Reflections on NC LIVE’s Annual Conference

On Friday, May 19, I had the pleasure of attending the highly anticipated NC LIVE Annual Conference held at A-B Tech Community College in Asheville. As the Chair of the Outreach Promotions and Partnership Advisory Committee (OPPAC) and a member of the Librarians’ Council, I had been deeply involved in the planning process for this event. The conference brought together librarians from across the state to discuss pressing issues, exchange ideas, and empower each other to defend intellectual freedom in the face of challenges. The day was filled with insightful sessions and inspiring discussions, making it a truly enriching experience.

One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address delivered by Alison Macrina, the Founder & Executive Director of the Library Freedom Project. Her speech, titled “Intellectual Freedom In Crisis Times: Defending Library Values,” shed light on the escalating number of book challenges and the alarming threats faced by libraries and librarians nationwide. Macrina courageously addressed the reactionary attacks against Pride displays, storytimes, and proposed anti-speech laws that undermine the very essence of librarianship.

Macrina not only highlighted the challenges but also offered practical strategies for librarians to stand up for democracy during these crisis conditions. She emphasized the importance of organizing proactively before, during, and after attacks occur, providing participants with valuable insights and empowering them to protect intellectual freedom within their communities.

The conference also offered a diverse range of sessions that explored various aspects of intellectual freedom challenges. One such session, “Front-Line Staff: The First Line Defense for Challenges,” featured two librarians from the State Library who shared their experiences with challenges to materials, displays, and programs. They discussed effective de-escalation techniques and best practices to help librarians address challenges with confidence and professionalism.

Another compelling workshop led by Alison Macrina, titled “Practicing Intellectual Freedom Defense Strategies,” focused on the practical implementation of defense strategies in public, school, and academic libraries. Through interactive training exercises, Macrina guided participants through typical intellectual freedom challenge situations. Librarians were given the opportunity to develop talking points, practice de-escalation strategies, and enhance their ability to handle potential conflicts.

The NC LIVE Annual Conference provided a platform for librarians across the state to come together, share experiences, and learn from one another. As a member of the planning committee, I was thrilled to witness the engagement and enthusiasm of participants throughout the day. The keynote address by Alison Macrina brought attention to the urgent need for librarians to defend intellectual freedom and equipped attendees with actionable strategies.

The conference sessions, particularly the “Front-Line Staff: The First Line Defense for Challenges” and “Practicing Intellectual Freedom Defense Strategies” workshops, addressed real-world challenges faced by librarians and offered valuable insights into resolving conflicts and promoting intellectual freedom within their institutions.

Attending the NC LIVE Annual Conference was an empowering experience. It reinforced the importance of collaboration, advocacy, and continuous learning within the library community. By sharing our experiences, knowledge, and best practices, we can foster an environment that upholds intellectual freedom and ensures that libraries remain vibrant and inclusive spaces for all.