MLA Conference Recap pt I

MLA LogoAt last, I’ve struggled free from The Quagmire of Over-Commitment!

My semester of 2 jobs and 2 classes wound to a close 2 weeks. In that time I also squeezed in 2 conferences. The latter of which was the Massachusetts Library Association Conference. I spent, you guessed it, 2 days at the conference and thought I’d share some of what I learned.

Since it’s bad form to post a brobdingnagian entry, I’m going to split it up into more than one post. I’ll do 3 posts. Today’s post will cover…2 talks. I attended 6 talks in 2 days. While I’m admittedly poor in math, methinks 2 x 3 = 6. So without further ado…

Information Literacy 

The first talk I attended is near and dear to my heart. My internship was centered around a Digital Literacy Initiative and Information Literacy is Dig Lit’s parent. Coming out of this talk I realized that this is the foundation on which library advocacy should be build.

Laura Saunders is not only a professor at Simmons but also happens to be my advisor. She was the first one to speak. Thanks to The Internet, we live in what she calls an “Access Rich World.” All corners of The Internet inundate people with information. But that doesn’t mean the info is correct. As was spotlighted with the slew of “updates” about the hunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that came out of Twitter, the veracity of what you read on the internet can’t be taken for granted. Vetting info and passing it along has been the bailiwick of librarians for centuries. A good example of this today is government documentation.

Since Clinton signed the The Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996, 90% of government documents are born digital. As evidenced by the swarm of patrons during tax season, public libraries have a responsibility here. They should educate themselves on people’s rights in regards to accessing government documents and pass it along. But they should try do so in a manner that their audience will understand.

Like a well practiced relay team, Laura handed the baton over to Kelly Woodside of the Mass Library System. She said the purpose of Information Literacy is to transform people into “Life Long Learners”. Librarians can get people started in ways like teaching them how to understand government documents but the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement should force people to get into the habit of learning. That was the driving force behind my internship. By providing resources to the patrons, we are hoping that they will get familiar enough with worthwhile sources of information to be able to find new ones on their own.

Since not everyone learns at the same pace, Kelly referred to another trend in the library world: “The Accidental Instruction Librarian.” The Mass Lib System was essentially forced into drawing up instruction workshops. Those workshops are aimed at training the trainers so to speak. The demand for instruction by libraries isn’t something that’s easy to ignore. These workshops try to pass along best practices when it comes to instruction. If librarians are coaxed into training, having a handle on how to so will make both the trainer and trainee’s lives easier.

Author Panel

“And now for something completely different…”

The next talk I attended was a shift to the other side of the counter, so to speak. It was an Q & A with a trio of authors. Since this post is already getting long, I’m going to take advantage of a trait they all shared. As fellow conference-goer said, “they are incredibly quotable.”

Laura Harrington is a playwright that decided to try her hand at a novel. Here are a few gems she unearthed for us during the talk.

“I wanted to reconnect to the creative process by beginning again.”

~On what she enjoyed most about writing a novel

If an actor steps onto the stage and you’re going to pay them, you might as well use them.

~On why her secondary characters are so rich.

Collaborating is either heaven or hell. You often find yourself married to a collaborator before you’ve even had a date.

~On what it was like to not have to collaborate when writing the novel.

Claire Messud is a best-selling author who was kind enough to join us to talk about her new novel The Woman Upstairs.

If a woman is angry she’s unhinged.

~On feedback from her book.

Do you want to be friends with a character? Sometimes good characters aren’t likable.

~Again on feedback from her main character.

No one eviscerated on a table is good to look at.

~In response to the criticism of her main character seemingly falling down on her job as a mother.

Christopher Castellanni, while not a best selling author he did win the Massachusetts Book Award in 2004 and he’s also involved in Grub Street, a non-profit writing center. 

Why is it a bad thing that so many people want to be writers.

~On the suspicious reaction people get when they take a creative writing class.

Talking a lot but not really listening to each other.

~On the family dynamic in his book.

I wanted to write 100 Years of Solitude, but for Italians.

~On the purpose of writing A Kiss from Magdalena.

There was much more from each talk, but I spent the first post-semester week taking it easy and just focusing on my full-time job. It was much needed recovery time. I’m afraid it also had the unintended effect of distancing me from my thoughts on the conference. I took enough notes to be able to relay the gist of the sessions, but ask you to accept any vagaries as a result of that ever-increasing distance from the conference.

Well, that’s it for today. Check back soon for part deux!

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