, the Library of Congress and the Federal Printing Office U.S. Government Printing Office with facilitation and support provided by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. DPLA is making the rounds at conferences, looking to spread the word and enlist volunteers and supporters for the project; look for them next at ALA in Anaheim.

Finally, I heard from a great team of folks on the topic, “On Life Support, but Not Dead Yet! Revitalizing Reference for the 21st Century.” The evolution and the future of Reference and Information Services is something we talk about a lot in library school, and this session really nailed down some concrete concepts for me to think about. The panelists from the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in Illinois gave some great examples of new service delivery, framed within five categories: programming (delivery information needs in exciting new ways), specialization (such as business reference), “think local” (local efforts to engage one’s unique community), enabling (services with enable people to live more fulfilled lives) and finally, the phrase “kitchens, not grocery stores” when it comes to delivering a way for people to create–not just consume–information and content by facilitating spaces like an artist design studio. What I was left with after this session was the difference between Reference (big ‘R’), which is a stationary, materials based department, and reference (little ‘r’), which is simply connecting people with information, and seeking to make a difference in people’s lives.

Other things I learned my first day of the conference:

  • That Reading Market has delicious Dutch breakfasts
  • That the conference program has blank sheets in the back to take notes (sadly, discovered this 3/4 of the way through the day)
  • That it is possible to get into an vendor party without an RSVP

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