This past weekend, a few of our library staff had a chance to attend the marathon that was the 2016 American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition right here in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. For a conference that didn’t require us to actually travel anywhere, we definitely found ourselves just as busy and involved as if we had actually traveled out of state. It’s not too often we attend conferences not centered around medical librarianship, but this was a good opportunity to reconnect with our colleagues working in more traditional libraries.
The American Library Association (ALA) is to public, school media, and academic librarians what the Medical Library Association (MLA) is to medical librarians like us; a national organization responsible for facilitating training, continued education, innovations, and networking for anyone working in the field who happens to be a member. Membership is voluntary, and involves a fee in order to stay active. Members can serve on various committees or run for different offices, all of which work towards different goals that benefit the organization, or the field. ALA is more focused on librarianship as a whole, with particular interests in public libraries, k-12 school media libraries, and university libraries, thus, the programming at the annual conference skews heavily in those directions.
That said, we’ve found that conferences like this one (and the Florida based Florida Library Association Annual Meeting) are excellent places to find fun new ideas for services and events to bring to our library, more so than at MLA because the focus is more on programming and outreach and less on research and assisting in patient care. This was a particularly good opportunity as the conference is historically a REALLY big deal, drawing in tens of thousands of librarians and library supporters; it was convenient to have the conference right in our backyard.
This conference marked the 140 anniversary of the organization. It was fitting for the theme for this event to be “Transforming our Libraries, and Ourselves”; a lot has changed about the field and the librarians that make up the organization since then. There was a definite theme of diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the entire event, kicked off with an excellent talk by author, radio show host, scholar, and public intellectual Michael Eric Dyson during the opening session Friday evening on how literacy is important to liberating societies from hate. While these topics were already planned to be a focus during the conference, they were particularly poignant and appropriate given the events of the past few weeks here in Orlando. In the wake of the shootings earlier this month that shook our city, and more specifically our LGBTQ and Latino communities, it was moving and wonderful to see how much ALA and all attendees voiced and showed their support through memorial events, donations of money and blood to the relief efforts, rainbow colored ribbons and banners.
While we didn’t present any sessions or posters this time around, we did make the most of being able attend and absorb a lot of information from a lot of different programs. It’s nice to be able to get a different perspective on providing library services from a different category of librarians. While it may sound cliche, it was also a good opportunity for us to reconnect with why we likely became librarians in the first place – a love for books and learning. We all walked away with a slew of free books that we’re eager to sit down with and absorb!
Overall, ALA 2016 was a lot of fun – we’re glad we had the opportunity to attend!