Monday, June 02, 2008

PLA -- A summary of the 12th National Conference

PLA in Minneapolis was a wonderful experience. I have long promised a summary. The State of Wisconsin, in its wisdom, certifies public library directors. I am currently certified, but to keep up my certification, I need to provide evidence of continuing education activities. I must complete 100 hours over a five year period. There are forms (of course) which are in the manual (Appendix F and G) . I must fill these out and submit them to my system. I did the 2007 CE reports for 23.5 hours. I will use this summary as part of my 2008 report.

I started PLA by attending Book Buzz, hosted by Nancy Pearl. While it has been a very long time since I did Readers' Advisory, I am still fascinated about the topic. Nancy did not talk a great deal, but served as the Master of Ceremonies for a group of publishers and representatives who talked in great detail about the new and upcoming titles from their respective firms. I picked up a couple of tips for titles to read. One of the panelists, Emily Cook from Milkweed Press, who was (correctly in my opinion) introduced as a "look-alike" for Winnie Cooper from the "Wonder Years." My most recent post was a review of a book which I received as a result of my interaction with Emily. A final reflection, I started getting incredibly excited about Readers Advisory at the PLA National Conference in San Diego in nineteen-mumble. Since then I have kept a sort-of-journal where I have recorded every book I have read since that conference. It helped me in my first years of Readers Advisory, and it is partly out of habit that I maintain it. In a way, the list on this blog is a public continuation and documentation of my reading.

The PLA opening keynote speaker was as much inspirational as informational. John Wood talked about his new mission of education -- which includes libraries! He noted that his goal is to reach 20 million children across the world by 2012. One of the more important points, that I think I knew instinctively, but had not ever spoken before was when John said: In the developing world there is no one who has done what Andrew Carnegie did in the US. One of the final notes which I took, is as true in this world (the "first world") as it is in the so-called "third world": You have to build “with” the people otherwise it is not sustainable. This is an incredibly important concept for librarians and library administrators (like me).

I started the next morning with the program Why We Borrow. This posting gathered the most comments (hey, for me, three is big!) of all my PLA posts. In a way, some of what was covered harks back to the old Baltimore County "Give 'Em What They Want" philosophy. That process took ideas from retail and applied them to libraries. Charlie Robinson was a leader in getting us, as librarians, to begin to think outside our library box. [In the quick search I did, this was the best I could come up with. Unfortunately, Charlie was pre-Internet.] This program also validates something I have learned that ALA is doing as part of its efforts to improve the ALA Conference. At one or another of the recent meetings, ALA had some specialists watch videos of the behavior of we librarians on the ALA exhibit floor in an effort to better understand our behavior. We need to think about doing the same for our public as they visit our facilities. This is a huge difference from the way we currently act!

Lunch with the Frommers was fascinating. They talked about the travel industry and some of the places which are still bargains. Who doesn't want to travel. Will I get to any of those places? Likely not, but that does not mean that I can't dream. As I started to compile this, I got to thinking about the one question never asked: how does it feel for father and daughter to work toether? As much as I l0ve my daughter, I could not imagine being in that kind of situation!

After lunch I went to So What? Using Outcome Measurement to Assess the Impact of Library Programs. I have been around long enough to remember the introduction of PLA's "Output Measures for Public Libraries." This concept takes the output measures to a new level. While I understand and appreciate the importance of "outcome" measures, it goes against some of my librarian training to get to that level. Output measures uses quantifiable results of "inputs" (like budgets). "Outcome" measures means that you have to, in my opinion, get into the lives of our users to find out what they did with what we, as librarians, have given them. It is an important concept, but I think that the concepts of patron privacy have become so deeply ingrained in me that I resent the need to ask our users about how they will use our outputs, that I get really antsy. Is the next step to judge the "worthiness" of our serving some users? This is an interesting concept which will challenge administrators and freedom to read advocates!

For me, the program on outcomes was followed by a much more practical program on surveys. For any library preparing for strategic planning (as is LEPMPL), the concepts of valid community surveys is critical. We often know what our regulars want, but what about the occasional user, or better yet, what about the non-user. It is surveys of the latter which most interests me as an administrator. While I believe that there is a certain segment of the population which we can never effectively serve, I think that we can probably reach those in the margin -- i.e. those non-users who we just have not reached, but are willing.

Cutting Edge: The Latest Info on Web 2.0 started with a presentation from someone at one of my former libraries! It was great to see some photos of places I recognized and had worked! Much of the program was about how to integrate new technologies into our regular, daily work. Some of my favorite "2-point-0-ians" were on the panel including Michael Stephens and John Blyberg. How I wish I could be as bright as they are about connecting public libraries and users!

Who doesn't love an author? And an author who owns and runs an independent bookstore is a huge bonus. Well, that is Louise Erdrich! Her newest book, a souvenir of lunch, The Plague of Doves, is sitting just waiting to be read. It is incredibly hard to capture an author reading the words that they have written. Suffice it to say, it was inspiring!

Sponsorships are the wave of the future for libraries. (Look at municipal stadiums and taxpayer-financed professional ballparks!) A panel discussed the ins and outs of sponsorships. Here are some hints: be sure to spell the sponsor's name correctly, have rules in place (in advance), plan in advance for what you will ask, don't always expect cash. Sponsorships will soon be the lifeblood of library marketing, especially if you do not have a large budget for marketing. I have learned that already!

One of the best programs I attended was Let’s Get Married! Bringing Friends and Foundations Together to Raise More Money. The relationship among library staff, Friends groups, and foundations are among the trickiest in the library world. Everyone has an ego, we need to pay attention to each other and maximize our funding potential. One of my true heroes in this arena is Peter Pearson of the Friends of St. Paul Public Library. Truly one of the huge advantages of my current position is the proximity to St. Paul and the ability to watch him more closely! There is an incredible wealth of information on the PLA Conference site (#238).

Another great program was presented by my friends Past ALA President Pat Schumann and Kathleen Imhoff of Lexington (KY). The program was on marketing without a budget. Kathleen's presentation included 10 easy steps to start, and there were some really great ideas from the audience. It was the perfect example of a great, interactive program which is hard to capture here (or in words anywhere). The best thing, is that it is easy to do!

The second to last program I attended was both in a more humorous vein, but also included some great reader's advisory ideas. It was called Superheroes to Serial Killers: Librarians in Literature. As part of the presentation there was a segment called "Serial Killer or Librarian" where a series of photos were projected and the audience was asked to pick one or the other. It was fun, and humorous. My original post includes a link to the reading list -- a must for librarians!

Paula Poundstone was the closing keynote speaker. It is really hard to capture the spirit of a stand up commedienne. Paula is one of my favorite panelists on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me (well, after my high school classmate, and original panelist Charlie Pierce...I walked to high school with him!) Some of the presentation was prepared, but clearly parts were not, as when she "picked on" California State Librarian (and PLA Past President) Susan Hildreth. I think that Paula may have been surprised at both our moxie and at the level and type of public librarian represented.

Overall---it was a great conference. As I said at a meeting today, one of the key things about the PLA National Conference is that it is all content. There are no business meetings, it is all programs and exhibits! Too bad I cannot get credit for going to the has been a while since I have had time for that at ALA conferences!

No comments:

Post a Comment