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The Antidote to Negativity at PLA 2024

by Azita Frattarelli, Director, Riverview Veterans Memorial Library (Riverview, MI), PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on May 22, 2024

The positive and powerful words spoken by Shola Richards during the opening keynote at PLA 2024 became the theme song for the totality of my experience in Columbus. The ‘extreme kindness warrior” poetically and bravely laid down the stones and boulders that compose his life path. With the stories of his beloved childhood to the day he almost let the darkest of dark extinguish his light, he inspired each of us to continue to add stones of kindness, self-care, empathy, equity and personal reflection to our chosen paths. We were encouraged to recognize that it is not only our daily choices that steer our decisions but also the energy that we bring into our physical spaces. In our daily lives and when working in our libraries, we can either give life to the people around us or drain the energy from the people around us and our shared spaces.

Rebecca Wolfe during her presentation “We See You: Programming for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” used her energy to give life to a room filled with hundreds of library professionals hoping to make the lived experiences of adults with IDD a little more fun, meaningful and creative. Like Richards, Wolfe led with her vulnerability and kindness and the result was an hour full of valuable information, wonderful stories of human connection and professional inspiration to think outside of the box when offering outreach services. Tailoring our work to every person that lives within our communities not only accomplishes our goal of equity of service and resources but also allows us to be kind and compassionate in ways that honor our shared humanity. What a meaningful lens to view our daily work in libraries! The enthusiasm that Richards and Wolfe shared during their presentations felt like the perfect antidote to the negativity that has, in varying degrees of coverage, shadowed those who choose to work in libraries over the past few years.

The panel presenting “Increase Religious Equity by Reclassifying Dewey 200s” eloquently carried the theme of positivity and passion throughout their work rethinking how we classify our materials and why it matters not only to us but our patrons as well. Taking the opportunity to remove possible blind spots in the Dewey system can help give voices equal volume while conveying to our patrons that they, and their values and ideals, are safe in their libraries. Libraries can be a safe space for everyone, as Richards also pointed out in his keynote, including for those who are in charge of creating and managing them, as long as they lead with kindness, be a source of positive energy and remain cognizant of the power we have when we decide to rely on each other for strength and purpose.

My favorite lightbulb moments were when I felt energized as I was networking with my colleagues, discussing new technologies and authors with vendors, and walking from presentation to presentation. Together these moments helped me remember that while we do not always do things perfectly we do make a perfect effort to educate ourselves to be better; lead with our passion for the betterment of our communities and the people we are lucky enough to help each day; and we library people have the perfect inclination to always help each other walk together over all of the smooth stones and lift each other up over the large boulders along our chosen paths in library service. Thank you, PLA, for providing a safe and energizing space for all of us to learn, challenge ourselves and have fun in the way that only library workers can.

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