Hey! It's time for my annual summary of the New England Library Association Conference. Here are the sessions that I attended this year.
Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom
This was sort of what it sounded like. The presenter began by telling us that YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan for two years and showed a video of Pakistanis hugging a YouTube mascot and begging it to come back. She talked about the assumption that technology makes everything more democratic and open, and the reality that democracy is eroded by surveillance. This was an interesting topic and she was a good speaker, but the session began at 8:30 and I'm afraid I wasn't quite awake enough to appreciate it as I should have.
Mixing It up for Millennials: Programming for 20- and 30-Somethings
Representatives from three different libraries shared stories of successful programs for younger adults. The Nashua, NH public library hosted A Night Out for 20-somethings, an after-hours event in which lots of vendors and organizations set up tables and the library made their space atmospheric with dim lighting and a piano player. The vendors included visual arts groups, music schools, a fabric/yarn store, a church singles group, and a sports shop. The library had a booth with information about downloading ebooks, a chocolate tasting, and Cards Against Humanity. It sounded like a great event that would be especially helpful to new post-college folks moving into the area.
The Haverhill, MA public library shared several programs they organized, but the most interesting is their Get Lit book group, which takes place at a local bar. It's pretty well known so I had heard about it before and it was great to learn more about it. They use social media pretty heavily and have had a lot of success reaching out to authors on Twitter, and even have lots of Get Lit swag. Libraries tend to shy away from alcohol-related events, which I kind of think is a shame. There's an assumption that any booze will lead to extreme drunkenness and problems, but this is not the case with this group.
Finally, a librarian from the public library in Peabody, MA told us about a whole wealth of programs they put on. Many were instructional, like beer brewing, coffee roasting, and meditation, but they also have a film discussion group and several book groups. They rely a lot on the talents of their staff who can teach lots of interesting skills, but they also do a lot of grant-writing. Interestingly, they have an adult programming advisory board, which I think is a fantastic idea. Most libraries have advisory groups for teen programming, so why not for adults as well?
NERTCL Luncheon with Peter H. Reynolds
This luncheon was sponsored by the section focused on children and teens, so it was no surprise that I was unfamiliar with this author and illustrator of picture books. But now I will be checking out some of his books for sure. He shared one call The Dot, in which a kid is convinced that she can't draw, but when pressed she makes a dot, and then decides she can make a nicer dot, and so on until she feels confidently artistic. It's pretty great! He was also just a funny, dynamic speaker. (I can't say much positive about the food, unfortunately.)
Reconnect with Readers' Advisory through LibraryReads
My library supports LibraryReads, in that one person in my department has been maintaing a LibraryReads display, so I thought it was high time I figured out what this was all about. Also, I know (and admire) one of the presenters and was especially interested to hear her speak. LibraryReads publicizes a list of ten new books every month that librarians are excited about. In this session, we learned how to get involved by requesting advance copies, nominating titles we love, and writing blurbs. They also talked about how LibraryReads benefits us when we participate, which was what I really needed to hear. I already had an Edelweiss account but have never ever requested a book through it, so I'm very happy to now be reinspired to use it.
Stand Up & Shout: The Youngish Leader on Changing Direction
A lot has changed in library leadership recently, and the path from newly-minted librarian to director can be short and swift. Two young library leaders shared their experiences and provided valuable advice about taking on a leadership role when you feel unprepared for it. I'm not necessarily interested in being a library director (nor am I especially young anymore) but again, I knew one of the presenters and was especially interested in what he had to say. My biggest takeaway from this session is that you are never ready for a director job until you are in it - no other library job is like it, so there's just no way to prepare other than just to do it. The presenters do advise to use experiences like committee work to help build skills, and to "fake it 'til you make it." The two guys presenting met during leadership training and make a great team. They were funny and inspiring and full of good advice. I don't think I'll be applying for any director jobs soon - I really like my job - but it doesn't seem so impossibly out of the question anymore.
This year I attended NELA for just one day, which I don't like as much as staying for the whole thing. I had to get up super-early, and didn't have the benefit of a nearby hotel room for emergency cat naps. And of course I missed out on all the after-hours fun. But I learned a lot, got inspired, and met up with some librarians who I really like a lot but rarely get to see.
It was a little bittersweet, because my library director recently announced that he's moving out-of-state. He's very involved in the profession and well-known around here, so of course everyone I talked to at the conference asked me about his departure and the open position. There are very many open library director positions right now, so I've been a bit worried about our ability to fill it well. Although I'm still sad that he's leaving, it was very heartening to hear that our library is such a desirable place to work and there seems to be a lot of interest in that job. Hopefully that means we'll get another great director!