My first time at a library conference

(I just read the the title of this post and realized it could be misinterpreted in a mildly humorous manner. For the record, I meant that it was my first time attending a library conference not my first time doing x at a library conference. Moving on.)

Wednesday was my very first time going to a real live, grown-up, professional library conference. It was pretty great! It was the Massachusetts Library Association or MLA conference – which while it may not be as exciting as the Modern Language Association, they do share an initialism – and I got to visit the great city of Worcester. I was nervous about getting lost on the drive there but I did not. I did, however, get lost leaving the conference building to find my car. Basically, I was lost within a city block. Embarrassing.

I got a scholarship for newbie librarians and so got to go for free! (Thanks, MLA!) There were numerous sessions/talks about lots of different topics in librarianship. I listened to some really great ones about teen volunteers which was encouraging because the program highlighted teen volunteer programs that work and some that are in the process of changing or rebuilding. This was so valuable to me because I feel like my job is in a rebuilding period and I need the reminder that it’s a hard job everywhere and that I’m not alone in my struggle with attendance. I also got some great ideas to use in my library and some good resources for help. I always need those.

Another session I went to was presented by a lawyer/professor of library science/former library director/great-grandmother who I want to be my friend. She was amazing and talked about privacy rights and confidentiality in MA libraries. I learned in this session that I have probably broken the law hundreds of times by giving parents information about their child’s fines. Apparently, under MA law that is illegal. Only the card holders, and librarians who are assessing the account for circulation, are supposed to be able to have that information, no matter how old the patron is. Whoops. Also, I learned that Massachusetts is a “home rule” state, which means that towns can pass by-laws or charters that may contradict certain state laws. Confidentiality of library records isn’t one of those laws that is affected by home rule, so Methuen couldn’t pass a law saying it was ok for me to give that information to a parent. Interesting, no?

Perhaps my favorite session of the day was a presentation from the author Cynthia Lord, a New England author, who wrote the book Rules, the story of a 12 year old girl with an autistic little brother and the rules she makes for him that help him understand the world (e.g. “No toys in the fish tank,” “Don’t close all the doors in other people’s houses,” “Sometimes people laugh because they like you and sometimes they laugh to be mean”). She was wonderful and had a lot of encouragement for young writers and for people who know others with autism, disabilities, or other differences. Plus she brought her plaque for Rules’ Newbery Honor award and I got to hold it. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to that!

Another great part of Cynthia Lord’s presentation was her announcement that she would donate a library or school visit for the MLA fundraising auction that was held later on that night. Considering that Ms. Lord is awesome, her book is on the summer reading list for middle school, and she writes picture books, too, the Head of Children’s and I were super excited about this prospect. Our library did win the bid, so hopefully in the future I’ll be writing about how amazing it was that Cynthia Lord came to our library.

Finally, there was the trivia competition that night where teams of librarians answered pub trivia style questions with the MLA auction in between each round. I’m proud to say that our library won through the combined efforts of mermaid costumes (I wore a mermaid tale, and other staff members wore coconut and shell bras, weird shell and flower hats, net-like sweaters – we got a ton of points for costumes), buying points, and some lucky answers! It was a pretty great time overall.

Other highlights: seeing lots of librarians that I know and even more that I don’t; meeting the lovely girlfriend of a lovely friend from college who is a librarian; book cart drill teams (if you don’t know what those are, Google it, you’ll get a treat; a last minute answer to the trivia question of Catwoman’s real name, which is Selina Kyle, of course.

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