PLA 2018 draws thousands of library professionals, supporters to Philadelphia

For Immediate Release
Wed, 03/28/2018

Contact:

Macey Morales

Deputy Director

Public Awareness Office

mmorales@ala.org

CHICAGO – As Philadelphians braced for the third Nor’easter in less than two weeks, library supporters and professionals from across the country made their way to the east coast to attend the Public Library Association (PLA) 2018 Conference, March 20 – 24 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Approximately 7,873 public library professionals, exhibitors, speakers and supporters registered to attend the nation’s largest conference dedicated to connecting and supporting the educational needs of public library professionals and stakeholders.

Offered biennially, PLA 2018 held the theme “Imagine the Possibilities.” The event offered a unique opportunity for peers from across the country and globe to meet to discuss the challenges facing our nation’s public libraries. Key areas of discussion focused on advocacy; funding; consumer health information; Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion; family engagement through libraries; and digital literacy. 

Each morning, PLA 2018 began the day with a big idea. Designed to motivate and empower public library professionals to consider and execute new ideas, PLA’s Big Idea Series included inspiring talks with best-selling “Eat, Pray, Love Author Elizabeth Gilbert; Corporate Executive Steve Pemberton; and Author, policy advocate, and Director of Columbia University's Poliak Center for the Study of First Amendment Issues Tim Wu.

Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates headlined the event’s Opening Session. Yates’ remarks emphasized the invaluable role that libraries play within their communities as gateways to truth and protectors of our nation’s democracy.  “You are the keepers of and the gateway to truth,” stated Yates. “Libraries provide forums for debate and preserve history. They are one of the few inherently democratic spaces that we have.”

A line-up of distinguished guest speakers motivated and energized audience members as PLA 2018 offered programs featuring best-selling author Kari Chapin;  Author  Daniel H. Pink ( “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing”); best-selling Author Joshilyn Jackson (“Gods in Alabama”); Marley Dias founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign; patriarch of Discovery Channel’s Emmy-shortlisted program “Alaska: The Last Frontier” Atz Kilcher; Newbery Medalist and Children’s Book Author Kate DiCamillo; and award-winning best-selling author and Young People’s Poet Laureate Jacqueline Woodson. Comedian, Actor, Host, and Writer Hasan Minhaj brought PLA 2018 to an official end as the closing session speaker.

The event offered more than 100 sessions that explored such issues as libraries and social justice; addressing the Opioid epidemic; eliminating fines; developing diverse collections; and much more.

PLA 2018 served as a platform for several PLA national announcements. A new national study on voter perceptions of libraries was unveiled. The PLA, American Library Association (ALA), and OCLC released From Awareness to Funding: Voter Perceptions and Support of Public Libraries in 2018. The research updates OCLC’s seminal 2008 study that explored voter perceptions, use, and attitudes toward public libraries, librarians, and library funding. The report shows that a majority of U.S. voters believe public libraries are essential to communities and a source of civic pride. However, a majority of voters still do not realize that the primary source of library funding is local.  Other key findings, infographics, and more are available at https://oc.lc/awareness2018.

PLA also announced a new partnership with tech startup Short Edition.   Short Story Dispenser.  First launched in France, Short Story Dispensers offer readers an opportunity to randomly select a one- , three- , or five - minute story with a push of a button. The PLA and Short Edition are bringing this new technology to a select group of libraries including Akron-Summit County (Ohio) Public Library; Free Library of Philadelphia (Penn.); Richland Library (Columbia, S.C.); and Wichita (Kans.) Public Library. Made possible by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, participating libraries may house the Short Story Dispenser in their library or place the kiosk in common areas within the community. Libraries will have the ability to brand Story Dispenser kiosks to enhance the library’s visibility, as well as insert information about library collections, services, and programs at the footer of each printed short story.

Hundreds of exhibitors showcased the latest technology and services vital to public libraries, librarians and their users. New to the exhibits floor was the PLA Pavilion. The Pavilion served as the conference’s living room providing conference goers with access to a welcoming space to relax, hold meetings, or meet PLA staff. The space provided comfortable sofas and chairs surrounded by muted tones of creams and purples, modern furnishings, presentation area and a stage.

Networking opportunities flourished as many participated in career fairs; interactive games via the PLA mobile app; exhibits opening reception; author signings; and an array of special events.

Those who could not travel to Philadelphia for the conference participated virtually. There were 110 registrants for the PLA 2018 Virtual Conference, which presented many elements of the live conference, including high-quality educational programming, networking opportunities and author events.

PLA 2020 will take place in Nashville, Tennessee from Feb. 25–29, 2020.

For more information on PLA 2018, please visit http://www.placonference.org .   

The Public Library Association (http://www.ala.org/pla ) is the largest association dedicated to supporting the unique and evolving needs of public library professionals. Founded in 1944, PLA serves nearly 9,000 members in public libraries large and small in communities across the United States and Canada, with a growing presence around the world. PLA offers professional development opportunities, unique public library initiatives, and a conference that welcomes public library staff into meaningful partnership. In collaboration with its parent organization, the American Library Association, PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders.