Music City Meetup | PLA 2020 Preview

This year’s Public Library Association (PLA) Conference will be held in Nashville, from February 25–29—the first time PLA has been held in the Southeast in 20 years. Nashville Public Library (NPL) was LJ’s 2017 Library of the Year; the library—and city—have continued to grow and evolve.

This year’s Public Library Association (PLA) Conference will be held in Nashville, from February 25–29—the first time PLA has been held in the Southeast in 20 years. Nashville Public Library (NPL) was LJ’s 2017 Library of the Year; the library—and city—have continued to grow and evolve. NPL’s partnership with Metro Nashville public schools, its Civil Rights Room and Collection, its collaboration with law enforcement, its involvement with Nashville’s music scene, and its literacy and learning initiatives make it a model at a time of great change.

PLA 2020 promises a similarly diverse and forward-thinking lineup of offerings. Author, lawyer, and political leader Stacey Abrams, founder of the Fair Fight Initiative, will speak at the opening session on Wed., Feb. 26 (2–3:30 p.m.). Abrams’s advocacy for voting rights and a fair 2020 Census count align her mission with that of PLA’s, and hers should be a stirring keynote. PLA’s Big Ideas speaker series will feature Bettina L. Love, author and associate professor of educational theory and practice at the University of Georgia (Thurs., Feb. 27, 8–9 a.m.); Haben Girma, the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School (Fri., Feb. 28, 8–9 a.m.); and journalist Soledad O’Brien (Sat., Feb. 29, 8:15–9:15 a.m.). Comedian Samantha Bee wraps up at Saturday’s closing session (12–1 p.m.).

Tours of NPL branches will be ongoing. A ticketed Day in the Community, Wed., Feb. 26, will explore local organizations that support equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The library will host a ticketed performance of NPL’s Wishing Chair Productions’ String City, a history of country music told through puppetry, sponsored by Nashville-based Ingram Content Group in partnership with the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum (Thurs., Feb. 27, 6–7 p.m.) (See more local tips from Ingram.)

Below, LJ editors have picked out a few notable sessions—be sure to visit for a full schedule.


Library Design

Co-Locating Library Branches and New Service Combinations
Thurs., Feb. 27, 10:15–11:15 a.m., Music City Center (MCC) 104
There cannot be too many ways to innovate around co-location—libraries can, and should, go everywhere. The session will example what Chicago Public Library has done, notably around housing, and what’s on the horizon.

Tiny Spaces Bring Big Opportunity
Thurs., Feb. 27, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., MCC 202
Representatives from the Fort Worth Public Library, TX, talk about how they created a space in a 453 s.f. public housing complex room, as well as how they secured the political support and funding to make it happen.

Inclusionary Tactics that Flip the Script for Library Facility Planning
Fri., Feb. 28, 2:15–3:15 p.m., MCC 202
Architects and library leaders will discuss facilities planning with a focus on radical community engagement.


Equity & Inclusion

Public Library Partnering in Juvenile Detention Centers
Thurs., Feb. 27, 4–5 p.m., MCC 103
Reaching teens where they are isn’t just a matter of high school outreach or dedicated teen spaces. Staff from Kalamazoo Public Library, MI, will talk about the library’s partnership with juvenile detention services.

Intentional Inclusion: Disrupting Middle Class Bias in Library Programming
Thurs., Feb. 27, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., MCC 104
Arizona’s Pima County Public Library is offering programs utilizing restorative practices for youth, community conversations for those experiencing homelessness, and expanded reference services for individuals who are incarcerated.

What Comes After Drag Queen Storytime?
Sat., Feb. 29, 10:45–11:45 a.m. MCC 101
This panel will explore additional drag programming with an eye to further welcoming trans and gender nonconfirming patrons and staff, and will focus on the voices and experiences of trans librarians and library workers.



Inside Baseball

So You DON’T Want to Be a Library Director
Thurs., Feb. 27, 4–5 p.m. MCC 205
A panel of experienced deputies, assistants, and specialists will address an important and sorely underdiscussed topic: paths to leadership and the unique skill sets and expertise required for roles that don’t involve the director’s chair.

Building the Case for #eBooksForAll
Fri., Feb. 28, 10:15–11:15 a.m., MCC 103
Between shifts in pricing and access models and fluctuations in relationships with publishers, the ebook landscape continues to change. This session will offer the latest information from library leaders and ALA’s Washington Office to bring everyone up to speed, including reports on policy advocacy, new research, and outreach efforts.

Preferred but not Required: The Changing Role of the MLS
Fri., Feb. 28, 10:15–11:15 a.m., MCC 205
As libraries strive for equity and inclusion and search for the best person to fit a role, should a credentialed library degree be a requirement? This conversation among a panel of library leaders promises to be thought-provoking and relevant, and may change some minds in the process.

Addressing Bias in Your Catalog
Fri., Feb. 28, 11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. MCC 207
A panel of catalogers will discuss how librarians can identify harmful bias in catalogs and evaluate potential solutions, as well as get involved on a larger scale, with no cataloging experience required.


Safety & Security

A Trauma-Informed Approach to Public Library Social Service
Fri., Feb. 28, 10:15–11:15 a.m. MCC 202
Georgia’s Athens Regional Library uses a trauma-informed lens to refocus its social work program. This session presents replicable steps in providing services, designing and implementing policies, and supplying holistic training for staff.

Bystander Intervention in the Library
Fri., Feb. 28, 10:15–11:15 a.m., MCC 104
Donna Seaton, Training Specialist, Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, will address how to safely intervene.

The Internet is Dark and Full of Terrors
Fri., Feb. 28 2:15–3:15 p.m. MCC 104
There’s a lot of scary stuff out there, and whether libraries choose to supplement safety measures with filters or simply good proactive patron care, this session should offer useful suggestions. Topics covered will include internet harassment, bullies, and predators—how to recognize them, and how to help library customers stay safe.

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