Illustration by Carmen Segovia.
A division of the American Library Association (ALA) — whose members include school, college, and research librarians — PLA is strictly focused on public librarians, and its educational program at its biennial conference (launched in 1983) reflects that niche audience.
Despite the narrow focus, the range of conference sessions offered is broad. “People tell us, ‘This is too much. I can’t get to everything,’” said Melissa Faubel Johnson, CMP, PLA’s conference manager. “I guess that’s a good problem to have.”
While choosing which sessions to attend this year may have been tough, getting to them was not. “Our people had a great experience in Indianapolis,” Faubel Johnson said. “The downtown area, the walkability of everything, the hotels being in such close proximity to the convention center, and the convention center itself — more so than any center we have been at in the past few years — was just really easy to navigate.”
Funding “is a huge concern” for attendees, who are “trying to do more with less money, less staff,” Faubel Johnson said. “People are taking on different roles than they used to in the past, and a lot of that has to do with technology and how fast technology is moving.”
For the most part, attendees pay for their own travel and lodging and their employer picks up their registration fee. Some librarians pay for everything, “just because they find it that valuable to attend,” she said. PLA’s strong reputation for content is reflected in the fact that attendance numbers have held steady.
The program continues to address how public libraries are evolving to meet their local communities’ needs. “Not everyone in America has a laptop or Internet connection,” Faubel Johnson said. “A lot of people in low-income populations rely on their library for that.”
In addition, many public libraries feature teen centers and after-school programs. Plus, during the recession, public libraries served as resource centers for job seekers, even offering career classes, a trend that continues today. As Faubel Johnson said: “Where else can you go and get this stuff for free?” Public Library Association (PLA) 2014 Conference
March 11–15, 2014
Indiana Convention Center Indianapolis
Table of Contents
A sampling of titles for more than 150 sessions (including the pre-conference program) offered during PLA’s 2014 Conference indicates the evolving role of public librarians and the diverse constituencies they now serve:
› ‘How to Ruin Your Library’s Reputation in 10 Easy Steps: PR Essentials’
› ‘Gather and Deliver High-Value Technology Services’
› ‘Five Million and Counting: Serving Patrons With Alzheimer’s and Dementia’
› ‘Out of the Closet and Onto the Shelves: GLBTQ Literature for Today’s Teen’
› ‘Cooking the Books: Food Programs in the Library’
› ‘Dinosaurs, Dogs, and Dump Trucks: Informational Text for Young Learners’