The 2024 Public Library Association conference will bring together an impressive array of librarians and library leaders in a professional program that addresses a wide array of issues facing libraries and librarians. What follows is a sampling of panels drawn from the more than 150 sessions. Consult the PLA program for final room numbers (all professional programs here will take place at the Greater Columbus Convention Center), and for any last-minute changes or additions.

Tuesday, April 2

For those arriving to Columbus early, this year’s conference offers a host of paid workshops. These include two morning sessions to choose from, which run 9 a.m.–noon: Building a Learning Organization within an Evolving Library Landscape and Media Training: When Your Library Is the Headlines.

Afternoon workshops, which run 2–5 p.m., include Empowered: The Unspoken Work of EDI and Take Away Strategies, In the Driver’s Seat: Proactively Protecting Your Library and Staff in Challenging Times, and Public Libraries and Schools: Everything You Need to Know About the Science of Reading.

Additionally, the inaugural IndieLib: Librarian & Indie Publisher Summit will take place 10 a.m.–5 p.m. at Open Air (2571 Neil Avenue). Though not officially part of the PLA program, the summit, a collaboration between the Independent Publishers Caucus and the Digital Library of America, aims to facilitate conversation between libraries and indie publishers. The day-long program will feature a keynote address by Rebecca Giblin, coauthor with Cory Doctorow of Chokepoint Capitalism, and panel discussions exploring collection development, e-book licensing, readers’ advisory, and bigger-picture issues related to publishing and libraries.

Wednesday, April 3

10:15–11:15 a.m.

Anti-Racist Reader Services: Beyond the Basics

This session will delve into the questions around implementing actively anti-racist reader services, including how to deal with racist comments from patrons, whether every viewpoint deserves a spot on the shelves, and how to create one’s vision of anti-racist collections and services. (Room: GCCC Union Station C).

The Science of Reading in Public Libraries: Supporting Struggling Elementary-Age Readers

Librarians from the San Francisco and Chicago public libraries will share strategies for addressing the needs of struggling readers in their communities, including through programming and collection development. (Room: GCCC A210-215).

Telling Meaningful Stories: Sharing the Impact of Library Business Services

Libraries are leaders among the small business ecosystem, and this program will highlight strategies to help librarians better engage local entrepreneurs, partner organizations, and elected officials. (Room: GCCC C170-172).

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Black Men in Public Libraries

In the U.S., Black men hold less than 1% of all MLIS degrees. In this session, attendees will hear from Black men in library leadership positions about ways to diversify the faces of librarianship. (Room: GCCC B230-235).

How to Weather the Turbulence of a Video Auditor

So-called “First Amendment audits” continue to occur in libraries, and they are often unsettling and stressful for staff and patrons. What can you do to prepare for having a camera shoved in your face? This panel will highlight case studies and share best practices for dealing with these intrusions. (Room: GCCC C170-172).

2–3 p.m.

Challenging Times: Unite Against Book Bans and ALA’s Policy Corp

Kent Oliver, senior fellow for ALA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office, will moderate a discussion with Policy Corp members who are working to change the narrative around book banning as part of the Unite Against Book Bans campaign. (Room: GCCC A210-215).

The Library as Studio: Why Original Content Is Important for Libraries Today and Tomorrow

Libraries are information platforms, but can they also be better information producers? Here, librarians from the Calgary Public Library will talk about how their in-house production team is producing its own media to serve the community. (Room: GCCC C160-162AB).

Thursday, April 4

10:15–11:15 a.m.

Building Pathways to Diverse Librarianship and Leadership

In response to the long-standing lack of diversity in libraries and library education (86% of American librarians are white, and the majority are women), the Brooklyn Public Library implemented the Pathways to Leadership scholarship program. This panel will feature lead investigators from the project, which is dedicated to identifying the barriers marginalized people face in the profession. (Room GCCC Union Station A).

Reimagining Branch Libraries for Community Authenticity

This panel will explore how library design can tap into and celebrate the cultural, historical, and environmental contexts that are specific and unique to each place. (Room: GCCC A210-215).

Unbannable: How Libraries Are Ensuring Access to Banned Books

With book banning on the rise and intellectual freedom under attack, this panel will include leaders whose library-driven projects are protecting critical access to knowledge for all. (Room: GCCC Short North AB).

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Cornerstones in a Culture War: The Role of Urban Libraries in Defending Democracy

In 2023, the Urban Libraries Council issued a “Declaration of Democracy” and formed an advisory group that has developed a leadership brief, FAQs, a toolkit, and training series to provide a baseline for building policies and actions that protect democracy. This panel will feature those doing the work. (Room: GCCC A120-125).

Public Library Leaders Share Perspectives, Lessons Learned, and Key Takeaways

Hear from library leaders—including PLA president Sonia Alcantara-Antoine, ALA president-elect Cindy Hohl, PLA president-elect Michael Lambert, and PLA immediate-past president Maria Taesil Hudson McCauley—as they reflect on their experiences and deliver personal calls to action. (Room: GCCC Short North AB).

2–3 p.m.

PLA President’s Program: The Black Public Librarian in America

PLA president Sonia Alcantara-Antoine welcomes library leaders Carla Hayden, Roosevelt Weeks, and Shauntee Burns-Simpson for a discussion on the achievements, legacies, and contributions of Black librarians. (Room: GCCC B230-235).

4–5 p.m.

The Future’s So Bright: Supporting the Next Generation of Librarians

This panel will explore how librarians from the Allen County Public Library in Indiana are recruiting and supporting future librarians beginning in their teenage years. Attendees will hear from program participants and staff about ways to implement similar planning for their own communities. (Room: GCCC C160-162AB).

Friday, April 5

10:15–11:15 a.m.

Pivoting to Meet New Censorship Tactics

In addition to the rise in book-banning efforts, library workers are seeing attacks on libraries and the freedom to read from political groups, including attempts to subvert the formal book review process. In this session, ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom staff, including director Deborah Caldwell-Stone, will discuss ways library workers can handle these evolving challenges. (Room: GCCC A110-115).

11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Intellectual Freedom Edition

In this session, attendees will collaboratively navigate their way through multistep intellectual freedom–related scenarios and discuss why some choices and decisions are better than others. (Room: GCCC Union Station A).

In the Trenches: The Battle Against Censorship in Louisiana Libraries

As many observers have noted, Louisiana is ground zero when it comes to the political attacks libraries are now facing nationwide, going back to 2017 when a group in Lafayette went on a mission to defund the state’s public libraries. This panel will discuss how that effort led to several threatening bills that are now pending in the state legislature, and explore how librarians and advocates in some parishes have been fighting back—and how to prepare one’s own library (and community) for similar challenges. (Room: GCCC B230-235).

2:15–3:15 p.m.

After the Audit: Sustainable Steps to Maintaining a Diverse Collection

You’ve completed a diversity audit of your collection—now what? In this session, librarians from the Kent District Library in Michigan will go through the steps they took to ensure that all patrons were being represented in the library’s collection. (Room: GCCC Union Station A).

Working Together: Developing Neurodivergent and IDD Inclusive Volunteer Opportunities

This panel will lay out ways to adapt and enhance libraries’ programs to support the workforce-related needs of neurodivergent and intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, exploring how to establish partner relationships, develop staff training, and assess outcomes. (Room GCCC Union Station C).

3:30–4:30 p.m.

Empowering Libraries: Navigating the AI Era Across All Roles

Brandy McNeil, New York Public Library’s director of branch programs and services, will offer insights and best practices for AI integration within one’s library system, including the essential, ethical principles of responsible AI. (Room GCCC A120-125).

Rethinking Dewey (Dewey or Don’t We?)

Maybe it’s time to move past the Dewey Decimal System. This panel offers a vision for a cataloging system meant to be easily understood by patrons, is more equitable, and can be easily browsed. (Room GCCC A210-215).

Spanish for Library Staff: Bridging the Language Barrier

Spanish-language readers are a large and growing public library constituency. This panel will offer insight for reaching Spanish-language users and getting to know one’s community’s Spanish-speaking populations. (Room: GCCC B230-235).

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