Magazine article American Libraries

PLA Conference Report: A Marathon of Problem-Sharing

Magazine article American Libraries

PLA Conference Report: A Marathon of Problem-Sharing

Article excerpt

PLA conference report: A marathon of problem-sharing

FRED ROGERS BROUGHT tears, Barbara Tuchman brought yawns, Bill Moyers brought puff, Robert Theobald brought perspective and a pitch--and altogether speakers brought a record crowd to the Third National Conference of ALA`s Public Library Association, April 27-30 in Pittsburgh.

To varying degrees, the celebrities were crowd-pleasers as well; but the real rewards for some 2,530 registrants (plus 809 exhibitors) came from three full days of educational/inspirational sessions targeted to public librarians. With another two days of pre- and post-conferences, plus those laps around the exhibits, the PLA meeting was as much a marathon as the long-distance run that hit town as the librarians were leaving.

A chill rain outdoors helped keep attendance constant in the commodious Lawrence Convention Center, where the most popular sessions seemed to be those on services to special groups: browsers, business people, tomorrow's youth, today's latchkey children, transients, new learners, and so on. Local media focused its attention on library circulation of videotapes (pro and con), and the "latchkey" issue.

Big-name bits

In her conference opener, Barbara Tuchman lulled a sleepy after-lunch audience with a badly-miked ramble on writing and the decline of morality. But who could complain, considering the many Tuchman treasures on library shelves and her contribution of the $2,500 speaker's fee to the New York Public Library? At a luncheon the next day, Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" warmed hearts and moistened eyes with memories of his early library experiences; and that evening, Bill Moyers regaled an invited group with tales of his own early library days, saying "thanks to the stewards of the world's accumulated knowledge."

Moyers was on hand to help promote quality videos for library circulation (see caption). He spoke of television as an inspiration to reading. "TV doesn't have to blunt and bore," he said. "It can honor the word."

Closing the conference, economist/futurist Robert Theobald guided librarians through "The Rapids of Change" with these perspectives: that institutions must change in ways that elevate human relations over structure; that "librarians" are more important than "libraries"; that people today need a course in "remedial enthusiasm"; that "bridges to the 21st century" (the PLA conference theme) are ill-crossed without knowledge of the other side; that riding the rapids of change offers better views; that for libraries, it is better to be effective than efficient. Theobald called for teaching of citizenship rather than consumerism - and closed by offering one of his instructional packages at a cost of $60.

Ed. Dept. program snubbed

Only some 50 persons attended the U.S. Dept. of Education's presentation on its proposed package to replace the Library Services and Construction Act, and several in the audience were hostile to this new "Library Improvement Act of 1988."

"The "improvement,'" one participant told AL, "would be to give libraries half the funding they now get in Congressional appropriations."

Speaking for the legislation was Ronald P. Preston of the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, subbing for Assistant Secretary of Education Chester E. …

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