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Reflections on my first PaLA conference

November 6, 2018
Jessica Showalter discusses her poster with Pennsylvania Library Association President Tina Hertel.

Jessica Showalter discusses her poster with Pennsylvania Library Association President Tina Hertel. Image: Bonnie Imler

A few weeks ago, I presented a poster at the Pennsylvania Library Association conference in Harrisburg. I’ve presented at academic conferences before, but this was the first time I presented at PaLA and a few experiences surprised me.

Big conference with small conference feel

When I arrived at the conference, I noticed that there were hundreds of attendees. However, when I interacted with conference organizers at the registration desk and at other stations, I felt welcomed as an individual rather than rushed along as part of the big crowd. They even kindly let me store my 3’ x 4’ poster behind the desk so I wouldn’t have to awkwardly drag it along to sessions—whew!

A focus on interactive sessions

As I mentioned, I’ve attended academic conferences before. I have a background in English literature, and the style at many of these conferences is usually a panel of 3-4 speakers who each read an 8-10 page paper followed by a Q & A session (although more and more conferences are experimenting with adding lightning rounds or roundtables in addition to the lecture-style presentations). On the other hand, many of the PaLA sessions were highly interactive, asking attendees to sketch wish-list floorplans or draw reflective diagrams or participate in impromptu polls. I appreciated this hands-on engagement, and I plan to incorporate it into future presentations of my own.

Networking—with co-workers

One of the biggest surprises was that not only did I get to meet library folks from other institutions, I also got to meet many other Penn State Libraries staff as well. I work at Penn State Altoona and rarely get the chance to visit other Penn State campuses, so being at PaLA let me meet library staff from some of the over 20 other Penn State commonwealth campuses and branch libraries that I may recognize by name from emails but haven’t had the chance yet to meet in person.

The value of live tweets

Following the conference hashtag on Twitter () helped me catch up with sessions I couldn’t attend. It also let me connect with fellow library folks, even after the conference ended. I’m grateful for the attendees who put time and effort into live-tweeting for their followers.

Looking forward to next year’s conference!

Jessica Showalter is an Information Resources and Services Support Specialist at Penn State Altoona’s Eiche Library. Say hello on Twitter @libraryjms

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2018 4:44 pm

    Agree with this! It is a great community oriented conference, with real world applications.

    • Jessica Showalter permalink
      November 6, 2018 7:34 pm

      Totally–I came home with a notebook full of practical ideas. Thanks for your comment!

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