March 16, 2018

PLA Conference Preview 2012: Great Expectations | Philadelphia, March 13–17

Expectations are very optimistic for attendance at the Public Library Association (PLA) biennial conference in Philadelphia, March 13–17. Preregistrations at this writing were already coming in at a rate even with or a bit ahead of the attendance in 2010; with librarians and exhibitors, total attendance might exceed 8000.

The nearly 200 useful and entertaining sessions on the PLA program are loaded with both practice and policy. Panels will discuss every library question from ebooks to censorship, or service in jails to serving homeless families. Don’t miss the plethora of RA programs, too. There are lots of consultants—maybe too many—peddling advice on buzzwords like ­sustainability, but most of them are experienced and could help you run your library better.

If you can’t go to Philadelphia, you can participate in and enjoy PLA’s Virtual Conference, with its live programming on Thursday, March 15, and Friday, March 16. There will be five hour-long programs each day, plus author interviews, poster sessions, and opportunities for networking. All in all, PLA’s 2012 main event looks like one you ought not to miss and one where you can learn and enjoy. Here are a few highlights. (For more, go to Locations at the Pennsylvania Convention Center are marked PCC.

Wednesday, March 14

10:30 a.m.–noon

Book Buzz with Nancy Pearl
(Location in PLA program)

LJ’s 2010 Librarian of the Year returns to PLA by popular demand to highlight upcoming books for adults with a panel of premier publishers as they discuss what releases to keep an eye out for. Pearl, who recommends books on NPR’s Morning Edition, is author of Book Crush and several “Book Lust” titles.

2:30–4 p.m.

Opening Session with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (Location in PLA program)

Kennedy’s efforts to defend the environment made him a “Hero for the Planet” in Time magazine and one of Rolling Stone’s “100 Agents for Change.” He is senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper, president of Waterkeeper Alliance, a partner in the clean tech work of Silicon Valley’s VantagePoint Ventures, and the environmental advisor to Napo Pharmaceuticals.

Thursday, March 15

8:15–9:30 a.m.

Advocacy Is #1 in Times of Shrinking Funding (PCC, Rm. 115-A-B)

Tips, techniques, and programs from those who have tried them in different-sized libraries. Hear the strategies and grassroots efforts of Linda Morgan Davis and Cindy Burns (both, Albuquerque/Bernalillo Cty. Libs., NM), David Singleton (Charlotte Mecklenburg Lib., NC), and Cynthia Shetter (Los Lunas PL, NM).

Getting eContent to Your Customers: Challenges, Best Practices and Solutions (PCC, Rm. 122-A-B)

Ebook issues and access and delivery models from American Library Association (ALA) presidential candidate Gina Millsap (Topeka & Shawnee Cty. PL, KS), the ubiquitous Michael Porter (Library Renewal), Alan Inouye (ALA Office for Information Technology Policy), and Tom Peters (TAP Info Svcs.).

10:45 a.m.–noon

The Best in Debut Authors (PCC, Rm. 406)

Sponsored by AAP, LJ, and Get Caught Reading. Charlotte Rogan (The Lifeboat, Hachette Book Group), Wiley Cash (A Land More Kind Than Home, Harper­Collins), Kira Peikoff (Living Proof, Macmillan), and Stephen Dau (The Book of ­Jonas, Blue Rider/Penguin). Moderated by LJ’s Barbara Hoffert.

Being the Best: Stories from the Best Small Libraries in America (PCC, Rm. 118-C)

The 2008–11 winners of LJ’s Best Small Library in America award will tell about their winning programs, partnerships, and services. Speakers include Elizabeth Goldman (Perth & Dist. Union PL, Ont.), Nancy Rosenwald (Union Cty. Carnegie Lib., SC), William Harmer (Chelsea Dist. Lib., MI), Anne Hughes (Glen Carbon Centennial Lib., IL), and Paul Paladino (Montrose Lib. Dist., CO).

Libraries, Multimedia, and Technology (PCC, Rm. 114)

Chris Cerf’s career creating interactive multimedia educational content for children included a pivotal role in the creation of Sesame Street and Between the Lions. He will discuss how libraries can incorporate multimedia and technology to help children learn.

12:15–1:45 p.m.

Lunch with Author David Baldacci

The mega-best-selling author (The Innocent, Apr.; The Sixth Man) and his wife founded the Wish You Well Foundation (, dedicated to literacy efforts in America. Might be worth the fee of $50.

2–3:15 p.m.

Building the Digital Public Library of America (PCC, Rm. 120-A-B-C)

An interactive discussion of the vision and future of the DPLA and its goal to make the American cultural and scientific record available to all. Steering Committee chair John Palfrey (formerly vice dean for Lib. and Info Resources, Harvard Law Sch.) will lead Susan Hildreth (IMLS), Martín Gómez (Los Angeles PL), Michael Colford (Boston PL), and Maura Marx (Open Knowledge Commons, DPLA).

Leaders as Readers: What Happens When Directors Choose Reading as a Core Initiative (PCC, Rm. 118-C)

A quartet of library directors will share how they made reading a library and personal goal through staff training, community projects, and leadership. Hear Sari Feldman (Cuyahoga Cty. PL, OH), LJ award winners Craig Buthod (Louisville Free PL, KY) and Bill Ptacek (King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA), and Issac Pulver (Saratoga Springs PL, NY). A strong, dynamic cast.

No Fear Management: Dealing with Difficult People, Difficult Situations, Difficult Conversations (PCC, Rm. 113-A-B-C)

Lessons in tough love from LJ Mover & Shaker Manya Shorr (Sacramento PL, CA), LJ Librarian of the Year Rivkah Sass (Sacramento PL, CA), and Stacey Aldrich (State Librarian of California). They promise to deal with late employees, lack of enthusiasm, insubordination, general malaise, and related problems in an interactive, fast-paced session. Bring your union card!

Why Libraries Matter: Empowering Community Voices (PCC, Rm. 114)

Patty Wong (Yolo Cty. Lib., CA), ALA president Molly Raphael, Pam Jaskot (lib. consultant for communications and outreach, State Lib. of North Carolina), and ALA presidential candidate Barbara Stripling (Syracuse Univ.) on advocacy through community members.

Commons Ground: Info. Commons, Master Plans, and New Models of Public Service (PCC, Rm. 108-A-B)

The Brooklyn PL team of Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Jesse Montero, and Lay Cheng Lee tell how they adapted information commons ideas usually associated with academic libraries to a large public library. BPL is constructing the Leon Levy Information Commons on the ground floor of its Central Library.

On Life Support, but Not Dead Yet! Revitalizing Reference for the 21st Century (PCC, Rm. 126-A-B)

Jason Kuhl and Richard Kong (both, Arlington Heights Memorial Lib., IL) and Celeste Choate (Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI) pledge to reveal strategies to revitalize reference by shifting attitudes, changing collection philosophies and service models, and pioneering new services. They say they’ll make reference a centerpieces of the library again. Maybe!

Friday, March 16

8:15–9:30 a.m.

Sustainable Thinking: Passageway to Better Buildings, Budgets & Beyond (PCC, Rm. 116)

Rebekkah Aldrich (Mid-Hudson Lib. Syst., NY); consultant Louise Schaper, who is project lead on LJ’s New Landmark Libraries; Susan Benton (Urban Libs. Council); and architect Jeffrey Scherer (MS&R Ltd.) vow to take sustainability, the most popular buzzword at PLA, “to a new level of understanding.” A formidable gang.

Give ’em a Shot! Mentoring and Providing Professional Opportunities for the Next Generation of Librarians (PCC, Rm. 118-C)

The value of internships and mentoring from new librarians who experienced it. Ways your library can start an internship or fellowship. For those still in school or seeking a job, tips about networking, interviewing, and positioning. Richard Kong (Arlington Heights Memorial Lib., VA), Emily Weiss (Bedford PL, NH), and Celeste ­Choate and DeAnn Doll (both, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI).

Beyond the Library’s Walls: Community Hot Spots (PCC, Rm. 111-B)

From the home team (Philadelphia Free Lib.) comes Free Library Hot Spots, which bring computers, classes, and the Internet to organizations throughout the city. This is a conversation session with PFL’s Betsy Orsburn (chief, Office of Public Svc. Support), Jennifer Donsky (library coordinator), and Khaleef Aye (outreach specialist).

Making Business Intelligence Work for Libraries: How Patron Driven Consumer Research Will Improve the User Experience (Location in PLA program)

The findings from first Patron Profiles: U.S. Public Library Users’ Behaviors & Preferences, launched last year by LJ and Bowker, will be discussed by their creators and key library leaders. Hear from Rebecca Miller (editor-in-chief, School Library Journal and series editor, Patron Profiles), Kelly Gallagher (Bowker), ­Siobhan A. Reardon (Free Lib. of Philadelphia), Corinne Hill (Chattanooga PL), Alison Circle (Columbus Metro PL, OH), and Barbara Genco (project mgr., Patron ­Profiles).

10:45 a.m.–noon

Mystery Authors Revealed! (PCC, Rm. 406)

Sponsored by AAP and LJ. Charles Todd (An Unmarked Grave, HarperCollins), Lisa Unger (Heartbroken, Crown), Lars Kepler (The Nightmare, Macmillan), Sophie Hannah (The Other Woman’s House, Penguin), and Lisa Lutz (Trail of the Spellmans, S. & S.).

Designing and Building a Social Library Website (PCC, Rm. 120-A-B-C)

Don’t miss the chance to converse with Nate Hill (San José PL, CA) and Rebecca Ranallo (Cuyahoga Cty. PL, OH). Hill helped redesign the digital branch at San José and empowered 350 library staff at all levels as bloggers and web content authors. The new website is a vibrant hub for community participation. The triumphs and tragedies of the design process.

Family Literacy on the Inside: Bringing the Public Library to Incarcerated Parents (PCC, Rm. 122-A-B)

Nicholas Higgins (NYPL), a truly dedicated librarian serving the incarcerated; Stephanie Brueckel (Brooklyn PL); Hannah Mermelstein (St. Ann’s, NYPL, Queens Coll.); Adriana Mitchell (libn. trainee, Brooklyn PL); and Sarah Ball (job info resource libn., Brookyn PL) will discuss how their libraries help the families of those behind bars stay connected through innovative literacy programs in prisons. Strong family connections reduce recidivism. How to create, implement, and evaluate low-cost family literacy programs in correctional facilities.

Library of the Year Pow-Wow (PCC, Rm. 110-A-B)

Hear Francine Fialkoff (editor-in-chief, LJ) and Nader Qaimari (Sr. VP of marketing, Gale Cengage Learning) tell about the ins/outs of selecting the winners of the Library of the Year Award. Bring questions for an engaging and casual conversation on how this prestigious honor is selected—and how you can be a contender, too.

From the Heartland to Sin City: The Customer First Revolution (PCC, Rm. 114)

How three public libraries use market and literacy data to plot the variety of customer households, define community literacy challenges, and develop service strategies for a customer-first service model. Hear Jeanne Goodrich and Danielle Milam (Las Vegas–Clark Cty. Lib. Dist., NV), Carolyn Anthony (Skokie PL, IL), Gina Millsap (Topeka & Shawnee Cty. PL, KS, and ALA presidential candidate), and Marc Futterman (CIVICTechnologies).

LADIES & LUNCH The indomitable Betty White will close down PLA 2012, while luncheon is served around the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates. White photo ©Tad Motoyama, Los Angeles Zoo; Oates photo by Charles Gross

12:15–1:45 p.m.

Adult Author Lunch with Joyce Carol Oates (Location in PLA program)

Best-selling author Joyce Carol Oates (We Were the Mulvaneys; Blonde; and The Falls, which won the 2005 Prix Femina). More than worth the $50 fee.

2–3:15 p.m.

Choosing To Lead: Budget Decisions and Their Impact (PCC, Rm. 118-A-B)

How high-level budgetary decisions are made and useful strategies and lessons learned from their experience steering libraries through budget challenges, according to Peter Pearson (Friends of St. Paul PL) and directors Rivkah Sass (Sacramento PL, CA), David Singleton (Charlotte Mecklenburg Libs., NC), and Marcellus Turner (Seattle PL).

Intellectual Freedom Update 2012: When Trustees and Meeting Rooms Collide! (Location in PLA program)

Gina Millsap (ALA presidential candidate, Topeka-Shawnee Cty. PL, KS), Gail McPartland (Contra Costa Cty. PL, CA), and Kent Oliver (president, Freedom To Read Fdn.; director, Stark Cty. Dist. Lib., OH) assure “a spirited discussion of recent attempts by a library board to limit access to public library materials, and the Faith Ministries Church challenge of meeting room policies at Contra Costa County.”

The State of Ebooks in Public Libraries and Publishing (PCC, Rm. 111-B)

A “conversation session” on the issues with ebooks in public libraries and the publishing industry by Katie Dunneback (Natl. Lib. Svc. for the Blind & Physically Handicapped, Washington, DC) and Jessica Moyer (Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

The Numbers Don’t Matter: Empowerment and Bridge-Building Among a Multi-Generational Library Staff (PCC Rm. 119-A-B)

Because the multitudes of baby boomers never retired, three generations of librarians work together with different ideologies and methods. Martha Camacho (Pasadena PL, CA), Erica Cherup and Abby Kiracofe (both, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH), Jenna Hecker (SUNY Albany), and Kate Walker (Anderson Cty. Lib., SC) guarantee to dispel common myths associated with boomers, Xers, and Millennials and tell how to “bridge the gap” among generations.

With Friends Like These… (PCC, Rm. 120-A-B-C )

Libraries need Friends groups, but they aren’t always easy to work with. There are success stories, however, and this panel undertakes to tell them: Tom Kern (Wau­conda Lib., IL), Herbert Landau (Lancaster PL, PA), Pat Ditzer (Friends of the Lancaster PL, PA), Edward Elsner (Oswego PL, NY), and Sally Reed (ALTAFF).

4:15–5:15 p.m.

One Simple Goal: Help People Get Jobs! (PCC, Rm. 120-A-B-C )

Steve Hipes (Columbus Metro Lib., OH) on the Columbus service to job seekers that has helped over 70,000 in under two years.

Saturday, March 17

8:30–9:45 a.m.

Grassroots Library Advocacy (PCC, Rm. 118-C)

The leadership of Urban Librarians Unite and, librarians Christian Zabriskie, Aliqae Geraci, and Lauren Comito (all from New York City’s Queens Lib.), on how they create protest marches, read-ins, postcard campaigns, and viral marketing to bring new support to the library.

In Order To Form a More Perfect Union…: Library Access as an Emerging Constitutional Right (PCC, RM. 122-A-B)

Intellectual freedom fighters and lawyers will examine library access as a right and the unique responsibility of libraries to users. Hear Leone Cole and Beverly Shank (both, Watertown Free PL, MA), attorney Katharine Doyle, David Pirtle (Faces of the Homeless Speakers Bureau, Natl. Coalition for the Homeless), and Deborah Caldwell Stone ( ALA Office for Intellectual ­Freedom).

10:15 a.m.–11:30 p.m.

Creating the Library of the Year (LOY)

Bridget Quinn-Carey and Thomas Galante (top execs at New York City’s Queens Lib.; LOY 2009), Lucie Osborne (Laramie Cty. Lib., WY; LOY 2008), and Bill Ptacek (King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA; LOY 2011) will discuss how they developed their submission for the LJ/Gale Library of the Year Award.

What Public Libraries Can Do for Families Experiencing Homelessness (PCC, Rm. 121-A-B-C)

Vikki Terrile (Queens Lib., NY), Jane Salisbury and Kirby McCurtis (Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR), and Sarah Mackey (Ready To Read, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH) will examine the causes of family homelessness, the largest and fastest-growing segment of the homeless population, and how libraries can help such ­families.

11:45 a.m.–1 p.m.

Closing Session with Betty White

The career of session keynoter Betty White spans almost seven decades. She has earned Emmys, Lifetime Achievement awards, and Screen Actors Guild awards. Besides acting, White has been a producer, game show host, parade commentator, talk show host, and zoo commissioner. She is author of six books, the latest being My Life at the Zoo.


Visit LJ’s PLA channel for complete coverage of the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.


Visit LJ’s PLA channel for complete coverage of the conference, and be sure to follow us on Twitter.

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John N. Berry III About John N. Berry III

John N. Berry III ( is Editor-at-Large, LJ. Berry joined the magazine in 1964 as Assistant Editor, becoming editor-in-Chief in 1969 and serving in that role until 2006.



  1. The PLA National Conference Planning Committee (a great group of volunteers) worked hard to find the balance between practice and policy concerning important issues facing public libraries today.

    Rolf Hapel, will also share successful new models for public libraries in Denmark on Friday, March 16.

    For the first time, there will be an Unconference, facilitated by Chrystie Hill on Friday, March 16 from 12:30 – 5:00. It will give attendees an opportunity to explore topics that concern or interest them.


  2. Opps – please make that 12:30 – 3:30 for the Unconference –