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A Boost to my Professional Community at PLA 2024

by Selome Brathwaite, Customer Experience Librarian, Jacksonville Public Library, PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on May 17, 2024

Being selected to receive a scholarship to attend the PLA 2024 Conference was a special honor. I am at the beginning of my librarianship journey, and so am eager to soak up whatever knowledge and professional connections I can. I am working in the state of Florida currently, but grew up in New York City, so I often find myself challenged not only as a public servant working in an environment with state legislation that is openly hostile to public employees, but also in promoting inclusive public goods on the whole.
The public library system can only thrive by proving that public tax dollars are put to reliable and consistent good use for ALL of its constituents. For me, my focus is on the adult services for the City of Jacksonville. Much emphasis is on children and family programming, which is great, but Jacksonville is a city with complex needs. The city has been growing exponentially since the pandemic, as is evident by the large amounts of new housing projects being built across the city. This new population consists of many transplants like myself: adults relocating from other large metropolitan areas on the Eastern seaboard and beyond, young professionals with families, global refugee populations, and those arriving on a one-way bus ticket, yet to secure stable housing.
My career focus while attending PLA 2024 was learning unique ways to service diverse adult populations better within my library system. One of the most rewarding sessions I attended was Spanish for Library Staff: Bridging the Language Barrier. Cristy Moran and Caroline Smith demonstrated what it looks like to go above and beyond for a population they serve when they recognize that their respective training in public services have fallen short. They presented how they collaborated with their existing skills and expertise as public librarians to create an answer to the need of their internal partners which directly affects the quality of their service to their external customers: Spanish-speaking patrons. Learning that this pivot was possible is the motivation I need to address certain inequities and shortcomings within my own work environment, but even  more valuable was the connection made to the presenters and other caring professionals from other public libraries.
Being able to attend PLA 2024 has been a substantial boost to my sense of well-being and professional community. I can take back strategies learned at specific sessions, and I can also bond with other like-minded library-workers from across the country, doing the job with unique innovation and similar passion as myself.

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