My MLA Conference Recap

Patricia Post, CMLE Director
Patricia Post, CMLE Director

It is always unfortunate for CMLE staff that the MEMO and MLA Conferences are back to back. It is hard for us to both be out of the office, but we always come away from both conferences with new programming ideas and connections in the library field. The two conferences are quite different in look and feel, which is what keeps it interesting. MEMO is of course very focused on school media and their issues, while the MLA Conference is heaviest maybe in public library issues, followed closely by academics. Our staff intentionally looks for the breakout sessions that are bursting at the seams, to see what is most popular. If we join the fray, we are looking on behalf of all Central MN library types, but also watching and listening to see how the content is received, and if the questions from the attendees indicate something might be lacking in content. If the speaker is phenomenal, we ask them about their willingness to bring their expertise to our region.

We listen at the lunch tables and in the hallways to hear what people are excited about, and what they are struggling with too! For staff like ours, these are all clues as to what type of programming might be helpful in the region. Since so many meetings are now done online, conference season allows face-to-face contact with people in your network.  Face-to-face is still best for building relationships and hearing about your needs.  As several of us talked about this, we noted how much we miss the face-to-face, as it bonds people in ways that online meetings struggle to produce. A few of my highlights of the MLA Conference included:

  • Things in a Flash Breakout Session: Bursting to capacity, this fast paced session was populated for the most part with the “tablet crowd”, or the wannabes! I still had not upgraded my iPad to iOS7, as I feared I would not have the needed gift of time to figure out some fairly significant upgrade changes. This session gave me the highlights for navigating this brave new world, which gave me the confidence to download the upgrade. We also heard about many apps that fulfilled a number of professional and personal needs. Out of the twenty or so covered, my two favorites were CamMe, an app that helps you take photos of yourself without the “fully extended arm method” while using your phone! I also really liked Quixey, a search engine for apps. Read last week’s blog post about Quixey.
  • Sessions on Change Management and Mindfulness: Staff from the Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) did an excellent session (Conducting Change: Leading a Mindful Tune) about bringing mindfulness into the workplace. Presenters acknowledged that we are living in a time of unprecedented change. We need tools to help us work well in teams and embrace change rather than burrow away from it. Identifying and understanding  our strengths, and those of our team members, also makes us better. They talked about WOO (winning others over), working in “flow state”, and the pitfalls of extreme multitasking. At one point in  time, multitasking was considered the much preferred option, but it appears it can actually have negative connotations these days. Does multitasking just make us do many things in a superficial, haphazard way? If we focus and/or reflect, can we do a better job?

And, we need tools to help us in letting go of emotions. Acknowledge the emotion, let go of how things should be, and recognize that  too much attachment to the end goal can make you miss better things.  The presenters showed a hysterical, yet poignant video of C.K. Louis on the Conan O’Brien show to illustrate what they mean about acknowledging your emotions. MCTC created a meditation room in their library this year to allow anyone to engage in 20 minute segments of seated mindfulness (pillows on the floor). Every 20 minutes a chime signals when to enter or leave the room.

Mindfulness and reflective thinking are showing up in both the education and library literature. These practices not only help manage work-related stress, but also improve the quality of library services. Kristen Mastel, MLA president, recently published an article on the topic, Insights and Practical Tips on Practicing Mindful Librarianship to Manage Stress.

  • After little sleep and a hastily read breakout session description, I stumbled into Roll With the Changes: A Percussion-Based Experiential Approach to Change Management. I will admit I almost backed out of the room when I saw a circle of chairs with a variety of drums and rattles placed in front of each chair. We were quietly instructed by two academics to “sit near the drum that speaks to you.” Okay…I sort of felt like I needed someone to work some WOO on me! However, I pushed through my discomfort while chiding myself for not reading the session description well enough. I have little musical ability and what if I needed to perform solo?  But then, I remembered that I could be mindful about my discomfort, embrace it and own it, then let it go, which is exactly what I did! This session began with a review of the research on group drumming or drum circles, some simple rhythmic exercises, and culminated in a full blown structured drumming exercise and debrief as the exercise relates to facilitating change and positive growth in work teams. It was energizing, easy and fun. I left the session smiling and energized to keep exploring new ideas!

I always roll out of Fall conference season on an adrenaline high about what I have learned and whom I have met. Then, I get back to the office and see the piles of work left undone as a result of attending the conference. By writing this blog post, I got my “conference high” back, which felt great.

What about you? Can you share conference high points with others to increase the learning and show the value in developing yourself professionally?

Tip 1: To mine the comments (tweets) of Twitter users at the conference, go to Twitter. Use the search window to type in the #mnlib13 hash tag. By doing this, you may pick up other useful links to materials others shared as a result of  breakout sessions they attended.

Tip 2: Were budgets too tight to allow you to attend a conference this Fall? If you work in an academic, public, special or school library in Aitkin, Benton, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd or Wright counties in Minnesota, you are eligible to apply for a CMLE scholarship. Watch our blog posts for other upcoming conferences that might be a good fit for you!