After looking forward to it for my tenure at ZSR, I had the pleasure of attending my very first NCLA conference last week. From the moment I walked into the conference venue, the buzz of excitement and camaraderie among fellow librarians filled the air. It was a fantastic opportunity to connect with old colleagues and meet new faces from the library world. Sharing stories and experiences from all of our different library settings was not only a lot of fun but enlightening as well. It reminded me that while there is a remarkable diversity of libraries out there, we’re all united in our goal to serve our patrons.

As a devoted reader and writer of romance, my favorite session was undoubtedly, “Romance in the Library.” I was excited to delve into the intricacies of romance literature and discover ways to enrich academic library browsing collections. What made this session truly special was the fact that the speaker, a published romance author, was an alum of my alma mater, Winston-Salem State University. It was an inspiring moment for me to see my university’s influence extending to the realm of romance writing.

This is Willie, one of the therapy dogs at the conference. He has his own trading card!

With my involvement in the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) committee, I also attended the sessions “Planting the Seeds of Inclusivity: A pathway to providing services for sensory needs in public libraries” and “Alternative spaces – sensory, family-friendly, and group study.” These sessions were very informative, stressing the importance of viewing sensory-friendly spaces as “alternative” rather than “special.” This perspective shift has great relevance for ZSR, and I’m excited to explore how we can create sensory-friendly spaces into our library and how we can integrate them with our goals for the Wellness Collection.

An exciting takeaway from these presentations is that making these spaces sensory-friendly doesn’t have to break the bank. We can repurpose existing spaces with non-overhead lighting, make existing lights dimmable, and reconfigure seating options to provide a comfortable and inclusive environment for all our patrons.

To support my fellow Deacons, I attended Denice and Colleen’s session, “How do I do research? Finding professional development opportunities for librarians to learn how to conduct research.” I came away with a greater understanding of the types of programs available to academic library professionals and the knowledge that our university’s Teacher-Scholar Ideal is thriving within ZSR. Denice and Colleen’s work is a testament to the commitment to research and professional development in our library.

The most memorable part of my first NCLA conference didn’t happen during the sessions, however. My friend, a former coworker from the public library, and I stumbled upon the closing keynote speaker, the amazing Kwame Mbalia, at the reception in the Central Library downtown. As a devoted fan of his Tristan Strong series, I had to do my best to play it cool and not completely fangirl. Kwame talked to us like old friends as we shared book recommendations and discussed our shared passion for both horror and romance books. It was truly an encounter I’ll never forget.

I deem my first NCLA conference a tremendous success, filled with learning, networking, and some delightful surprises. I can’t wait to attend the next NCLA conference in 2025—it’s sure to be another wonderful opportunity to grow, connect, and be inspired (and possibly meet another one of my favorite authors!).