by Sonja Sutherland
This year’s WLA Conference was held April 18-21 in Kennewick, Washington. Early Wednesday evening, we signed in, grabbed our nametags and goodie bags, and were set loose upon a line-up of tables manned by representative from various WLA interest groups.
Here, we learned a little bit about these groups and what they were trying to accomplish. The interest groups in attendance included: Collection Development & Technical Services (CATS), Intellectual Freedom (IFIG), Interest Group for Libraries and Unions (IGLU), NEXTGENWA, Outreach & Literacy for Everyone (OLE), Social Responsibilities (SRRT), Technology Resources for Information Professionals (TRIP), Washington Library Employees (WALE), Washington Association of Library Trainers (WALT), Washington Library Friends, Foundations & Trustees Association (WLFFTA), Children & Young Adults (CAYAS) and Reference Interest Group (RIG).
The evening was capped off with a reception featuring a spread of gourmet cheeses, chocolate-covered strawberries and wine, over which we had the opportunity to mingle and chat. I was amazed at how many different types of librarians were represented at the conference – from workplaces as diverse as prison libraries, laboratory libraries, the Washington State Library, and many different public libraries.
The next day, we got to pick from a series of workshops presented by WLA interest groups. I started with one called, “Beyond Information: Reading for pleasure, discovery and personal growth.” Although I can’t say I learned anything new, I did walk away with a warm and fuzzy feeling from this sentimental foray into the world of “why we love to read.”
Next, I went to Dr. Lynne McKechnie’s “Spiderman is not for babies,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. She discussed her study about “the secret life of boys as readers,” in which she interviewed boys aged four to fifteen and inventoried their book collections in order to put this knowledge to use in libraries.
My favorite presentation of the day was called “Graphic Novels: Junk or Literature?” Gaye Hinchliff and Angela Nolet did a fabulous job of explaining why these works are so popular, and also how we, as librarians, can respond to parents who feel that reading graphic novels isn’t “real” reading.
That evening, I got to enjoy what was, for me, one of the highlights of the conference - the Keynote Banquet with Diane Rehm of National Public Radio. She was a fascinating speaker, and she talked about everything from libraries, to current world events, to her own life story.
The next day began with the President’s Breakfast. ALA President Leslie Burger spoke about issues affecting the ALA over the past year. This was followed by more presentations and workshops, with the WLA Awards Lunch squeezed in between.
Angelina Benedetti, manager of the Selection & Order department of KCLS spoke about building effective paperback collections for browsing in a presentation called, “Read 2 Go.” This is a new program in KCLS that involves displaying “hot” titles near the front of the library to make it more convenient for patrons to browse quickly for something interesting to read.
Fellow MLIS students Katie Grimm, Jill Kobayahsi, Becky Lavalleur, Stella Shafer, Naomi Smith and Reed Strege were on hand to deliver the “Booktalking the Best” presentation, in which they reviewed a number of books geared toward children and young adults.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the iSchool’s very own beloved Joe Janes gave a presentation about current issues in reference. (In true celebrity form, he was flown into the Tri-Cities that morning and then quickly whisked back to Seattle afterward.)
By this point, my brain was completely stuffed full of information and was incapable of absorbing anything new. Who knew that a conference could be so exhausting? It was quite a whirlwind of events, but definitely worthwhile. In my opinion, the best thing about it was the opportunity to learn, in bits and pieces, from a wide variety of people, what it is to be a librarian. The experience was as valuable to me as some of the classes I’ve taken at the iSchool, and I’m glad I went.