Read On! Library Conferences & COVID

Now that Summer Reading is over, conference season begins. I’ve been to a number of library conferences in my time as a librarian. Library conferences are great ways to learn about new trends in library service, ways to improve existing processes, and meet others library staff.

In-person conferences all work basically the same way: days or weeks before the conference, attendees get a list of all available sessions/classes to begin the process of planning what they will learn and when. There is always time built into the schedule for attendees to go to the vendor hall so vendors can network with libraries, sell their wares, and give away the coveted library swag (free books and tote bags are super popular in Libraryland).

In the age of COVID-19, in-person conferences are more complicated. Last September, I attended my first virtual multi-day conference. I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. Because all the sessions and classes were pre-recorded, I was able to “attend” more than I would have if the conference had been face-to-face. Because I got to stay in Pryor, it was also a lot less expensive than a face-to-face conference would have been.

The downside, of course, was that I didn’t get to truly meet anyone at the conference. When my family and I went to Florida this summer, I was reminded how much I love talking to other librarians about what they’re doing in their communities, what challenges they face, etc. when we visited the downtown Tampa library. Face-to-face interactions are incredibly valuable and I miss them.

The cost-effectiveness of online conferences is hard to beat, so I’m torn between wanting to meet and learn from other librarians in person and wanting to save our library money. I’m hopeful the post-COVID era will find a balance.

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