Library Conferences Go Virtual

iStudent Blog

Published: September 16, 2020 by Havilah Joy-Steinman Bakken

Each incoming student at the iSchool at San José State University has the opportunity to join one professional association free of cost for one year. This perk of enrollment in the program offers returns in spades depending on the level of involvement each particular student chooses to dedicate to their chosen association. During my first semester in the MLIS program at the iSchool, I chose to join the American Library Association (ALA), and have remained a member since. Founded on October 6, 1876, during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, ALA is a pillar of librarianship ethics and best practices and remains on the cutting edge of information technology. This has never been more true now during the time of the pandemic when ALA seamlessly moved their annual conference online.

Community Through Connection

I had the opportunity to attend ALA Virtual Community Through Connection, and can deftly describe the conference in two words: educated empathy.

Much of what we do in our profession at least on a theoretical level is advocacy. In a similar manner, the ALA conference helped me identify how to empathize with those who are different from me and turn that empathy into action. 

The conference was virtual, and I still felt quite connected with other information professionals there because of Twitter interactions. Lots of librarians were posting workarounds and encouraging tips – I found the whole experience very engaging. I felt really proud to be connected to this positive community!

The Books that Shape Us

I most enjoyed hearing from the ALA featured speakers, and learning how they constructively dealt with struggles in their own life or in their community around them by writing books. These included:

Knowledge Not Shared Remains Unknown

I have been struggling with feeling isolated as the pandemic continues, and it was really encouraging for me to spend time refocusing on not only library leadership innovations and other fantastic sessions, but to emotionally reconnect with the why of the librarianship and information profession. It’s very easy to get caught up in the motion of each day, and forget why we do this. Sophia Thakur specifically reminded me that we create art, in whatever form that is, from an overflow of our soul. Sonia Manzano reminded me that we serve in this unique position of advocacy because of our passion for individual access, freedom and celebration of our diverse culture and community.

Resources from the Conference

The entire live stream from all three days of the conference is viewable on YouTube:

To see what sessions are on which days, here is a link to the schedule. There are little gaps in between each session, so don’t be alarmed by the ambient music and promo slides!

Virtual conferences may be the norm for a while. I hope sharing this very engaging experience I had with the ALA conference provides an incentive for you to not only check out the recordings but to also continue your professional development through professional associations and virtual conferences. 


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