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Better Prepared to Charge Forward After PLA 2024

by Nic Gunning, Director, David A. Howe Public Library (Wellsville, NY), https://buthaveyoutried.podbean.com/, PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on April 22, 2024

This year, I was awarded a full scholarship to attend the PLA Conference in Columbus, Ohio. I had never attended one before and was eager to check out the schedule of programs, guests and exhibitors. I found the app to be a useful tool as I sat down to plan my conference experience.

I began by pouring through the daily schedules and adding any session that grabbed my interest. Obviously, this resulted in a substantial overbooking of my time. I took another pass, focusing on sessions that spoke to initiatives I’d like to see about adapting for my home library as well as areas where I felt I could use some professional growth. Even after the culling, I still had a few sessions that overlapped, but I was close enough! Coffee in hand, I headed out for day one.

One that really stood out to me was called The Library as Studio: Why Original Content Is Important For Libraries Today and Tomorrow, led by Mary Kapusta and Casey Corneil. The concept of a library putting out original content was not wholly new to me. Here at the David A. Howe Public Library, we have had a podcast that also airs locally on FM radio since 2015. When the pandemic forced us to quickly rethink everything, I was very relieved that we already had the podcast as a programming outlet. It went on, unfazed by the shutdowns, and truly showcased its importance to the library overall.

As the speakers in this session covered, 2020 made us all start to look to video options. We did things we hadn’t done before and found that, some of them, we liked! While we’ve continued in some of these veins, video did not go on to become a major part of our output. This session made me question why. When discussing YouTube content, Kapusta and Corneil cautioned against treating it as an archive for content (often outdated) to languish. I did feel a little called out by that. Running through our library channel in my mind as the session continued, I identified several things that I knew were there that shouldn’t be.

They went on to express the importance of simple production values. Things like sound, clarity and camera work can often feel like afterthoughts, especially in live videos or quickie content. I appreciated some of their practical advice, and they really drove home the idea of making original content stand on its own. Aside from the podcast, I realized I considered a lot of our online and video work as just supplemental. I was really challenged to flip that and explore all that we might be leaving on the table.

It was great to hear from a library and librarians who have found success in this area, and it was encouraging to look around and see so many people in the seats having the same realizations as me. Now, we are better prepared to charge forward. Let’s do it!

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