One of the benefits of being in library school and specifically being in library school in Ontario is the opportunity to go to OLA – or the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto. As a student who volunteers for a few hours I got the opportunity to go to the entire conference for free, which is wonderful for a poor masters student like myself and it was such a wonderful experience and I learned so much.
The first thing I love about OLA is the amount of free books that you are able to get from publishers and other organizations. Many of the books are ARC (or Advance Readers Copies) that they give out prior to publication to increase the support and hype for the books, but I got a few published books as well. All in all I managed to get ten books which are a mixture of YA and Adult books, a few books that I had already known about and was super excited to get and many that I had never heard and I am now excited to get into. I am sure you will hear about many of these books in the future as I get to reading them.
As I went to the conference for two days this year I was able to attend quite a few sessions on different topics related to librarianship. There are countless sessions going on at the same time which made it hard to decide what to go to, but I love that there are so many facets to librarianship and that there really is something for everyone.
One of the sessions I went to was called “Uncommon Women in Leadership Roles.” This session was so interesting as the session leaders turned it into a discussion between all the attendees about how women can support each other in leadership and how to advocate for yourself as well as others. This was so inspiring as someone entering the profession in a few months and not too sure what to expect.
Sam Maggs is an author, video game writer, and just overall nerd. She led a the Public Libraries spotlight and had such a fun talk about being a nerdy girl, using libraries and doing research, and the importance of working together as women. This session made me feel empowered and connected as a woman and made me want to run out and buy all of her books.
The final session that I went to was about making your library a Safe Space, specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals. This session was probably the one in which I learned the most, specifically about the fact that you can’t just say that you are a safe space, you have to prove that each and every day, by what you do, say, and permit in the space. Making sure that my future workplace is a place where every person feels comfortable and safe is very important to me so I was glad I got to learn more about how to do that.
One of the Keynote’s that I had the honour of attending was with Jesse Wente, writer, broadcaster, and new head of the Indigenous Screen Office. His speech was so incredibly inspiring and made me want to change things. He spoke about how stories are so important, and we need new people telling their different stories as diversity is the natural order of the world. Librarians and libraries have an important role to play in whose stories get told and to address the lies and injustices of our past and present.
Scattered about throughout the conference was one of my greatest fears, networking. As an introvert I find it hard to go up and talk to people, even people I admire and can glean a lot of information from. Because of that I am grateful for events that were held at the conference where we could talk to people in a more relaxed setting with a little bit less pressure. Once I get over that initial fear it is so inspiring to talk to people in my field and find out more information that can help me succeed in my field. Also it is so cool to hand out business cards with your name on it!
It wasn’t all learning and networking however as there were also parties with free food and drink, fun new technology to try out, and snakes to hold (it was heavier than I was expecting). Overall I had an amazing experience at OLA and learned a lot about librarianship, advocacy, and helping others to tell their stories.