A Report Back on MLA

Another annual MLA conference is in the record books, and I wanted to take a moment to step back and take a look at how it went. This year was different than last year, primarily because MLA was flying solo this time around. (Last year’s conference was held jointly with the Maine Association of School Libraries.) While that meant a smaller turnout, it also streamlined the process of conference planning, letting us really get a handle on how it could be done most effectively. It was a ton of work, but I was very pleased with the outcome. Why? Let me elaborate:

  • Keynotes: I thought all three of our keynotes did a tremendous job. Jamie Ritter, State Librarian, started things off with some big concepts, challenging how libraries define themselves and what role we should play in our communities. Big picture stuff. Aspirational. Always good to have that in a conference: a chance to take a look at the whole forest instead of staying focused on those individual trees. From there, Andrew Medlar (President of the Association for Library Services for Children) discussed how important children are to the future, and what an important role libraries can play in their lives. Finally, Sari Feldman (President of the American Library Association) introduced the Libraries Transform campaign, a new initiative to help spread the word about what libraries really look like today. All three of them fit very nicely together.
  • Presentations: I went to a slew of very well run presentations. I’m not sure if people who don’t go to conferences outside of Maine realize just how strong these were. I’ve gone to plenty of national-level conferences, and I learned just as much at this local conference as I did at those. Sometimes more. There was a variety of topics, including using data to tell a story, starting an RPG group in your library, reorganizing district consultants, and getting free galleys. All of it packed with useful information that can impact your library tomorrow. Great stuff!
  • Attendees: So much of the success of MLA Annual rests on the people who show up. It’s a chance for librarians of all types to mix together, and I was really encouraged to see that happen this time. Quite a few academics came out this year, and that’s a trend I really hope continues. Academic and Public librarians have different skill sets to offer, and different perspectives to provide. Together, I think that can accomplish so much more than they can independently.
  • Food: Once again, I ate far too much food. This might have something to do with my stress levels during the conference. It might also have something to do with the fact that they had killer strudel AND make-your-own-trailmix. (In other news, I personally think I have a bright future in the world of trailmix design. Is that an up and coming job market?) I also had the chance to try out new restaurants. Timber (in the lobby of the Marriott) had a great burger, and The Fiddlehead made me wish I hadn’t eaten so much the whole weekend, so that I could have properly appreciated a divine pork tenderloing. Mmm . . . Pork . ..
  • Hotel: Can I just say that the Residence Inn in Bangor was pretty much awesome? I was super impressed. The rooms were spacious, the bed guaranteed a good night sleep (or maybe that’s just how exhausted I was), and the free breakfast was spot on. A big upgrade from the Hollywood Slots where I stayed  last time.
  • Media coverage: We got on TV! Better yet, it wasn’t just about the conference, it was about how important libraries are, and how they need support. MLA exists to do just that: bring attention to libraries and help them succeed. Getting that message out to as many eyeballs as possible is important. Television helps do that.

Then again, I’m no doubt biased. But I have to end this post by taking a minute to publicly thank my three partners-in-crime for the conference: Nissa Flanagan, Alisia Revitt, and Jenna Davis. Doing something like this takes a lot of work, and I can’t imagine a better team to work with through it all. It’s not often you have a group where everyone’s willing and ready to pitch in, but somehow we have one right now. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. (My personal one is the dreaded “Calling People on the Phone,” something no one else in the group seems to suffer from, thankfully.)

Working with them made the conference seem more like an extended party than real “work.” (Though don’t get me wrong: there was plenty of work involved in this too.)

In any case, time to give a big exhale of relief. Thanks again to everyone who came and everyone who pitched in to make it awesome.

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