Guest Blogger

Making Friends at #PLA2024

Wow, what a whirlwind of activity! Attending a conference can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re among 7,000 attendees. But fear not, because # PLA2024 is all about fostering connections and friendships. With its diverse range of sessions, exhibit booths, and services, the conference offers numerous opportunities to meet new people and find your conference buddy!

The #PLA2024 conference committee curated various networking events for library professionals to connect. From the Boulder Public Library lounge area to Happy Hour, knitting circles to engaging discussions with information professionals, waiting in line to meet therapy dogs, or getting a signed book copy from an author, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and network.

But the question is, how do you make friends?

As someone introverted, I understand the challenges of networking at a conference. I’d like to share some tips and advice that have helped me make friends and network in such settings.

  • Be open: everyone at the conference is friendly and welcoming; there are no awkward icebreakers
  • Exchange contact information: business cards are a great way to do this. There are many ways to do it: digital, physical business cards, and even just writing in each other’s notebooks.
  • Everyone is human: Don’t be nervous to talk to directors and library leaders. They are people who are where you are and can relate to your feelings.
  • Have fun: Talk about your interests, hobbies, and pets. Everyone loves to hear someone’s story.

At the conference, I found friends in the exhibit hall, where we shared our excitement about books while hugging and jumping. I connected with friends among library leaders, who let me feel that my story was honestly heard. And yes, I got another hug. On the trip back home, I bonded with fellow attendees, sharing our favorite moments from the conference on a 5-hour flight. In the conference scholarship awardee group, we bonded over our future aspirations. And I was thrilled to see old friends from a leadership program back home. #PLA2024 is a platform that not only allows us to reconnect with old friends but also to make new friends from all over the country, united by our shared love for libraries and learning!

Shout out to the librarians, library professionals, educators, and students I have made friends with. My favorite part of attending the conference is meeting so many people from so many places and hearing their stories. Thank you to those who became my friends. I hope to see everyone again at the next Public Library Association 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 enjoyed 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.

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