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Excitement and Ideas at PLA 2024

by Lindy Baudendistel, Library Associate, Interlibrary Loan, St. Louis County (MO) Library, PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on June 7, 2024

I had a fantastic time in Columbus at the PLA 2024 Conference. It was the first library-specific conference I’d ever been to, and definitely the biggest conference I’d been to overall. Everything was really well-organized, and everyone was very welcoming, so the feeling of being overwhelmed was short-lived. Being a scholarship recipient meant I got to attend some very fun events: a scholarship reception where we met our fellow scholarship folks and a lot of the PLA board (and where the PLA president complimented my hair because it’s purple, one of the PLA colors!), and a wonderful empowering talk about mental health and library joy presented by ALA’s I Love My Librarian Awardee Mychal Threets.

The presentations I attended were things that aligned with my personal interests and career goals, and things I have touched on in my graduate courses via theory that I wanted to see the practical side of. They all have helped to renew my outlook on librarianship and the great work people are doing in this field across the country!

I also had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with so many fun folks from libraries around the US, displaying their passion and care. It was great to be around ‘my people’ so to speak.  Also, working in the Interlibrary Loan department of my library, it was a real treat to meet people from libraries where we’d borrowed and lent material to!

My standout program was “Bringing the Library of Congress to Local History Research,” hosted by LOC’s Educational Resources Specialist Danna Bell. Immediately I knew this was going to be a great program because Danna was so happy there was a packed house. And even though we experienced some technical difficulties, she was able to use her ‘teacher voice’ to get us rolling before the issues were resolved.

This was by far my favorite program because I love history and learning about new resources that can not only help our patrons, but myself with grad school projects and research! The Library of Congress highlighted a number of collections that can help patrons learn about their homes and neighborhoods: panoramic photographs and maps, the HABS/HAER/HALS collection, oral histories, and historic newspapers. Some of my favorites included Chronicling America, a newspaper resource with access to millions of pages published through 1963, which have handy research guides centering on particular topics. I also enjoyed learning about The Free to Use and Reuse photograph collections, that each month highlights a theme on LOC’s homepage with images that can be used royalty-free from their Prints & Photographs Division. The presenter also explained how to effectively search LOC’s website, which was great because it can be a little intimidating to navigate due to the wealth of resources.

I’m so thankful that I was able to have the opportunity to attend PLA this year via the scholarship. I came away with a lot of excitement and ideas, and feel the love I have for the public librarianship profession, and my own continuing education within it, renewed.

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