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What is it like to attend a state library conference?

Jenn, our children's librarian

I’m so glad you asked that question, Molly Kane (Head of Teen Services and Emerging Technologies) and I just got back from the Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference. It was four fun and educational filled days in Harrisburg. We arrived on Sunday and immediately went to lunch where we heard from James Robbins, an author, adventurer, and motivational speaker. His speech was titled: Reaching New Heights.

After we were thoroughly motivated we served as facilitators in a discussion regarding library customer service. My table discussed various scenarios we might encounter and how best to handle them for you and the library. We then took a break to check in to the hotel and check out our room. My bed, I am sad to say, was a lumpy rock (ouch!). We retired early so we would fresh for an early start the next day.

Bright and early the next morning I was up to meet my committee chair for the Best Practices breakfast and award ceremony. This is the first year I served on this committee to reward excellent and innovative programming for youth in Pennsylvania libraries. My favorite part of the event was watching the face of the librarian who won the best program of the year. A list of this year’s winners will be posted on the www.palibraries.org website soon.

After a lovely meal, I went to a 3 hour session to learn about how best to engage with families in the community and provide exciting programming. There were several tips and ideas that I brought back to Upper Dublin.

Lunch on Monday was the most exciting meal I had at the conference. It was the Carolyn W. Field Award Luncheon. I also served on this committee and had the honor of selecting Jordan Sonnenblick’s latest book The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade as the best book for youth by a Pennsylvania author or illustrator. Click here for a list of current and past winners. Our committee read over 40 books to determine a winner and honor books. Seated at the committee’s table were three of the four honor author/illustrators. I sat next to Jared Reck, author of The Short History of the Girl Next Door, across from us was Katherine Locke, author of The Girl with the Red Balloon, and near Katherine was Judy Schachner author of Sarabella’s Thinking Cap (she is also the author of the Skippyjon Jones series). There were few dry eyes in the audience when Jordan was done with his speech about the young man who inspired the writing of his book. I am now the proud owner of signed copies of all the books I mentioned.

After lunch I went to a session to hear more from the Best Practice winners and then checked out the exhibit hall. If you have never attended an industry conference, an exhibit hall is where vendors set up tables to try and sell you their products. At a library conference we have book publishers, library technology companies, graduate schools, and much more.

That evening was a quiet dinner with Molly and the director of a small library at a lovely Italian restaurant. We retired to our room to prepare for day three.

Tuesday brought us more sessions and Lauren Smyth, our assistant director. Molly and I both attended an excellent session about compassionate library leadership and a session about poverty and youth in libraries. After that we found lunch and Lauren who brought a poster session to the conference. A poster session is literally a stand-up poster with information on it. Lauren presented information about our internship program. After that I attended a cool session about gaming in libraries and walked away with a list of games and information.

To end the day, I attended the annual PaLA business meeting. Reports were given and library related awards were given out. After that I went to the Public Library Division meeting where we discussed how to get more people involved and I won a book. Back to the same Italian restaurant for dinner, it was really tasty, and to bed.

Wednesday was another early day for me as I was at breakfast by 7:30am. Our speakers at breakfast were State Senator Guy Reschenthaler and State Representative Stan Saylor who spoke about how libraries impact life in Pennsylvania. After breakfast I was off to learn more about preschool STEAM programming. My last session of the day was TLC to STEAM: A Different Kind of Teen Advisory Board presented by our own Molly Kane. I was her moderator, acting as hostess for the session and making sure she had what she needed.

After that? We drove home. It was a good conference, I met many new people, learned about new ideas, and had my sense of worth as a librarian reinforced.

Now you know what it is like to attend a library conference.

Miss Jenn

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