First-Timer's Report

Tara Rumsey

As I made my way to the University of Prince Edward Island’s lush green campus for one of APLA 2013’s pre-conference sessions (RDA On the Ground) this May, I couldn’t help but think about a similar day eight years before when I walked across the very same campus on my way to my first graduation ceremony. Though I have been to UPEI many times since May of 2005, it seemed fitting to be returning to my old alma mater—the site of my first foray into the world of serious research and critical thinking—for my first professional library conference.

The theme of this year’s APLA Conference was ‘Go Organic! Locally sourced libraries’ with an emphasis on positioning the library as a “‘natural’ part of a healthy community” (APLA, 2013, para. 2). Though I had a good deal of exposure to libraries before my undergrad, it was not until I made serious use of UPEI’s Robertson Library that I truly grasped the absolute necessity of a library to a functioning community, academic or otherwise. As spaces and services change, it is critical to remember that we can remain not only relevant but essential as long as our mandates continue to reflect the needs of our communities. I came to UPEI as a teenager, scared and alone. UPEI as a campus community embraced me, encouraged me, and made me succeed. The Robertson Library was no small part of that success.

I attended many inspiring sessions over my four days at APLA, learning about everything from Dalhousie’s Killam Library 3D Printing Pilot Project (spearheaded by the Killam’s own Marc Comeau and my fellow classmate Michael Groenendyk) to UPEI’s relaunch of their IslandScholar Institutional Repository (presented by UPEI’s Donald Moses). I was delighted to return to a taste of my English Literature studies by attending a session led by my former English professor, Dr. Shannon Murray, entitled “Did Harry Potter Change the World? Adults Reading Children’s Literature”. There were sessions on the new copyright legislation, advocacy, consortial ebook purchasing (Novanet), and more.

Both the opening and closing keynote speakers were brilliantly chosen and absolutely different from one another. Opening keynote Sandra Singh, Director of Vancouver Public Libraries, represented the library prospective with her emphasis on the community-led service model. After over an hour of hearing her innovative, quote-worthy wisdom and ideas, I felt as though I could listen to the woman forever. Ms. Singh emphasized the importance of embracing the challenges of fiscal constraint. She spoke of the benefits of reading culture, and the importance of media literacy. Over and over, she returned to the notion of the opportunity for creativity that arises from having less. Libraries can survive and thrive through doing less with more and letting go of notion of entitlement.

PEI’s own Amber MacArthur, owner of Konnekt Creative Digital Engagement, was APLA’s closing keynote speaker. Coming from outside of the library world, Ms. MacArthur presented a talk entitled “10 Steps to Social Media Success”. In the world of 2013, there is no denying the importance of a strong, careful social media presence for any public organization. Libraries throughout the region and the world are experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media platforms, but it is important to be both adept and aware when doing so. Ms. MacArthur introduced the audience to some success stories and some epic failures for organizations played out via social media. She was dynamic, thoroughly researched, and extremely knowledgeable. The entire hour was filled with great advice, though I felt the most significant take away was her ABC’s of social media: Adapt quickly, Be responsive, and Create value. Simply put, a mismanaged social media presence can cause a lot more harm than good.

Both the depth and breadth of the conference program as a reflection of the practical and intellectual work being done in libraries (and other information settings) in this region was nothing short of awe-inspiring. If I doubted my chosen field before APLA, all doubts were erased after. I left after four days of stimulating presentations, chats, meals, introductions, meetings, and gatherings with a real sense of pride and belonging and a renewed passion for the job hunt I was facing as a new library graduate in this region.

References

APLA. (2013). APLA 2013. Retrieved from http://apla2013.ca/