I just returned from my first Illinois Library Association conference, which took place in Peoria, Illinois. The weekend was packed full of interesting, inspiring, thought-provoking, fun, and useful information and activities. I had a great time getting to know my fellow interns better and networking with other library professionals. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference!
The is so much I could say about the conference, so I thought it might be helpful for me to break down my top five highlights.
1. Working as a Conference Intern
Skokie Public Library encouraged the other interns and me to apply to work as conference interns, meaning that we would work for four hours during the conference in exchange for free registration. It was a great deal, and I would encourage all students to do the same whenever possible.
I was scheduled to work for the first four hours of the conference, where I worked at the registration desk. It was fun to meet so many conference attendees, and I learned a lot about special events and services the conference had to offer. Though I had to miss the opening keynote speaker, I think working at the beginning of the conference was one of the best slots I could have gotten, because it was so busy and high-energy.
2. Hearing from Chris Raschka, Miranda Paul, B.A. Binns, and Laura Park
One of the most exciting parts of any library conference is getting to see famous authors and illustrators in person and hear them speak about why libraries are important to them and the work that they do. The first author / illustrator I got to hear was Chris Raschka, who has won Caldecott medals for his picture books The Hello, Goodbye Window (2006) and A Ball for Daisy (2012). It was fascinating to hear about the books that influenced him as a child and what led him to become an author and illustrator himself. I bought a copy of A Ball for Daisy and got it signed after his speech.
I heard from Chris Raschka again later that day, when he sat on a panel with three other authors and illustrators. The panel, titled “Voices and Images: Diversity and Children’s Books,” was one of my favorite sessions I attended. Chris Raschka, B.A. Binns, Miranda Paul, and Laura Park spoke about the importance of diversity in children’s literature and what librarians can do to promote diverse books. All four contributors were insightful and well-spoken, and it was refreshing to hear their perspectives.
3. Attending the Public Library Forum Luncheon featuring Scott Bonner
One of the special events I attended was the Public Library Forum Luncheon, which featured Scott Bonner of Ferguson Public Library as the guest speaker. I heard Scott Bonner speak at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago last January, at which he gave a nearly identical presentation. However, even though I had heard the presentation before, I was riveted and moved once again.
Bonner spoke about ways in which he and his library served the Ferguson community in the time following Michael Brown’s shooting. He was incredibly straightforward, admitting decisions he regrets as well as moments he is particularly proud of. He was unbelievably modest, stating that any librarian would have acted with the same grace, fortitude, and tenacity as he did. The presentation was inspiring, overwhelming, and powerful. It was an honor to hear from a true hero and outstanding library advocate. I will attend any lecture of Scott’s that I can in the future.
4. Expanding Knowledge and Growing Ideas
In addition to the special events I attended, I also had the opportunity to attend many other presentations on a very wide range of topics. It was difficult to choose which events to attend, because so many were of interest to me. I ended up choosing some topics because they sounded fun, and others because I didn’t know much about them. I tried to attend something during each session, and I ended up attending the following presentations:
- A Young Adult Book Club for Adults
- Stretching Your Library’s Reach: Expanding Community Partners and Audiences Through Programming
- Youth Services Author Breakfast featuring Chris Raschka
- Todos Para Uno: Serving Non-Native Speaking Youth
- Public Library Forum Luncheon featuring Scott Bonner
- Voices and Images: Diversity and Children’s Books Panel
- Moving to Outcomes for Advocacy and Management
- Librarians in Space: How to Make Space, Find Courage, and Take Risks in Your Life and Library
- Chit Chat & Chew: A Reader’s Advisory Rap Session
- Poster Sessions (including one by my fellow intern, Rachel!)
- Library Use of Social Media — Navigating the Legal Landscape
- STEAM State of Mind
- Closing Session with Daniel Handler
It was a busy weekend, but I got so many new ideas and learned so much that it flew by! I liked every presentation, but one of my favorites was “Chit Chat & Chew.” In that particular session, we sat at round tables and discussed readers’ advisory issues. I was at a table with quite a few seasoned librarians, so I was able to take home a lot of tips that I am eager to try out at the Reader’s Services Desk!
5. Meeting Daniel Handler, AKA Lemony Snicket!
The weekend ended on a high note for me, when I got to hear one of my favorite
childhood authors of all time, Daniel Handler. I was a bit apprehensive going into his speech, because I had such high hopes, but ultimately, he exceeded even my expectations. His speech was hilariously witty and simultaneously deep and inspiring. I came away from his speech more impressed than ever, and determinedly stood in line for almost an hour to meet him and have my book signed. It was worth it!