Thanks to a continuing education grant from the Arizona State Library, I was able to attend the Public Library Association Conference this March in Philadelphia. Despite the winter storm warnings and much chillier weather than that to which I’m accustomed, I found the trip to be a successful learning adventure. Due to the weather, a number of attendees and exhibitors were shut out of Philadelphia or had to make alternative travel arrangements. Thankfully I arrived early enough to avoid any delays. The snowfall in downtown Philly did little to dampen the spirits of our stalwart colleagues and the conference continued with minor adjustments to the schedule and more virtual participation whenever possible.
From the opening session with Sally Yates, who referred to public librarians as “thought leaders” and “doers,” to the very entertaining closing session with Hasan Minhaj, who tackled such topics as racism and immigration, this conference was inspiring. Sally Yates spoke in the interest of justice, equality, and liberty, saying, “Librarians are the keepers of the gateway to truth.” She encouraged each of us to continue our mission of providing the means of informing our communities so people with very diverse views can have a dialogue and find solutions to the issues we face right now.
I also learned more about how the library can be useful in tackling societal issues in our community, such as homelessness, addiction, and illiteracy. As a panelist from Cleveland pointed out, “We’re not in the book business. We’re in the people business. It’s very hard for a hungry child to learn to read.” In addition, I came away with new ideas on reaching students and families and how we can empower parents to incorporate literacy activities into their homes. As a manager and a leader, I gained valuable tools for coaching a successful team.
Philadelphia’s rich American history provided the perfect backdrop for this motivating conference. I’m grateful to the Arizona State Library and the IMLS for the opportunity to connect with passionate, like-minded professionals from all over the country, and I look forward to the next PLA Conference in 2020.
Library Manager, Casa Grande Public Library