26 May, 2008

PLA conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota

In March this year Jane Grace and Lynette Lewis from Yarra Plenty Regional Library had the opportunity to attend the annual Public Library Association Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is a brief account of their experience.

After a fifteen hour flight to Los Angeles, followed by domestic flights to Dallas and finally to Minneapolis, we arrived to see a blanket of snow covering the ground, certainly a contrast from the summer temperatures we had been experiencing in Melbourne.

Approximately 10,000 library attendees, exhibitors, authors and guests descended on the Minneapolis Convention Centre Minnesota for the 12th National PLA conference. The conference included workshops and discussions that focused on key issues such as technology; serving adults; gaming in libraries; library design and collection development; often drawing standing room only crowds in each conference room.

The conference opened with philanthropist John Wood, founder and CEO of Room to Read, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children in the developing world through education. Wood discussed the inspiration for his organization, this initial decision to leave his position at Microsoft, and his grand vision to provide educational access to 10 million children in the developing world through his organization.
John has written a book about his vision called “Leaving Microsoft to change the world: an entrepreneur's odyssey to educate the world's children” which is available in the Yarra Plenty Library catalogue.

Conferences such as these also allow library professionals to showcase cutting edge innovations in the library world... It is through these papers we can see what libraries are leading the way with technology, programs and their approach to the future of how libraries will be perceived.

We experienced wonderful papers which gave us insight into how libraries in America use cutting edge technology. Exceptional papers included:

“Changing Cultures: Experiences in Fostering Innovation from Within” and paper co-presented by Melanie Huggins from St Paul Library, Minnesota. We had the privilege of being invited to a brain storming session organized by Melanie to discuss the use of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries. During this session we were able to share some of the latest trends being offered at Yarra Plenty and in other Australian libraries. Trend which included the Wikinorthia collaborative wiki and the Learning 2.0 program being administered at a statewide level.

"What's the Big Idea? The Idea Store and the Future of Public Libraries" co-presented by Sergio Dogliani. The Idea Stores offer a new approach to public library services, offering a place to browse and borrow books, read a newspaper or magazine, learn new skills, surf the net or to relax and meet friends over a coffee in a fun and stimulating environment.

“Creating New Stories and Investigating New Literacies with Virtual Worlds, Interactive Media, and Games” presented by Kelly Czarnecki and Matt Gullett.
This paper focused on the innovative ways Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County use gaming programs, including interactive media creation, gaming tournaments, virtual worlds development, and adult gaming activities in their libraries.

In todays world library staff around the world learn and share experiences via the Web through blogs, emails and other virtual Web applications, rather than meeting people face-to-face.

The opportunity to attend the PLA conference and the chance to listen and contribute to discussions about innovation, technology and the future of libraries and the chance to meet in people we know by name but have never conversed with in person was an opportunity we will both regard as the experience of a lifetime.

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