I had the wonderful opportunity to return home to Philadelphia last week to attend the Public Library Association Conference. Despite a vicious nor’easter keeping me home in Annapolis a bit later than I planned, I was able to get myself out the door early in the morning on Thursday and still catch a good chunk of the conference on Thursday and Friday and catch up with two of my iSchool classmates and my former, wonderful, supervisor!
Here are some highlights from some of the sessions I attended:
I loved this session hosted by the Madison (WI) Public Libraries about their makerspace/justice project, one facet of which involved bringing artist educators in to work with young people in the justice system. I loved the way the artist they brought to lead a demo session tied cultural lessons with the teens’ lives and brought all that into the art they would then create together. One of the key takeaways I got from this session was the importance of listening to those whom the program is for – as one presenter put it, not “com[ing] in with all your adult goals.” I also learned about how slowly building relationships with perhaps reluctant partners in the community, such as the local juvenile detention center in this example, can lead to really fruitful partnerships as trust builds.
More about this project here.
Applying an Equity Lens:
This program was all about Seattle Public Library’s recent initiative to apply an equity lens to all they do, they two presented examples being their bookmobile placement and their One Seattle, One Book (not sure if that’s the official name) celebration. A key takeaway here was within the four elements of consideration that made up applying an equity lens to a program, namely:
- Participation: Did we engage people of color in the program, both in attendance and in creation?
- Content: Was the content about, relevant to, and developed by people of color?
- Budget: Who benefits financially from this program? Is the money going back into the communities it is developed for and by?
- Community Involvement: Were members of the community and local leaders consulted in the development of the program?
I also appreciated something the speaker addressed when discussing their bookmobile site reallocation, which was that they went through an entire, data driven process of re-allocating the bookmobiles to more adequately serve communities in need who would not be able to get to the library, and it wasn’t until the very end that they realized they never asked if Bookmobiles were what people wanted. Much like in the Making Justice program, the takeaway was that community feedback is a crucial step in the process.
I loved this session, not the least because it was led by two Maryland librarians and featured several references to the library where i got my start – Prince George’s County! Aside from that, I was impressed by the many different particularly outreach and advocacy ideas they had including: bringing the equipment into local schools, having local politicians test drive the equipment, collaborating with local manufacturers for job skill training and connecting with local VR/AR developers to pilot new ideas and learn about trends in the field.
I also appreciated the focus on content development. While I think many libraries who have VR systems have comfortably forayed into the world of exploring games and tools that have already been developed and are available for purchase, creating VR content on the back-end is much more challenging but perhaps more useful in the long-term as we look toward a future where VR and AR become more and more predominant parts of daily life. Teaching people now how to create their own VR content and demystifying what happens behind the screen can set people up for greater success later when VR becomes perhaps as omnipresent as a laptop is today.
Creating a Common Culture with Athens-Clarke GA
So many wonderful tips emerged from this session with regards to getting a community history project off the ground and making sure you are reaching who you need to reach. I loved that the ACPL archivist focused on creating a dialogue with patrons – she would share her story before asking them to share theirs – with no pressure to do so if they were uncomfortable or unsure. There was also an emphasis on making sure that this program is promoted as something that benefits the community – even if there is history collected as a result, it should be presented to the community as something that is for them to help them document their own history. I loved that the archivist said she would ask those who didn’t participate: “why is my message not reaching you?” or “what makes you think your story isn’t valuable to share?” so that she should continually improve the messaging and reach of the program.
That’s just a brief summary of some of the many things I learned this weekend! I had a wonderful time and can’t wait until the next PLA.