What I Learned at MLA 2014
Written by: Sheila Snow-Croft, Public Health Coordinator
I enjoyed this year’s conference immensely, but what I relearn each year is that there is never enough time to do everything one wants to do. Reconnecting with colleagues near and far is always rewarding, and this year’s silent auction and focus on the Scholarship fund at the closing reception were good ideas for a great cause that boosted camaraderie. The plenary and keynote speakers are always interesting, but I believe I gain the most from active membership in Sections and SIGs and the Section Programs these groups sponsor. Watching colleagues present their research and lessons learned is invigorating and reminds me why I chose this career. Along with focusing on content relevant to my position as Public Health Coordinator, I try to attend sessions by SE/A network members and those sponsored by the groups I work with: the Educational Media and Technology Section (EMTS), the Public Health Section, the Relevant Issues Section, the Health Disparities SIG, and the LGBT SIG. Thank goodness much of the conference is available online afterwards, because it is never possible to attend even half of the sessions of interest.
This year, EMTS presented one of its programs in a flipped classroom format which is a first for the MLA Conference. I believe that it was worth the effort and I hope we are able to try this again with improvements from lessons learned. The MATE (MLA Academy of Teaching Experts) hosted a successful Open Forum called “Bad Presentation Bingo: The Communication Game You Want To Lose,” a mix of important information presented in a fun manner. Within the Section programming, Jacqueline Leskovic’s presentation about “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Privacy Issues” in the “Protecting Patron Privacy in the Era of Surveillance” session was well researched and will hopefully be published soon. Two young SE/A librarians had interesting stories to tell in the “Boarding out: The Embedded Librarian” session; Alisha Miles discussed “A Tale of Two Libraries: Implementing Embedded Librarianship Programs from the Perspective of a Solo Hospital Librarian Turned Academic Librarian,” and Elizabeth Laera presented “From the Ground up: A Solo Librarian’s Guide to Building a Clinical Librarianship Program.”
The closing Plenary session by playwright, actor, and professor Anna Deavere Smith was, hands down, my favorite part of this year’s conference. As a Baltimore native, she began by mentioning how important the Enoch Pratt Free Library was to her as a child in a segregated city. She quoted Eudora Welty, one of my all-time favorites, and then proceeded to transform herself into many different characters to, as the introduction notes, “highlight issues of community, character, and diversity in America.” Many of the bits were from her most recent play, Let Me Down Easy, which “examines health care and the resilience and vulnerability of the human body.” She is an incredibly talented actor and the session was a fabulous close to a really great MLA conference.