PLA 2014 from ideas to action

It’s one thing to attend a conference and report on what you learned, and it’s another to put it into practice, but both are fun. The week after PLA, I wrote reports on each session and an executive summary of programming, marketing, and administrative ideas for my city and library administration.

And then I rolled up my sleeves. So far, I’ve tossed out monthly activity reports for my supervisees in favor of one on one meetings, and started being much more deliberate in my use of email: only for imparting information and updates, not for conversing, asking questions, or fostering exchanges of ideas. It’s tempting to engage in email threads, because we work different shifts; it’s harder to see people in person to get their feedback but worth the personal exchange and improved communication.

I’ve worked on making displays more inviting and available — adding a simple sign, designed by a talented staff member who is a graphic arts whiz, that invites the public to check out the items on the display (seems obvious, but patrons might not realize this). And encouraged the use of photos instead if clip art in signs.

In conjunction with a poetry display for National Poetry Month I set up a “passive” program, or interactive activity — blackout poetry — and invited staff to try it first. For an upcoming Skype author event, I took posters around to area coffee shops and other places where book-lovers might hang out (we’ve mostly postered in house for events) and invited staff to share the poster with friends.

And I’ve been thinking about how the Adult Services department can incorporate even more PLA 2014 ideas in the coming year. I’m hoping we’ll offer community conversation events (from “Coming to America” open mics to discussion forums), book club activities, more interactive events as well as traditional ones. That we’ll video and post events on the website to increase attendance, make concerted staff-wide marketing efforts 6x a year, add a Tumblr blog to our website for Readers’ Advisory and a Pinterest account for showing off all kinds of cool library stuff.

I also hope to incorporate patron requests into our collection development guidelines (we do this but haven’t stated our intentions), market to patrons who just come in to pick up holds, do more to attract both Baby & Echo Boomers, expand community partnerships, help staff to see themselves as “embedded librarians,” look into inviting social services professionals to work with our patrons next winter, create a spotlight display area right up front near the circulation desk, make our marketing more personable and fun, and focus on affirmative customer service.

In short, 3 weeks later I’m still energized and excited and I can’t wait to start sharing my hopes and goals with my coworkers during our annual planning process so we can put some or all of these ideas into action. I’m a little tired, honestly, from the long winter and from catching up after being out of the library too much in March (besides PLA I attended Supervisors’ Academy locally and cheered on my daughter’s FIRST Robotics team in Rhode Island). But I haven’t lost the delight I felt when surrounded by 8,000 smart, engaged, interesting librarians and I haven’t lost sight of our profession as hope-filled, narrative-changing, empowering, egalitarian, and just plain awesome.

PLA 2014 impressions, the first post

I got back late last night from Indianapolis and PLA 2014, my first. My synapses are still firing furiously. Everything you’ve heard about learning as much in the hallways at a conference as you do in the sessions is true. I went to very informative sessions, but looking over my notes this morning, I realized the random jottings I stored on my phone as I chatted with people in lines, at meals, and between sessions are a fascinating trove.

I’ve read about some of the things I learned at PLA in professional journals. But meeting someone who is acting on an idea — be it  putting “the community” at the top of the library’s org chart or  or using Twitter to forge partnerships or embedding librarians on community service boards or putting cutouts of staff’s faces on recommended reading– is more powerful than reading about those same ideas.

I need to do some post-conference processing, culling my notes for ideas I want to put into action with our own local twist, allowing them to percolate. And I need to think about the best way to communicate all the exciting things I’ve learned to my colleagues without sounding like a jerk who doesn’t appreciate what we’re already doing or an impractical dreamer who wants to implement a bunch of changes at once.

But mostly what I need to do is remain infused with the joy I felt at PLA. What we do is awesome. What we do is community-building. What we do is hope-fueled and potentially narrative-changing. What we do can fill in the broken spaces in our communities, in our lives and the lives of those we serve. What we do is empowering — people can learn and grow and be their best selves because of the books and services and programs and presence we offer.What we do is shepherd the most egalitarian places in America. Our libraries when they are at their best are the very best of what our society can be.

And I feel delighted and grateful to be a part of this profession.

As I headed to work today I looked forward to the task opening session speaker Bryan Stevenson charged us with:  being fueled by conviction in my heart for the ideas in my head. Thank you to all the incredibly talented, smart, engaged, generous, kind librarians I met for inspiring me and sharing ideas.