Guest Blogger

Experiencing My First Day at #PLA2024

Excited attendees of # PLA2024 are entering the Greater Columbus Area Convention Center. Columbus, Ohio, has been experiencing chilly, brisk weather, with rain, strong winds, and even hail, but that did not deter the conference attendees. As a first-time attendee, I was amazed by the amount of people and the sheer size of the convention center.

Volunteers were at the door handing out the Public Library Association Daily Newspaper, which had all the information for Wednesday’s programs and sessions, speaker bios, and fun activities around the area. Registration was smooth and efficient with technology; with a quick scan of my QR code, I was given my ID badge, a purple lanyard, and a notebook to write my “aha moments” from the conference. After a few moments of sipping coffee, reading the daily news, and setting up the conference app, it was time to attend the opening session with Shola Richards. 

Photo Credit: Valerie Tohom

When the doors to Exhibit Hall A opened, the room was set up with a large PLA stage with projection screens on each side and a camera crew ready to connect virtual attendees to the live presentation. At the start of 8:30 a.m., attendees were honored to have a performance with live singers to the song Celebration! The opening session began with PLA President Sonia Alcántara-Antoine welcoming the #PLA2024 attendees, thanking the fantastic PLA board members and conference planning committee members, and acknowledging the PLA conference scholarship attendees. Then Shola Richards stepped onto the stage. 

Photo Credit: Valerie Tohom

From the PLA registration website

“Shola Richards is the CEO and Founder of Go Together Global™, the best-selling author of Making Work Work and Go Together, and he is a civility writer with a passionate worldwide following. His articles and extremely popular “Go Together Movement” email series have been read by readers in over 160 countries, and his work has been featured on the Today Show, CBS This Morning, Forbes, Black Enterprise, Complete Wellbeing India, Business Insider Australia, and in numerous other outlets all over the world who recognize him as an authority on workplace happiness and engagement.

As a speaker, Shola has shared his transformative message with top universities, leading healthcare organizations, Silicon Valley, the motion picture industry, on the TEDx stage, and in his greatest honor to date, in September 2021, he was invited to testify in front of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill to share his expert recommendations on how to bring more civility to Congress.

Last but certainly not least, Shola is a father, husband, identical twin, and self-professed “kindness extremist” who will not rest until bullying and incivility are extinct from the American workplace.”

Shola Richards’ session contained valuable information about mental health, embracing kindness, the importance of working together, and how libraries are essential in providing kindness and support to the community. The audience was 

After the opening session, attendees rolled out to attend the information programs that best interested them. With my interest in leadership & youth services, I attended the following sessions:

  • Leadership by Design: A Human-Centered Approach for Library Leaders
  • Building a Gender-Inclusive Library for Youth
  • Take your child to the library day: Family-Centric Advocacy 

The Boulder Public Library set up a library lounge area between sessions. Attendees can relax around a light-up campfire, make friendship bracelets, make a puzzle piece, and just relax. Nearby, the PLA and ALA election candidates were at tables ready to connect with PLA attendees. I even had the chance to meet ALA president-elect candidate Sam Helmick.

At 3:00 p.m., the exhibit hall allowed attendees to network, speak to exhibitors, and get lots of free goodies. The exhibit hall contains the newest library technology, readers advisory services, and book publishers. The exhibit hall had a career center and even therapy dogs! The exhibit hall has lots of booths and information for everyone.  

With arms filled with tote bags, signed books, and information pamphlets, I excitedly left the exhibit hall on my first day at the #PLA2024 conference. 


Valerie Tohom (she/her/hers) is a Graduate student at San Jose State University. She will be graduating in May 2024 and her goal is to become a Youth Services librarian. She is looking forward to attending the informational sessions at PLA, as well as meeting ALSC members and fellow scholarship award winners. In addition to ALA and ALSC, Valerie is a member of the California Library Association Youth Services Group and the Membership committee.


This post addresses ALSC Core Competency VII: Professionalism and Professional Development

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *