Benbrook Library / Musings

TLA 2016 Highlights


The crowd eagerly anticipates LeVar Burton’s presentation.

Last week, my colleagues and I hit up the 2016 Texas Library Association Annual Conference, also known (by no one) as Li-Li-Palooza, in Houston. These were the highlights, as I saw them:

-This year, getting to the conference was an adventure all in itself, as heavy rains prompted Houston to do its best Atlantis impression. My Waze app seemed determined to kill us by repeatedly directing us to streets that could only be traversed in an aqua car, but we were thankfully able to navigate the hazardous roads safely with the help of Erica’s Houstonian relatives.

-I took a more active role in the conference this year by trying my hand as a speaker for the first time. Along with several other North Texas librarians, Erica and I delivered the presentation “Making MakerSpaces: The Next Step.” We spoke on the topic of “Keeping Your Makin’ Bakin’,” which involved us sharing advice and best practices for how to keep patrons interested in a MakerSpace once it’s launched and how to deal with problems that arise. To my credit, I didn’t pass out from anxiety or run off the stage screaming, so I consider my first speaking venture successful.

-The speaker at the first general session was Geordi La Forge himself, LeVar Burton. He started off by leading the eager crowd in the “Reading Rainbow” theme song and went on to deliver a moving presentation about the importance of reading, literacy, and storytelling. Librarians love having someone so passionate and inspirational championing our mission. Seeing and hearing Mr. Burton was the highlight of the conference for me.

-In a session about running a writing contest for self-published authors, the speaker shared that in her experience, many libraries have been reluctant to provide support for self-published authors, even in minimal effort ways like filling out a form to serve as a competition sponsor. One of the attendees commented she found such lack of support surprising and disappointing, and I certainly agree. Libraries should be encouraging and facilitating the writers in their communities, not shunning them.

-In a session on the TexShare databases, one presenter eloquently and astutely summed up the difference between library databases and free online search engines by likening the former to high-quality specialty shops and Google to Wal-Mart.

-Speaking of TexShare, I was excited to learn that among the several new resources coming to TexShare in July are Legal Information Reference Center and Gale Legal Forms, which will make both patrons who seek legal resources and the librarians who help them very happy.

-At a slow starting yet ultimately highly entertaining session entitled “It Happened at a Library Near You: Frontline Stories,” I heard about these wacky library happenings: a book returned with a dog tooth in it, an employee who was asked to be a Nigerian man’s second wife, a disappointed library patron who found that the “Hits of the ‘90s” book she found in the catalog and really wanted was actually about hit songs from the 1890s, a 10-year-old boy who asked a librarian for Fifty Shades of Grey because his “mom said it was good,” and a man who sought occult books so that he could summon a demon to torment his ex-wife.

-MakerSpaces continue to become increasingly chic in the library world, and the attention they received at the conference reflected that. In addition to numerous sessions on maker-related topics, an “Innovation Lab” featuring 3D printers, laser engravers, animation technology, and other high-tech gizmos galore was set up in the exhibit hall.

-This has nothing to do with the conference, but thanks to my exposure to Houston TV, I now have the jingle for, a dating site exclusively for lovelorn agriculturists, stuck in my head.

-It feels like a TLA tradition now to smugly stroll into the line-free men’s restroom while my female cohorts queue up in a line to rival the one for Santa on Christmas Eve. This year, however, I and the other few occupants of the male facilities were greeted with a non-traditional surprise: a female voice coming from one of the stalls. It seems she didn’t want to endure the wait for the ladies’ room and crept into enemy territory counting on it being deserted. She scurried off, though with pride or embarrassment, I can’t say.

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