APA Librarian Conference Travel Award: Reflections on ALA Annual 2016

The most recent recipient of the APA Librarian Conference Travel Award, Callie Wiygul Branstiter from the University of Southern California – Los Angeles, used the award to defray the cost of attendance at the American Library Association Annual Conference & Exhibition in June. Alison Cody, a Training Specialist in APA’s Databases & Electronic Resources Customer Relations group, recently talked with her to get her impressions of the conference. The following transcript of our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and context.

Photo of Callie Wiygul Branstiter with her poster at the EBSS Research Committee Poster Forum.

Callie Wiygul Branstiter with the poster she presented at the EBSS Research Committee Poster Forum.

Alison: I know you’ve been to ALA in the past. What are your overall impressions of the conference?

Callie: This was my second ALA conference, and I definitely felt more confident in navigating the schedule than the first time. ALA is a huge conference – both in scope and in participation – and I definitely find value in range of events and activities that a conference of that scale has to offer. I enjoyed the range of panels, roundtables, and events available to attendees.

Alison: While you were there this year, you presented a poster on conducting an effective needs assessment. How did that go?

Callie: My presentation went well! It was my first time attending the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section (EBSS) Research Committee Poster Forum, and I was impressed by the number of attendees and the questions I received from participants. It was different from other poster sessions that I’ve participated in – it was much more intimate and focused. I thought the other presentations were great, too.

Alison: In the essay you submitted for the award, it was clear that you’re already doing a lot at USC, and I imagine you have many more ideas and plans you’re looking to grow. Were there any takeaways from sessions that you could put into practice immediately? What’s the most useful thing you learned so far?

Callie: My favorite sessions were the panel session co-sponsored by the Instruction Section and EBSS about critical librarianship in higher education, and the personal librarian program panel sponsored by ACRL. There is so much discussion around critical theory and praxis in librarianship, and I really appreciated the panel discussing it in practical terms. And I’ve been interested in starting a personal librarian program at my library for a while, so it was nice to learn of those programs at other institutions.

Alison: I wish I could have attended the session on critical theory! As I said when we met, I’ve been struggling to understand that concept and follow the discussion.

Callie: I keep thinking about one panelist, James Elmborg, commenting that his interest in critical theory is in its utility – in other words, he is interested in critical theory so long as it is useful and applicable in his daily work life. So much to chew on there!

Alison: I think for many of us that’s the case – the practical applications are key. It sounds like this was a great conference for you. Who would you recommend ALA Annual (or parts of it) to, and why?

Callie: I see value in attending ALA, especially for new librarians or those who have never attended. You can get a bird’s eye view of the various interest groups and attend a wide variety of panels about very different libraries. There are many networking and social engagement activities as well, so it is a good conference to attend if you are interested in expanding your professional network. And everyone needs a taste of the Expo Hall at least once in their professional lives!

Alison: I agree! And I’m glad to hear that it was a useful conference for you. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Now through July 31, 2016, the APA Librarian Conference Travel Award is accepting applications for conferences taking place from September to December 2016. Please see the website for more details on eligibility, deadlines, and application materials.

Alison K. Cody, MSLIS

I'm the Manager of Customer Support for APA's Databases & Electronic Resources, and a former academic reference & instruction librarian.