PLA has been my favorite library conference since I attended my first in 2010. I relished the show’s focus‚ the granularity and prescriptiveness of its sessions; the moxie and optimism of its presenters. I bonded with a group of Connecticut librarians I now call friends, and I met a future Multnomah County mover who would become my surrogate mother, all while soaking up the weirdy beardy energizing Zen of Portland, our host city.
This year’s conference in Philadelphia made a vastly different impression. Maybe it was my own fatigue from weighing the ebook question, but I detected a friction among public librarians that wasn’t present out West two years ago. My schedule mixed sessions about readers’ advisory (RA) with digital migraines, and as I moved from one to the next, two camps took shape: those pros and parapros who believe popular books remain public libraries’ leading brand and that the face-to-face, librarian-patron interaction is at the core of library services, and the technologists who argue that survival depends on being able to code‚ literally‚ library infrastructure and publish content independent of established houses.