I can't tell you how impressed that I am with the 2010 Public Library Association Conference. This conference just did everything right. Beautiful location, beautiful venue, free working wireless and world class presenters. They even got the weather to cooperate! Sunny days in Portland in MARCH, someone must have good connections.
Having Natalie Merchant at the program was huge! Playing stuff yet to be released and having her serenade librarians with a thank you and going into the audience! Wow, that's what librarians need right now. The conference started a bit melancholy for me as I knew many colleagues were suddenly pulled from coming and many more would shortly be laid off. In fact I got news of a friend who was to be laid off, just as the program was starting. I hope that I can make a connection for her, but I couldn't help thinking of others. Like soldiers falling in the line, we must move forward but it's hard not to mourn what's going on, I can barely read the news anymore.
In sharp contrast, Kristoff gave us a lot to be thankful for. If you've read Half the Sky you know about the oppression of women worldwide. Women not considered worthy enough to save their lives, pay for an education, or even to pay for a simple surgery that could improve their quality of life. The book resonated with me, but not in the specific way of women in third world countries. What makes the book different was that it breaks down the problem, offers a solution, then goes further in discussing how good deeds and relief can be fruitless and difficult. Sometimes solving the problem doesn't end at one stage in the effort, but must be seen through. He told the story of a woman kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. To save this woman, he purchased her and brought her back to her village. However, in one week she ran back to the brothel because she was addicted to meth that only the brothel could supply. How to solve that problem?
It reminded me of our library's literacy efforts. Literacy is only the first step. They then need a GED, job skills, soft job skills, then afterward to find a job, but then there aren't any. It's a great deal of work, and rewarding, but the work doesn't stop at literacy. The problems are much bigger and multifaceted. It's not just literacy, it's getting teens out of gangs and into the library. It's so much more. This is the work libraries need to do.
At the end of the day I'm energized and thankful about the work I can do in my community. I run an organization that is unique in one particular way. Other community agencies, schools and nonprofits have specific goals, mandates, and parameters that restrict them from doing the most good; libraries aren't as restricted. I can get on a committee and say we can give resources, know how to get funding, and can bridge the gap on your mandate. It's a wonderful feeling, like being a superhero and that's how this conference made me feel, thank you PLA!
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