It was a gray and rainy Friday in Bellevue, WA, when the Washington Library Association (WLA) held their annual conference in early May. And while people outside were wrapped in their raincoats, huddled under umbrellas, and trying to decide which of the 5 Starbucks in the area would be their best bet for a caffeine fix, the conference center was full of bibliophiles and philomaths (many of whom were also looking for a caffeine fix).
I was fortunate enough to attend this conference with the added perk of meeting Dr. Anthony Chow, the iSchool director, and a couple of the students from his Special Studies: Usability/UX course (INFO 298) at the iSchool table in the main exhibition hall. Dr. Chow is very dedicated to expanding access to innovative technologies and educating MLIS students to become leaders in this field. So, it should not be a surprise that the iSchool table included an Oculus Virtual Reality headset demonstration. It wasn’t too difficult to convince me to try it out. I may or may not be dancing while holding hands with a robot in this picture.
Librarians and other informational professionals are a welcoming and friendly bunch, which meant that it didn’t take long before I was chatting with other attendees and learning from their experiences and career paths. The conference organizers invited the eloquent Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest to give the keynote speech, YA author (and former librarian) Dan Gemeinhart to speak at breakfast, and a brilliant and diverse fandom panel to speak at lunch. The sessions at the conference were hosted by a wide variety of professional librarians, government agency employees, professors, and even MLIS students. As an MLIS student who hasn’t quite decided which direction to take post-graduation, I was able to get a peek into the types of work and projects different librarians do. The event app also allowed attendees to download any files that presenters posted so we could take a look at the materials later.
Attending this conference included a dinner with the SJSU iSchool director, professor, events associate, and other graduate students. Meeting other students in this program face-to-face can be rare, so chatting about courses and future plans over pasta made for a lovely night (bruschetta and stuffed mushrooms not seen here).
If you ever have the opportunity to attend a library conference, I highly recommend it. They are designed to build professional connections and expose you to the work and research of others in the field. As an example, here are the titles of the sessions that I attended:
- TeachKit: Expanding Digital Learning Through Informal Coaching
- Normalizing Conversations about Race
- Blending the Old with the New: Innovative Approaches to Information Literacy During the COVID-19 Infodemic
- Supporting Academic Needs of First-Generation Students through Customized Library Assistance Programming
- Intentional Aging – Library Programs for Older Adults
- Reimagining Academic Library Instruction Programming amid the Pandemic: A Systematic Approach
- Harnessing the Power of Communities, Conversations, & Connections to Bridge the Digital Divide
After two action-packed, I mean information-packed days, I loaded up my conference swag in my car and headed home where sadly there are only 2 Starbucks within a one mile radius. Many of the speakers and presenters at this conference commented again and again on how exciting it was to meet in person again after two years of remote activities. As a student, this was an invaluable experience. Even with the amazing remote program offered at the iSchool, there is so much to be gained for meeting some of the faces from Zoom meetings as well as other people in the profession.
Anyone else have conference plans for the summer? Or conference dreams for next year? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks to Irene Miller, Events Coordinator, for sharing her experience.