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Reflections on PaLA Annual Conference 2012

October 24, 2012

by Tom Reinsfelder and Christina Steffy

Each year, PaLA’s annual conference is filled with informative, educational events to help librarians in all areas of the field gain valuable knowledge through sessions and through networking opportunities. Although we know this when we attend, or when we see if it’s possible to attend, we don’t always take the time to actively reflect on the conference and to share our thoughts with other librarians. This week, we’re sharing our thoughts on the PaLA 2012 Annual Conference that was held in Gettysburg.

Christina Steffy
This PaLA conference is not the first one I’ve attended, but it was certainly filled with “firsts” that made this a unique experience for me. This was my first PaLA annual conference as a librarian – my previous annual conference I attended was as an MLIS student – so I had a new perspective on things. Rather than seeing this as a chance to learn about what I will be doing in my field and to perform information interviews, I was viewing this through the lens of, “How can I use what I’m learning here to improve my library services?” This was also my first year on CRD Board, so it was the first year I really felt like I had a stake in the conference. Through reviewing conference proposals, serving as a moderator for a session, and attending a session to distribute materials and help promote Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice, I was contributing to the growth and development of the profession in addition to my own personal professional growth.

While at PaLA, I attended the following sessions: The Embedded Librarian: A Crucial Addition to Online, Graduate Research Courses(I moderated this session); Sustainability Usability Testing in Academic Libraries through Student Staff Training; Evidence-Based Practice and Information Literacy: Connections and Possibilities; A New Online Open Access Publication for Pennsylvania’s Academic Libraries: Updates & Opportunities; and Course & Subject Guides: Evolved Learning Spaces or Instructional Crutches. I also viewed many of the poster presentations. As a solo librarian, it was nice to get out and be around other librarians so that I don’t become “isolated” and not keep up with what’s going on outside my library. Also, through these sessions, I was able to network (which is important for anyone, not just for someone in the early stages of her career), and I was able to engage in formal and informal exchanges of ideas. I found the sessions on course guides and evidence-based practice to be especially interesting and relevant to me. I’m currently creating guides for my nursing schools using a “home grown” method and it was nice to connect with others about this, and to make sure that I’m critically evaluating the need for these guides. Also, evidence-based practice is important in the health sciences and, since my background was not in the health sciences prior to my position in a nursing school library, it was nice to have the opportunity to learn more about this and to see how it’s spreading into other fields. I also found the poster sessions incredibly valuable because they forced me to step out of the academic library focus I had when choosing the sessions and to see what all types of libraries are doing. For example, I learned about projects to recycle old books, and I learned about Reading Public Library’s Saturday cultural events like music and food tasting. I was also able to see the Patron Behavior: Be Aware! poster and learn about patron behavior and library staff safety; this was especially important to me since I’m not only a solo librarian, but I’m also the only library staff person working in a high stress environment.

Although I was only able to attend two days, I learned a lot and I stepped outside the box of my library world. I will continue to attend conferences in the future and to give back to my profession by actively participating in library boards and conferences.

Tom Reinsfelder

Like Christina, this was not my first PaLA conference, but it was my first as a member of the CRD board and included my first presentation at this conference. It was exciting to announce and share some news about our new publication Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice. I also enjoyed being able to see many of the people from around the state who I have been working with, but rarely meet in person. And of course, it is always nice to meet new people and make new connections.  The location was excellent. The facilities were very nice, and in some ways unique.  It was my first time attending a presentation at a library conference in a movie theater. (As I walked past the popcorn I was directed to theater 4 on the right).

The presentations and poster sessions at PaLA are always interesting, making this one of my favorite conferences to attend. All of the sessions I attended were valuable, but this year one of my favorites was where I learned about he concept of the “Using the Filter Bubble” to engage students (by Allyson Valentine & Laura Wukovitz). If you didn’t make it to PaLA this year, consider making the trip next fall if you can.

Were you able to attend? Please share your thoughts and reflections with us. Also, whether you were able to attend or not, you can view the session handouts here.

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