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Diverse and Equitable Collections at PLA 2024

by Lana Delf, Library Associate, Acquisitions, St. Louis County Library (St. Louis, MO), PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on May 1, 2024

PLA 2024 was such a positive experience for me! As a first time attendee, the size of the crowd on Wednesday morning was a bit overwhelming for an introvert like me, but the enthusiasm was palpable. In a short time, I figured out the layout of the conference center. Every stranger I sat down next to was eager to chat, offer helpful tidbits, and compare experiences. I soon found comfort and belonging. We are so lucky to belong to a profession with such camaraderie and collaboration.

When I prepared my schedule for the conference, I had conflicts in nearly every time slot; deciding what to attend was not easy. So many sessions, so little time. It was only natural, as a Library Associate in Acquisitions, that collection development became a theme. It was exciting to see so many topics on the schedule revolving around providing diverse and equitable collections. I attended several, but the session that I keep coming back to was “Equitable Collections Use: Is Floating the Answer or a Hindrance?” presented by representatives from Cuyahoga County Public Library, Nashville Public Library, and New York Public Library. The conversation really highlighted how placing holds is a privilege and those holds may cause materials to float away from underprivileged communities. Each of the three library systems presented their unique perspectives on this issue, data they gathered, and the plans they came up with to address their policies regarding floating and rebalancing. It is not surprising that each system has taken a different approach to providing equitable collections for their populations. Nashville Public Library and New York Public Library have turned off floating: Nashville in 2014 and NYPL prompted by the pandemic. Cuyahoga has considered floating a success in terms of circulation numbers and cost savings. However, they instituted specific Community Collections in 2021 for those communities who lean toward browsing to select materials. The panel also provided a list of topics to consider when evaluating whether floating is the answer: locations, traffic patterns, demographics, ILS limitations, transportation costs, etc. The session ended with an emphasis on floating being neither a binary nor a static choice.  Then, attendees lined up wanting to ask questions. Great job with sparking curiosity in the audience!

This session (among many others) provided the exact results that I was hoping for: exposure to other library policies and practices, a spirit of inquiry around terms and subjects that are new to me, an imagination for how my skill set may provide some data to start conversations, and excitement for the possibilities of how my career may evolve. I came back from the conference sad that it was over while also feeling excited and energized to return to work. I am so thankful for the PLA scholarship I received to attend the conference for the first time and appreciate having the support of my managers and library administrators.

Thank you for the opportunity, PLA!

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