A Report on MLA Annual

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few days. I was off at the annual Maine Library Association conference at Sunday River. This year we had a pre-conference as well, so it’s been a very busy weekend. Thankfully, it’s also been relatively stress-free, since we’ve got such a great conference committee running things. If you would have asked me six years ago, when I was just getting involved with MLA, if the time would ever come when running a conference for 185 people over three days wouldn’t have felt like that big of a deal, I would have said you were crazy. It was something entirely out of my realm of experience. And yet here we are, at the end of another very successful conference, and I’m now to the point where I’ve actually been going around volunteering to help organize other conferences.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me.

(Although really, it’s not that big of a deal when you break down what you need to do. Find a venue. Figure out how much it’ll cost to rent the rooms and pay for the food. Divide that cost among the number of people you expect will come. Be pessimistic. Figure out programming and keynotes. Promote it to death. No big deal, right?)

As I’ve done in the past, here’s a brief rundown on some of the things I did at this year’s conference:

  • Presented (to one extent or another) on four different panels. I was on one focused on library technology trends, one discussing the New Commons Project, one for Maine authors (as Bryce Moore), and then helped with one about Maine Academic Libraries. All of them went quite well. Good attendance, good exchange of information.
  • Competed in my first ever Battledecks challenge. If you haven’t heard of this before (I hadn’t), it’s essentially free-style powerpoint, done for humor. Someone makes up powerpoint presentations ahead of time (8 slides each), and then you get up and give a presentation around those slides, sight unseen. It ended up being hilarious and a ton of fun. 6 people competed, and they all did a fantastic job. (And apparently my finely honed ability to talk my way through and out of anything came in handy, as I took first place.)
  • Ate far too much food. Apple smoothies, oreo brownies, gourmet donuts, fancy pizza, french toast, pulled pork sandwiches, fruit, ginger carrot soup. The list goes on. As much as I say the event isn’t stressful, my weight says different. (But I’m going back on a diet for the rest of October. Not kidding!)
  • Saw a slew of friends. I’ve been active in the library community of Maine now for long enough that I forget just how many people I know. I really don’t think of myself as an extrovert, but when I know people already, I’m very comfortable going up and talking to them. And actually, as I thought over how the conference went and what all I did at it, I began to wonder if shoehorning myself into “Introvert” category isn’t really valid anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I still came home and wanted to just be by myself someplace quiet for the whole evening, but I can also excel in social situations, and it’s time I start acknowledging it.
  • Rarely breathed outside air. Conferences can also be pretty stifling. I think I got outside for all of . . . ten minutes over the three days? It was great to have a bit of a walk outside as I came into work today.
  • Heard some great keynotes. The first was on the way the press can navigate today’s “Fake News” minefield, and the second was on just how fast the world is changing these days. (If you’re trying to make long term plans based on how life was five or ten years ago, you’re setting yourself up for failure.)

Of course, when I come home from an event like that, I’ve missed a bunch of work by being away, and I’m also exhausted, so coming back into the grind is doubly difficult. But for this, it’s very much worth it. It’s a conference I’ve begun to look forward to more and more each year, and I’m very happy to see so many people feel the same way. (This year was our best attended since I’ve been involved in them!)

In any case, thanks to all who contributed, participated, and showed up. It was a great time, and I’m already excited for next year.

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