April 20, 2018

Inspiring the New Public Library | PLA Preview 2014


For public librarians , two years is really too long to wait for the professional recharging, updates, and new ideas that a Public Library Association (PLA) conference delivers. So, as usual, expectations are high for attendance at the 2014 PLA meeting, which takes place in Indianapolis, March 11–15.

PLA conferences in the Midwest always draw large attendance, according to PLA executive director Barbara Macikas. Attendance should top the 8,710 at the PLA in Philadelphia in 2012 and might equal the 9,800 recorded at PLA in Minneapolis in 2008.

There are many reasons to expect high numbers in Indianapolis. PLA president Carolyn Anthony (director, Skokie PL, IL) has a strong conference committee chaired by Larry Neal (director, Clinton McComb PL, MI), now president-elect of PLA. Also, the rich, varied, cutting-edge program was built by a committee chaired by Georgia Lomax (Pierce Cty. Lib.Syst., Tacoma).

New at PLA

Brand new ideas and concepts will be on display at PLA, such as the Library Space Pavilion in the exhibits. It will feature innovative concepts from Maker spaces to happiness zones.

Another conference innovation is the Big Ideas Series, which begins with Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action (8:15–9:15 a.m., Thurs., Mar. 13), sponsored by Innovative Interfaces. Sinek is featured in the Huffington Post.

The Big Ideas Panel (8:15–9:15 a.m., Fri., Mar. 14) features Megan McArdle, special correspondent for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and author of The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success. She argues that failure is how people and businesses learn. Panelist David McRaney (You Are Not So Smart; You Are Now Less Dumb) shares his discoveries about self-­delusion and ­irrational thinking. Also on the same panel, Clive Thompson (Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better and a contributor to the New York Times Magazine and Wired) posits that technology is making us smarter, more productive, and more creative. The trio are sponsored by Penguin Random House.

The series ends with Big Ideas with Amy Cuddy (at 8–9 a.m., Sat., Mar. 15). The Harvard Business School professor and scholar studies how we perceive and are influenced by other people, how to channel nonverbal behavior into persuasive leadership, and how physical posture not only affects how others see us but how we see ourselves. Cuddy’s TED talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” was streamed eight million times and called one of “20 Online Talks That Could Change Your Life” by London’s Guardian.

Professional development

PLA’s more than 100 programs are arranged in tracks. Beginning this year, there will no longer be a separate technology track “because technology is in all things library.” Instead, programs within other tracks that offer significant technology content will be marked with a “T.”

Under Administration/Management are gems like “Black Belt Librarians: How To Effectively and Safely Inform Patrons of Library Rules”; “Difficult Decisions and Tough Times: Policy Survival Tips”; “Filtering Out Internet Censorship: Advocacy, Professional Ethics, and the Law”; and “Keep Calm and Carry On: Financial Planning To Avoid Fiscal Pitfalls.” LJ’s own editor in chief Rebecca Miller will moderate “Crafting Excellence: Using Research To Build the Best User Experience” (10:45 a.m., Thurs., Mar. 13). The panel will also feature LJ columnist Aaron Schmidt as well as Denise M. Davis (deputy director, Sacramento PL, CA) and Jill Porter (assistant director for public service, Traverse Area Dist. Lib., MI).

In Collections/Tech Services, “ABC—Always Be Circulating: How Public Libraries Meet Demand and Increase Use” and “Facing the Drastic Changes to Technical Services Head On” looked good. We also liked the title of “Does This Display Make Me Look Fat? The Truth About Merchandising.”

The Leadership track includes sessions like “The Most Dangerous Idea of All: Change from the Bottom Up” and “Throw Out the Map: Sustainable Thinking for the Future of Libraries.” Meanwhile, a Marketing/­Advocacy track includes “Better Websites Make Happier People: Web Management Essentials” and “Building Relationships Outside the Building: Do You Know Where Your Librarian Is?” There are ConverStations, interactive programs with lots of attendee participation on timely, relevant public library topics.

Serving Adults will feature useful sessions on “All About Audiobooks: Improving Readers’ Advisory for Listeners”; “Doing Time with Sisters in Crime”; and “Five Million and Counting: Serving Patrons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

The Serving Youth track is rich with topics such as “Animation Makerspaces: Handmade Animation Meets iPad Technology”; “Betwixt and Be-Tween: Readers’ Advisory and Programs for Tweens”; and “Dinosaurs, Dogs, and Dump Trucks: Informational Text for Young Learners.”

Spaces and Places encompasses a host of programs on library buildings and space design. Consider “10 Steps to a Better Library Interior”; “Keeping It Real About Going Green”; and “Library Makerspaces: Building Community Through Participatory Learning.”

The Staffing track will focus on “Beats, Brews, and Bouncy Castles: Defining Your Library’s Culture”; “Engagers, Innovators, Life-Long Learners, and Facilitators: Hiring Staff for the 21st Century Library”; and “Library Reality TV: Using Improv Techniques To Transform Customer Service.”

Grand openings

The Ann Patchett Book Hour (10:30–11:30 a.m., Wed., Mar. 12) is new at PLA this year. Noted author of Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder, Patchett is also co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, where she regularly recommends books and authors to readers. She brings what she shares with shoppers at home to PLA, thanks to HarperCollins.

The Opening Session with Bryan Stevenson (2:30–4 p.m., Wed., Mar. 12) features the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) with an inspiring message that echoes the mission of libraries. Sponsored by Brainfuse.

The Closing Session with David Sedaris (11:45 a.m.–1 p.m., Sat., Mar. 15) is sponsored by Ingram. Meet the humorist and best-selling author of Barrel Fever, Holidays on Ice, and many more. Sedaris writes regularly in The New Yorker.

Authors arrayed

These author events are more than worth the $35 ($50 for the Audio Dinner) you will pay when you register.

Opening Lunch with Richard Ford (12:15–1:45 p.m., Wed., Mar. 12) brings front and center the author of Canada, a 2012 recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. Supported by HarperCollins.

An Adult Author Lunch with Jane Pauley (12:15–1:45 p.m., Thurs., Mar. 13) features the 30-year Today Show host and 11-year anchor of Dateline NBC. She is here promoting her memoir, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue. Sponsored by Simon & Schuster.

Go to the Children’s Author Lunch with Brad Meltzer (12:15–1:45 p.m., Thurs., Mar. 13) to hear the thriller writer (The Fifth Assassin) who now pens an illustrated children’s series on historic heroes when they were kids. Sponsored by Penguin Young Readers.

The Audio Publishers Association Dinner (6-8:30 p.m. Thurs., Mar. 13) will provide good food and drink and Mary Kay Andrews (Ladies’ Night); Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog); Walter Mosley (Little Green); and Katherine Kellgren, who has recorded more than 175 audiobooks and is a six-time winner of the Audie Award.

An Adult Author Lunch with Craig Johnson and Lisa Unger (12:15–1:45 p.m., Fri., Mar. 14) features mystery authors Johnson, whose “Walt Longmire Mystery” series is the basis for the hit A&E drama Longmire, and Unger (In the Blood). Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster are the ­sponsors.

The Young Adult Author Lunch with John Green (12:15–1:45 p.m., Fri., Mar. 14) features Green, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award and the Edgar Award and author of Paper Towns, among other titles. Penguin Young Readers is the sponsor.

Virtual PLA

If you just can’t be in Indianapolis, sign up to attend the PLA 2014 Virtual Conference (Mar. 13–14), at which ten top conference presenters will repeat their programs online. Registration is now open.

Closing fun

The PLA All Conference Reception, the Innovative Interfaces E-BookExtravaganza! (5:30–7:30 p.m., Fri., Mar. 14), will offer eating, drinking, dancing, and ereader and gift card raffles, thanks to sponsor Innovative Interfaces.

This brief selection of sessions only aims to suggest highlights and whet your appetite for the 2014 PLA. We hope to see you in Indianapolis! n

This article was published in Library Journal's February 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

John N. Berry III About John N. Berry III

John N. Berry III (jberry@mediasourceinc.com) 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.