Scholarship Report: Jess Lind – MLA 2019

Event: MLA 2019 — Prior Lake, MN – September 19-20, 2019

Attendee: Jess Lind – Youth Services Librarian, Austin Public Library

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

This was my first time attending any library conference and I graduated with my MLIS a little over a year ago. This conference was a way for me to find out what other libraries offer to their youth. I attended sessions on escape rooms, summer food programs, summer reading, and diversity. All of this is relevant and even if I don’t implement most of what I learned, I can take this knowledge, tweak it and make it work for my community.

I was looking forward to networking when I was told I would be going to MLA this year. My friends in the field mostly live in Wisconsin or Iowa. I wanted to meet other Youth Services Librarians in the state, and I did. I got to meet and exchange information with others that I will reach out to in the future.

I left the MLA conference with so many new resources. Aside from the people I met, the resources are probably the most valuable thing I am taking away from my sessions. I will use the information given to me and figure out how I can make it applicable to my community.
Before MLA, I had a place in my library and my community. After leaving the conference, I feel like I belong to something larger; I am a part of Minnesota’s library world now. I look forward to future MLA conferences and maybe the ALSC conference to expand my network and have more learning opportunities.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

My favorite session was Hello, Universe, Hello, Asian American Children’s… Sarah Park Dahlen was captivating and both she and Paul Lai were passionate. I am an Asian American but never really thought about how that applies to my job as a YS Librarian. My community is diverse, we have a Latinx and African American population but also many Chinese families and an increase of Karen and Kareni families in town.

The speakers informed us that we need to go past the reviews when adding books to our collection. They make a great point because reviews don’t always take into acct. who is writing the book and what knowledge they have about the people/subject they are writing about. Are they unknowingly accentuating a stereotype or exoticization? Are we going beyond cultural differences?

I like that they broke it down to 4 areas where we can engage our communities- collection dev., reader’s ad., displays, and programming. I would expand this to the broader diverse sense and not just Asian Americans. When someone asks for a middle grade book, have options that have protagonists that are strong, smart, clever, etc. reflecting many different backgrounds, cultures and physical appearances; window and mirror options for all.

Like other sessions, they provided excellent resources and articles. They stressed the importance of starting uncomfortable anti-racist conversations in your community. I left the session excited to work on applying some of the info I obtained.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

I would recommend this event to others. The sessions I attended were aimed at Youth Services or other librarian focused areas but I spoke with others that work Circulation, are Library Directors and are Friends of the Library. The conference has much to offer all aspects of Library Services. This was my first time attending; I arrived knowing few and left with a new network of friends that share common interests and passions as myself.

One thing that I appreciate about the conference is that you can attend sessions that aren’t always “in your line of work”. I was encouraged by my director to go to what sounded interesting and what I would find useful. I didn’t’ have to go to every single youth focused session. So, if someone is interested in expanding knowledge in an area unfamiliar to them, this conference is a good way to dip a toe in the water and get a feel for something new.

Anyone interested in what other libraries in the state are up to, there are many sessions they would find appealing. I loved hearing about events, programs and changes that are happening around my state. It is a learning experience that encourages collaboration but also gives us a chance to show our appreciation and awe to others. After attending the conference, the wheels have been turning in my head on ways to incorporate some of what I learned. I think that would be the case for any attendees to the conference.