Thursday, April 26, 2012

PLA 2012 Part 2

Here is the belated second half of my summary of the PLA Conference. (Here is Part 1.)

Reader's Advisory Toolkit 

The first speaker was Joyce Saricks, who defines reading as story in every form and says it's the heart of what we do (I agree!) She characterizes reader's advisory as collaborative and symbiotic and encourages fostering a work culture of talking about reading. She says, "The more we talk, the easier it is." She recommends talking about books with coworkers while you're on desk and also to start staff meetings by sharing what book you are reading. (I would LOVE if our staff meetings included enough time for this.) She talked about brainstorming, collecting links, learning how to discuss appeal factors and then compare to similar books, and create effective displays. My favorite idea she mentioned was to create a reader profile of yourself including the kinds of books you love and listing 3 books that you love and 3 that you hate. Then exchange profiles with a coworker and make recommendation lists for each other. 

Neal Wyatt, author of All in for RA, presented 3 levels of Reader's Advisory:
  • Basics: know what it is, where resources are in the library or online, know who in your library is a specialist in different areas
  • Next Steps: know what's popular and share with other staff, know how to talk to readers about books, and how to answer common RA questions
  • Deep cuts: understand appeal and how it works, then share what you do and how you do it 
He also emphasized that ALL staff should take part in Reader's Advisory and that to some extent it should happen everywhere: at the circ desk, in the stacks, even outside of the library. He also encouraged doing RA programming on topics such as great gift books, suggestions for book groups, or books related to the upcoming season.

Georgine Olson spoke on behalf of small and rural libraries, but offered suggestions helpful to anyone. She mentioned some online resources such as the Fiction-L list,, and She talked about the importance of creating a personal training plan and scheduling it into your workflow. Finally she introduced a formula for booktalks on the run using the acronym PRES: Point (title), Reason (for recommending, such as mentioning another book they like), Example (something about the recommended book and why they might like it), Summary (ex. "it takes place in a different time period, but both books have this in common."

Maximizing the Impact of Programming

Scott Doser from the Wilkerson Public Library in Telluride CO talked about their many successful programs. Although successful programs are generally measured by attendance he says we should consider programs with small attendance but big impact on attendees to be successful. He also doesn't shy away from controversy, citing a 2-hr program about the Middle East that ended up being 5 hours long. Their library mission is Inspire, Challenge, Engage, Transform. They have awesome programs, but they also have a $20k programming budget. (To put this in perspective my library has NO budget for adult programs.)

Library Tech Consultant Carson Bloc spoke about integrating technology into programming and being mobile- and social-friendly.

Programs that Pack the Place

As with the other sessions, this was a panel, and although there was lots of good ideas, my favorite was Coming Together in Skokie. This is run sort of like a Community Read program in that there is a theme and many programs around that theme. But rather than revolving around a book, it is centered on a particular culture. (They require that it be a culture represented in their community with leaders willing to collaborate.) They pick a book or two, not necessarily by an especially well-known author, but one that represents the culture in some way and they bring the author to speak. They plan 25 or 30 programs over the course of 6 weeks including book discussions, films, cooking, and lectures. They produce an extensive program booklet describing the purpose of the program and a cultural background as well as a schedule of events, a glossary of cultural terms, and recommended further reading.

It sounds like a fantastic program and has been incredibly successful because the cultural community gets very involved and usually the same people will stay involved the following year even though it's a different culture.

We've Got the Beat

I buy music CDs for my library but I don't have a background in music so I was very happy this program was offered.

The speakers talked a little about music advisory and tapping staff for what they listen to, and suggested a number of resources to use for collection development such as,, and for education and workshops.

They talked about music sources such as freegal and Pandora, as well as legal issues (basically, do due diligence by posting that it is illegal to rip CDs).

The speakers also do Personalized Picks at their library (they do something similar for books). There's an online form that patrons can fill out and they receive a link to a list of suggestions with some information on why they were chosen (Bibliocommons can be used for this.)

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union: Library Access as an Emerging Constitutional Right

The speakers presented some general information about the First Amendment and balancing patron protection with sharing information. They emphasized the importance of posting policies and documenting incidents.

The most interesting part of this session was a representative from the National Coalition of the Homeless. Acknowledging that libraries are popular hangouts from homeless people, some have done programming that is specifically targeted towards this group such as book groups, an exhibit of photography and interviews with local homeless people, and hiring the homeless to monitor bathrooms and keep them clean. The organization has a speakers bureau that will come talk to staff about good service.

Betty White

The closing conference speaker was Golden Girl Betty White. She was just as hilarious and adorable in person as she is on tv. She spoke about her books, her work with animals and zoos, and her long career. It is clear that she understands how lucky she is, and she seems to appreciate every single good thing that has happened to her. What a classy lady!

A month and a half later I have barely begun to use anything I've learned - I'm glad I've waited until now to post because it's a great reminder to pull out my conference materials and start using all the great ideas I came back with!

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