Serious and ambitious—with a strong helping of social justice—is the quick description of the upcoming Public Library Association Conference.

In fact, never before have I seen a PLA program with such a consistent, political purpose. Gone are the workshops on speed dating, beer making, and outreach to millennials in the suburbs. Instead, look for presentations on equity of access, institutionalized racism, media literacy, service to immigrants and refugees, paths to citizenship, the opiate crisis, and more. Even the maker movement has been pushed outward, now more focused on working with at-risk youth and in venues beyond the library.

Is this the Trump effect at work? One thing is certain: public librarians are taking a stance often at odds with the message coming out of this White House, with its talk of immigrants from “shit-hole countries” and its tacit racism. Buoyed by the knowledge that they make a difference in individual lives as well as communities, public librarians are coming to Philadelphia to share how they are addressing the needs of their communities and seeking to better the lives of all they serve, including the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.

Below are my personal picks from the PLA program. As always, please consult your program for any last-minute cancellations or room changes.

Thursday, March 22

10:45–11:45 a.m.

Making Justice: Building Community with Hands-On Learning
Learn how the folks at the Bubbler—Madison (Wis.) Public Library’s maker space—address the educational-achievement gap and the juvenile arrest/incarceration rate by bringing together artists, activists, educators, students, and at-risk youth to collaborate on a range of projects. Expect plenty of hands-on work. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 204 ABC)

When the Mayor Calls: Answering the City’s Call for Support
Increasingly, libraries are being asked to help address social problems—from homelessness to opiate addiction. At this panel discussion, four urban-library leaders will discuss how their libraries are assisting their cities while building support among staff to make it happen. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 111 AB)

Providing Immigration Services in Public Libraries: Making It Possible Is Not Impossible
Talk about new roles: in two California libraries, librarians are obtaining a credential from the Department of Justice to provide immigration services, including outreach and assistance, to those applying for immigration relief. Learn what’s necessary to provide immigration services, and how to get credentialed. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 107 AB)

2–3 p.m.

Push Comes to Shove: Supporting Patrons of Color in Your Institution
Explore how systems of oppression are built into policies and procedures, and emerge from this high-interaction workshop with the skills and strategies to create change within libraries. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 201 ABC)

(Re)Building Latina/o Outreach: Steps to Engaging Your Community
Using the Evanston (Ill.) Public Library as a case study, this presentation will enable librarians to construct plans for community engagement, identify national resources that support Latin-American populations, and assess their communities’ needs. Perhaps now more than any time in recent memory, libraries need to support their Latin-American populations. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 108 AB)

What Having a WIC Center in Your Library Brings (Besides Crying Babies)
Here’s a first: a joint-use facility that combines a fully operational mini-WIC (women, infants, and children) center from the city of Houston’s Health and Human Services Department and a neighborhood library. Discover the variety of shared programs such a facility can provide, and learn more about effective collaboration among staff and the opportunity to engage new users. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 111 AB)

Success on a Massive Scale: Library Cards for All Students
A large panel of librarians from Northern California will explain how they created a successful library-card drive using a bulk data exchange with their local public school district. Librarians will get the tools needed to replicate their success. Libraries make great strides in inclusivity when they ensure that all students in their communities have library cards, yet for many reasons, this goal has been difficult to achieve. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 114)

4–5 p.m.

Lost in the Library? Never Again, with User-Centered Design
Hear from three seasoned pros about user-centered design and how it relates to new and at-risk populations, how to eliminate barriers to use, and how to empathize with new library users. This is an important conversation, as we all want our libraries to feel welcoming, to be intuitive to use, and to utilize staff in the best possible way. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Ballroom A)

Libraries Aren’t Neutral: Programming and Resources for the Political Climate
Fake news, media bias, and extreme partisanship are all major topics of discussion as the midterm elections approach—and they are also opportunities for libraries that want to engage their communities. Hear about programs and resources to increase media literacy, political awareness, and dialogue. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Ballroom B)

Applying an Equity Lens: Shifting Resources to Reach Low-Income Audiences
The Seattle Public Library is conducting an equity analysis of its services, and in the process it has identified several youth programs that are failing to reach children because of barriers to access. This case study will demonstrate how to initiate an assessment from the perspective of equity and how to allocate resources to address it. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 108 AB)

Friday, March 23

10:45–11:45 a.m.

Eliminating Fines and Fees on Children’s Materials to Create a Win-Win for Your Library and Community
This couldn’t be more timely: I know at least a dozen libraries, mine included, that are discussing the elimination of fines on youth materials. What was once a radical idea is now being framed as necessary to remove a significant barrier to library use, especially for low-income families. Understand the pros and cons from the research, learn from libraries that have taken the plunge, and get the data to build a case. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Ballroom A)

The Path to U.S. Citizenship Can Start at Public Libraries
This wide-ranging panel will discuss the needs of immigrants, including sources and programs libraries can offer, and how to find trusted information. A whopping 55% of immigrants use public libraries weekly, and the IMLS has partnered with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring federal resources to libraries serving these populations. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 109 AB)

2–3 p.m.

Turning Common Heritage into Common History: Preserving Local African American History
The best local history collections are those that reach out to the community, creating excitement about a shared heritage while sharing the tools to preserve that heritage. The Athens–Clarke County (Ga.) Library’s Heritage Room did exactly that when it worked with the local African-American community to digitize a host of family records. Learn how other libraries can adapt similar programs to their communities. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 202 AB)

Drag Queen Story Hour: Reading Fabulously
You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. Now come and meet some of the librarians who are making drag queens reading to kids a reality. It’s all about acceptance and inclusivity, best practices, assembling a reading list for kids exploring gender fluidity, and, of course, how to defend a controversial program. So what’s missing from this session? The drag queens themselves! Hello (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 105 AB)

The Opioid Epidemic: How Can My Library Help?
Every community is affected, and a panel of librarians from across the country will discuss the roles that libraries can play, involving education, working with partner organizations, and direct intervention in overdose situations. Not to be missed. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 114)

4–5 p.m.

The ABCs of DNA: Helping Patrons Unravel the Mystery of Genetic Information
DNA analysis is a national obsession. But though many people are seeking information about their ancestry for fun, genetics is also increasingly seen as a factor in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. Learn from two librarians from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine about the issues surrounding genetics, and get the resources to assist patrons in locating and evaluating sometimes complex and confusing information. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 107 AB)

Building Community: A New Approach for a New Era
People may be screaming at one another on Fox and MSNBC—as well as in the White House—but libraries can foster civil discourse, address local tensions, and promote respect. Hear from a trio of librarians about how the Choose Civility movement is playing out in their communities. Works for libraries of all sizes. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 201 ABC)

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye: Strategies and Best Practices for Sunsetting Legacy Programs
Can we please make this program required attendance? Because one thing we librarians are awful at is jettisoning those tired, underperforming programs and services. This workshop will present the tools for determining when it’s time to end a program and will provide the language and support to go ahead and do it. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Ballroom A)

The Information Needs of Citizens: Where Libraries Fit In
What’s Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center been up to? Identifying a new information/consumer segmentation model that identifies people’s engagement with information. Hear how libraries can help people navigate an information environment filled with fake news and weaponized narratives, and learn how to distinguish between the information engaged and the information wary. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 114)

Saturday, March 24

9:30–10:30 a.m.

Curious About #FreeLibraryofPride? A Successful Collaborative Story
Talk about stepping it up: the librarians at the Free Library of Philadelphia massively increased their celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, utilizing a model that could be used to promote the library to other targeted audiences. With a logo, flyer shell, citywide brochure, and Storytime Traveling Trunks, they successfully promoted more than 55 programs across the Philadelphia area. Come learn how they did it. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 202 AB)

Moving from Compliance to Inclusion Within the Library
The Arlington (Tex.) Public Library’s concern with making their facilities accessible has grown into a movement to change the way the library sees people with disabilities. They’ve identified issues in the service model that need to change and have successfully made the library more inclusive for all patrons with disabilities. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 105 AB)

10:45–11:45 a.m.

A Cup of Conversation: The Living Room @ Your Library
Creating community discussions on controversial issues can be daunting, but here’s a more low-key way to build social cohesion. The Houston Public Library brings neighbors together over refreshments to discuss issues that affect their communities, including refugee resettlement and language skills. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 103 AB)

Using Personae to Simplify Your Multicultural Outreach Strategies
Learn about personae as a strategy for public relations and marketing to multicultural populations. Understand each community’s media channels and its most pressing issues, then move on to creating personae and crafting messages. (Pennsylvania Convention Center, Room 109 AB)

PW contributing editor Brian Kenney is director of the White Plains (N.Y.) Public Library, and a former editorial director of Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.