British Columbia Library Association

A first timer’s reflections on the 2017 BC Library Conference

By Nolan Kelly


Being new to the library world, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from my first BC Library Conference: A business card filled, networking nosh; a note-taking, panel-heavy workshop; or a three-day party with oft-reserved librarians letting loose, cats begrudgingly left in the hands of house-sitters (I kid, I kid).

I came away feeling very proud to be a new member of this community. How many professions get to say they stand for so many wonderful things? Inclusion, access to information, combating the effects of poverty, equality, diversity, improving literacy, social justice, feminism, and the list goes on and on. These important issues formed the basis of some thought provoking sessions at the conference.

It started with the speakers. What a unique blend of expertise, humour, and soul-bearing. I expected some sessions to be dry and esoteric, filled with jargon beyond my reach, but that was never the case. And, given the complex nature of these topics, that’s a credit to the panelists and their approach.

And I loved the participatory nature of the sessions. Attendees asked thoughtful questions and sparked serious debate. Everyone was there to learn and to have insightful, constructive discussions about bettering themselves, their libraries, and their respective communities.

There’s something extraordinary about a profession of people pointed in the same direction, with, at its basis, a singular focus towards improving other people’s lives. Perhaps, like in other fields, that can get lost throughout the year as we compete and we worry about our own careers, or petty grievances, or slight differences in philosophy. But a conference like this reinforces what we already knew: that our commonalities are far more important than our differences. And that the work everyone in this industry is doing is so important.

And now, the question becomes: how to carry this air of constructive discourse forward and turn it into action throughout the year? To build on it, to further strengthen ties and relationships, to continue to grow some of these amazing ideas, like Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data, or Librarianship in the Time of Trump. There’s still so much work to do, but damn, this community has some amazing people doing that work.

So, thank you to all the speakers, the attendees and the organizers for an informative, inspiring few days. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Nolan Kelly is Co-Editor of BCLA Perspectives and Convenor of BCLA’s Libraries Across Borders Interest Group.

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