Presentations & Collaborations at VLA 2011

Written by Nathan Flinchum, Community Technology Librarian at Roanoke (VA) Public Libraries

In today’s economy it pays to be a presenter. Many libraries can’t afford the full registration fee for a conference so I’m always on the lookout for presentation opportunities. I enjoy going to conferences for the interaction that I get with other people who geek out about the same stuff I do! To be honest, that’s what VLA has been for me pretty much every year I’ve been: an opportunity to talk to and with other librarians. Presenting is just a more formal way of acheiving this goal.

I presented three times at the 2011 conference, all on Friday. This gave me a whole day to spend as a conference-goer instead of a presenter. The events that stood out the most to me were presentations from unexpected people. In some cases, these people were just in the audience. The Reinventing Reference (Revisited) panel started a bit dry, but some great audience participation made the panel a success. The best presentations are ones that start a conversation, and this one definitely accomplished this task.

While I love talking to other librarians, sometimes it’s nice to hear about library issues from an outside perspective. Advocating for Public Libraries: Online Tools and Tactics featured a library patron talking about a campaign she was involved in to save libraries in her home county from closure. In addition to being a fascinating story it was well worth hearing about library advocacy from a person outside of the system. While we often hear from patrons we don’t often get to hear from them in a formal context and I was happy I was able to do so.

One of the biggest obstacles I see with libraries is their lack of collaboration. Why reinvent the wheel when so many other libraries may be doing similar things? Conferences give us a chance to meet and spread ideas. I’ll gladly trade some time presenting for all of the new ideas and energy I got at this year’s conference. I’m already looking forward to the next!

Nathan Flinchum is the Community Technology Librarian at the Roanoke Public Libraries in Roanoke, VA. He is also the co-founder of Add Design & Stir, a company that creates technology and design solutions for community organizations and small businesses in the Roanoke Valley and beyond. For more information, visit

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