Scholarship Report: Courtney Wyant – ALA Conference 2018

Event: American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference – New Orleans, LA – June 20-26, 2018

Attendee: Courtney Wyant – Adult Services Librarian, Austin Public Library

How does attending this event relate to your current role in your library?

ALA Conference 2018 was an amazing experience for myself to attend.  I feel the ALA conference was very relevant to my work as an Adult Services Librarian in a Public Library setting.  The first workshop I attend was the “Libraries Transforming Communities: Dialogue and Deliberation” this was a very useful pre-conference that helped me to build a program using the Conversation Café Model.  This program will be very important in starting a program for adults in my community.  I would also like to use it to find more partnership in my community to work with.  The overall idea of a Conversation Café is to pick a topic of discussion and use it to bring in opinions from each participant in a neutral and respective manner.  Then as those conversations deepen on issues you could build upon that with book clubs, film clubs and special events on that topic.  Overall the whole conference was very accurate and relevant to my job with information on civic engagement and social justice challenges that every community faces in America.  It was so refreshing to see librarians in the field coming up with program ideas and resources to meet the challenges of racism and sexual biases in their communities.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

The “Public Libraries: Leading Communities in Family Engagement” was very useful since I would like to start to offer family friendly programs.  Family programming is very important for a community because it helps to create relationships throughout the community.  The 4 R’s of family program involve the library to Reach Out: Libraries reach out to families to promote the programs, collections, and services that are vital in a knowledge economy; Raise Up: Libraries elevate family views and voices in how library programs and services are developed and carried out; Reinforce: Libraries guide and model the specific actions that family members can take to support learning, reaffirming families’ important roles and strengthening feelings of efficacy; Relate: Libraries offer opportunities for families to build peer-to-peer relationships, social networks and parent-child relationships; Reimagine: Libraries are expanding their community partnerships; combining resources and extending their range; improving children’s and families’ well-being; and linking to new learning opportunities.  The library is an important place to build family programming because nationally we are the best organizations to provided equitable learning opportunities for families living in poverty.  Some great program ideas discussed were: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and partnership with school systems helped to uniform reading for children before school begins, Petite Picasso Programs art for children and families, Digital Learning Night for all members of the family, Multi-language story times, and Home School connection groups.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

Yes, I would recommend attending ALA.  As a participant I learned about many ways to develop my professional role in my library and to better serve my patrons and wider community.  I had many workshops that included a range of discussion about the changing role of the library and the library can stay relevant while reflecting societal trends.  The biggest take away for me was the focus on mental health, inequality, & human rights that librarians face every day to help their patrons.  The informal conversations with my peers were also amazing to see the types of libraries they serve and idea sharing while networking.  The most inspiring person I met was a librarian in the Conversation Café workshop that works for a library that is located on the border of Arizona and Mexico where tensions have risen and trying to have a conversation with her community is so sensitive that sometimes leads to violence.  The best part of attending ALA was utilizing this community of librarians to creatively resolve library issues that are affecting us all.