MLA Conference 2018

I attended the annual conference for the Minnesota Library Association on October 12th. I only went the second day of the conference, but my library was able to cover the cost of registration and mileage, and pay me for my time there. The single day was $130 as an MLA member. My membership cost $20 this year, but it varies according to your position.

(If you are a student, you can join the American Library Association and your state association at the same time for a reduced fee. Click here.)

I reviewed the seminars ahead of time and picked the ones I wanted to attend based on both my current position and my professional interests. Each seminar was categorized, so if an attendee had a particular focus, they could easily find which ones were relevant.

The conference was in St. Cloud, which is a little over an hour drive from my home. The convention center was along the river, making for some beautiful morning scenery.


I arrived right when registration opened, at 7:00 am. I wanted to familiarize myself with the space before everyone arrived. They had breakfast and coffee available in the exhibit hall, as well as vendor booths and a VR demonstration.

The first seminar I attended was called Whole Person Librarianship: Structured Empathy on the Front Lines, presented by Sara Zettervall (librarian at Hennepin County Library) and Mary C. Nienow (Assistant Professor of Social Work, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire). Their presentation was about social work in libraries, and how librarians can use theories of social work to better serve their patrons. They discussed spheres of influence, trauma-informed care, and cultural humility.

The second seminar was called Use Your Words: Tips on Being an Articulate Advocate, presented by Marge Loch-Wouters. She talked about designing elevator speeches that use value-based language, in order to better describe what you do for a living. She also talked about how to be an advocate for the library in day-to-day situations.

The third was called Meeting Users Where They Are: Teaching Information Literacy Online, presented by Anne Beschnett and Trent Brager. The discussed the ADDIE model in the context of creating online learning tools. The seminar was interactive, so we were able to create our own online learning tools using the model.

We were provided lunch just before the keynote speaker did her presentation. The speaker was Gina Millsap, the CEO of the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, who spoke on the evolution of libraries and librarians. She talked about reaching people out in the community, and how her library became Library of the Year in 2016. She also shared this video that her library made in 2015:

Afterward, there was time for round table groups to meet. During this time, I checked out the silent auction. The items at the auction were donated by MLA members. They sat on a few tables for most of the day with an accompanying sign-up sheet. The starting bid varied depending on the cost of the item. I bid on three items: a signed copy of Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich, a bag of romance books (including a signed copy of Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn), and a selection from the Pride and Prejudice Collection from Out of Print and a magnetic poetry kit.

The fourth seminar I attended was called Don’t Just Guess. Ask!: Using Authentic Community Engagement to Guide Collection and Program Development, presented by Kali Freeman and Phasoua Vang, both from the Riverview Library in St. Paul. They were inspired by Casa de Esperanza to engage their community when revamping their library. They talked about what authentic community engagement is and what specific steps they took in their process.

There was one more round of seminars, but I ended up running into someone who knew one of my internship supervisors. She and her husband had a lot of great information, so I spent the last hour networking.

I also picked up my winnings from the silent auction, which went a little over my budget, but I think it was worth it.


Overall, it was a great experience. There were a lot of interested topics discussed, and I wish I had a time-turner so I could’ve gone to all of them. But I will definitely be going back next year.

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