ALA 2016 Orlando Reflections

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The annual meeting of the American Library Associations (ALA) was held in Orlando, Florida June 23 – 28.   Most people immediately ask why Florida in June?  Well ALA has the ultimate task of generating as much profit from the conference as possible.  So usually that results in going to parts of the country that are the least likely to be visited at that time of the year; Boston in January and Florida in June.  That may explain why this year’s conference was down about 5,000 in attendance.  Of course the recent shooting in Orlando, as well as lingering issues from the Trayvon Martin killing were probably contributing factors also.

The conference was overall a very good one from its’ opening speaker, Michael Eric Dyson, an American academic, author, and professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, to the closing author/actress, Jamie Lee Curtis. Dyson electrified the audience weaving together lyrics from Emily Bronte, Ralph Waldo Emerson with Snoop Dog and Jay Z.  His message to the audience encouraged us to explore all of these options and find value in each and you’ll become the well-rounded individual needed today. Curtis’s message was similar in context reminding attendees in America it is ok to like or dislike anything/any person we so choose.  We just can’t elevate one to lessen another.

Getting to Yes with Yourself by William Ury was the title of one of the sessions I attended.  Ury stated that the ability to negotiate effectively begins within us.  You are your biggest ally.  His steps for effective negotiating suggested we first go to the balcony; a place of perspective.  Here, we put ourselves in their shoes; listen intently and develop a best course of alternative action.  How can we both get what we need and both be winners?  If we stay within the zone, respecting each other’s opinions and giving and taking a little, we will reach a mutually beneficial and agreed upon decision.

The Front and Center: Designing for Special Collections and Archives in the Library session featured library transformations at Duke University, University of Pennsylvania and Emory University.  Each one demonstrated the importance of having a vision, having the ability to tell that story and to sell it effectively.  Other keys to success encouraged planners to stay involved in the process and on top of any issues that surface.  In each case a beautiful mock-up was generated.  This helped to tell the story, but also to sell the vision to stakeholders and potential donors. I left that session thinking, yes money makes all the difference.

Be Our Guest: Creating Immersive Guest Experiences in Libraries, was the topic for the RUSA President’s Program. The featured keynoter was Dave Cobb, Vice President for Creative Development, Thinkwell Group.  Below is a list of the questions referenced during his presentation.   Answering these would give the planning library a guide to follow.

What is unique about your location?

Who is your audience, and what are their expectations of your library?

How are you inviting your audience to take ownership of “their” library?

How are you meeting the visitor where they are intellectually, emotionally and physically?

How is your library providing a different “third space” experience from your local mall, Starbucks or museum?

I hope we will each take a few moments and think on these questions.  It will make for great conversations.  As always, I am available for continued conversations around any of these topics.

Author: Wanda Brown, C.G. O’Kelly Library Director

*** Eric Michael Dyson and Jamie Lee Curtis photo credit: Cognotes***




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