Conference Updates

Why Should YOU Be At Conference? Library Stakeholder Edition

Jan 17 2017 - 4:42pm

There are a million and one reasons why librarians, library assistants, circulation staff, and all others who WORK IN libraries should attend conference... but what about those who WORK FOR libraries? Friends groups? Trustees? Foundation members? Library stakeholders are certainly not exempt from all there is to offer at the Annual Conference!

At the 2016 conference, as I sat listening to Stanley Newman at the President’s Program, I was surprised when a member of my library’s board came and sat next to me. David Huemer is the treasurer on the Maplewood Memorial Library's Board of Trustees and he attended his first NJLA Conference in 2016. While David is always a positive guy, he seemed genuinely excited and rejuvenated by all that he heard while he was at the Monday Preconference session. And not only did he attend a preconference, but he stayed for the President’s program (he even had a book for Stanley to sign) and the Member Services event where he helped bring my trivia team to victory.

Is that a stellar trustee member, or what?

So what did David have to say about his conference experience? Let’s find out!


Q: Last year was your first year attending an NJLA conference, I believe. Can you tell me what you attended and how you heard about it?

I went to an all day workshop with Peter Pearson of the Friends of the St Paul Library.  I heard about it through our board meeting and NJLTA (New Jersey Library Trustee Association) email.  I also went to hear Stan Newman of crossword fame and help our team steamroll through Stan's after hours trivia contest.

Q: Did you feel that the session was useful to you as a trustee?  

Extraordinarily useful and inspiring.

Q: Are there other things you would like to see offered for library stakeholders other than programs for library employees themselves? If so, what types of things would you find useful?    

There was a lot of value in hearing how other boards, friends, and staff had dealt with issues similar to what we have in Maplewood.  Almost any program that gets library stakeholders in one room would have value,  for the communitarian aspects and because the level of people NJLA recruits to present.

Q: What was your favorite part of your experience at the 2016 NJLA Conference?

I really enjoyed meeting other New Jerseyans devoted to and involved in their local libraries--was great to connect and learn from people. At the risk of repeating myself,  I also liked helping our team steamroll through the trivia contest.

Never thought about inviting your friends, trustees, and library stakeholders to the NJLA Conference? Well now is your chance! And feel free to use David's words to help maker your case!

Emily Witkowski and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

Why Should YOU Be At Conference?: School Library Media Specialist Edition

Jan 13 2017 - 4:22pm

Why should YOU be at Conference, School Librarians?

...Because the New Jersey Library Association LOVES YOU!

Really. We do! Have you seen the Unlock Student Potential campaign? NJLA is committed to advocating for highly effective school library programs, and in the wake of School Library Media Specialist positions being eliminated in our state, have formed a coalition to ensure that New Jersey students have the opportunity to reach their potential through effective school libraries. Attending the conference will be an important opportunity to make your voice heard!

Tech Tools & Research Methods

How do you feel about Tech Tools and new research methods? Because the NJLA conference has them. In 2016, one School Librarian was particularly excited to learn, from a Rutgers student, about how her students can use research videos in addition to research papers for science classes. Whether you’re looking to step up your students’ research game or grow your school’s makerspace, new ideas abound at conference.

Fun & Fandom

Oh the Authors! The Keynotes! Your kidlit and YA fandom dreams come true at conference: in the recent past we’ve hosted authors and illustrators like Peter Brown, Tedd Arnold, Rita Williams Garcia, Wendy Mass, and Jersey Girl Librarian-Turned-Author Sandy Hall! No, we weren’t crying during Sandy’s speech at the 2015 Garden State Book Awards Luncheon… you were!

And don’t forget about the fabulous NJLA Store. If you were wondering if you *need* those library themed socks...the answer is YES.

We can’t wait to see you!

Cassie Runkel and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

Why should YOU be at Conference? MLIS Student Edition

Jan 10 2017 - 11:46am

Students often hesitate when it comes to registering for the annual NJLA Conference. They wonder if it's worth it, if they'll meet anyone, if it's meant for them. But the best part about conference is that it's meant for everyone! And there are plenty of obvious reasons why students would benefit, but the best reason to go for students is that it’s cheap.

No, really.

Once you graduate, the NJLA fees go up and conference attendance prices go up. Some of us are lucky and our library will pay for a day or two, and hotel rooms. But if you don’t have that as a student, there’s no need to worry! The program gets scheduled far ahead of time, so you can choose a day that will have the most impact, even though two days is only $65, which isn’t bad when one day as a full member is $105 (based on last year’s prices).

(Because we’ve all been there)

However, don’t just take my word for it. I asked Kristen Matteucci, another student from Rutgers SC&I, about her experiences at conference.

Stacey: So I know I met you at the NJLA conference last year, and it was your first time going. What do you think are the important reasons to go as a student?

Kristen: Not only did I have the chance to learn about what's going on in libraries across the state,  but I also got to know fellow library students and made some great contacts.

S: The conference is a great place to network, especially as a new student. Did you have any favorite panels?

K: I met current NJLA interns and attended a great public policy panel about current library legislation and advocacy. Those experiences prompted me to apply for the NJLA Committee internship Program, and  now I'm an intern for the Public Policy committee, where I'm learning a lot and meeting great librarians and leaders.

S: Anything else about conference for people who are hesitating?

K: Yeah, I mean it was my first semester in the program, and I think going was really helpful for me as a newbie to meet new people and try new things.

And that’s it. Like Hamilton says: 

Go to conference.


Stacey Shapiro and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

Why should YOU be at Conference? NJLA Success Stories

Jan 8 2017 - 1:27pm

When conference registration rolls around (registration opens February 1 for #NJLA17!) we always hope that our colleagues run into their director's office asking about when they can attend conference. We know this is not always the case for two reasons: many librarians do not see the value for themselves, and many directors struggle with budgeting and scheduling to allow employees to go. With that in mind, we on the Conference Subcommittee thought we would share two NJLA Conference success stories to help demonstrate the value of conference from professional and personal perspectives. We like to call these "Success Stories," or the elevator speech for convincing managers, so follow along below for information on what others have gained, and what's there to gain for yourself and your library! 


Success story 1: 

Julie Brown, Adult Programming Librarian at the Ocean City Free Public Library, Conference 1st-timer last year.  Julie told us that the various panels she attended last year really helped her, especially the photography panel from which applies the suggestions and techniques she learned daily while managing social media and documenting programs.  She also mentioned that Jay Asher--one of last year's keynote speakers--was amazing and found his talk really engaging.  As a new Librarian in New Jersey, Julie felt conference provided her with a great networking opportunity.  As a result of the connections she made at Conference, she has maintained contact with other programming librarians statewide, with whom she has exchanged ideas, resources, and information about professional development.  Julie is excited to attend again this year and, even though she lives close by, might stay overnight.  That is so, in her own words, she doesn't "miss anything."


Success story 2

Leslie Murtha, Librarian at The William Spangler Library, Atlantic Cape Community College, Conference-goer for 23 years who has "missed very few" in that time.  

Leslie told us that Conference is the highlight of her year, professionally.  One reason for this is because it's difficult for her, and many other librarians she imagines, to get to National Conferences.  Not that she's sacrificing quality, since the NJLA Conference gives her "opportunities for catching up on professional developments, learning new skills, and getting new ideas."  Like Julie, Leslie values the Conference's networking opportunities, which lets her see friends from other parts of the state, reconnect with seldom-seen colleagues, and make new connections across professional lines.  For this long-time Conference attendee, Conference is nothing less than "a place where we can share tools and research, honor our sages and innovators, and lift our voices together about common concerns."  Leslie notes that she always comes away from Conference with "new ideas, new understandings, and a sense of renewal."  

And while we here at the Conference Committee did not bribe these librarians to say these things, we could not agree more. And this is just a sampling of some of the wonderful things your colleagues have to say about their conference experiences.

So if you need some help convincing your management that you should get the opportunity to attend conference this year, or if you need some reminders for yourself about the importance of attending conference as a library professional in New Jersey, we hope you'll take some advice from your colleagues above and join Julie and Leslie at the 2017 NJLA Conference. Make your own success story that you can share with us in the years to come


Michael Stirm and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

Program Announcements Coming Soon!

Jan 5 2017 - 11:59am

This week, program organizers will be receiving an email from the Conference Committee Chairs informing them of the program proposals accepted for the 2017 Annual Conference! We had over 100 fantastic submissions this year for all types of events -- regular sessions, double sessions, engaging preconference sessions, social events, lunch opportunities, and more! We're really excited about this year's events, and we can't wait to share all of the details with you! We want to share some of the behind-the-scenes details so that you know what the committee has been working on, and know what's coming up next . . .

First, to get it out of the way, we understand that it stinks when your program proposal isn't accepted. Please know that there is a lot of thought and discussion that goes into each program when deciding upon acceptances. The Conference Committee met for a full day in December to go over the nitty-gritty of each one. With only 8 program room and 4 timeslots per day, that's only a maximum of 64 TOTAL regular session programs plus a 3-4 preconference sessions.  We were excited to see program submissions from almost every NJLA section or committee this year, and strived to choose programs that reflected the diversity of our association.

If your program was not selected for this year's conference -- because of competition of similar topics, cost, diversity, or insufficient detail -- please consider the many other professional opportunities within NJLA and our library community to present! The NJLA Professional Development Committee is working hard this year to pull together a calendar of many of the most popular events held each year, including the Adult and Youth Services Forums, Makerspace Toolkit, NJASL, VALE, NJLA Commons (bi-monthly virtual keynotes), and more. Information will also be coming out soon about Poster Sessions at this year's event, which could be the perfect place to showcase your topic to a broad audience. At the very least, you are encouraged to continue to develop these submissions and propose them again for the 2018 Conference!

Once we were sure that we had a strong list of accepted programs from the committee, the chairs met to create the grid, which includes dates, time slots, and room assignments for each room. This took another entire day to accomplish and a whole pad (at least) of post-it notes! The following are many of the things we need to consider when creating a schedule:

  • There are only 4 regular session time slots for each of the two full days of programming
  • The more programs in one time slot, the more options and variety there is, but the less programs any one person can actually attend
  • The more sessions submitted by each NJLA section/committee, the better chance of some sort of overlap in sponsorship or content during the same time slot
  • Avoiding speaker conficts (We've heard that it's not possible to be in two different places at the same time!)
  • Consider a variety of topics and projected audiences when scheduling a single time slot
  • Avoid scheduling programs sponsored by the same group in a single time slot (This just wasn't possible in all cases.)
  • Spread content out throughout the two days, to ensure the most diverse programming experience, even for daytrippers
  • Take into account requests for specific times or days

We extend a great "thank you" to all of our program organizers for not only submitting throughtful and rich programming, but also for being so diligent in answering our questions and providing clarification or changes as necessary for program approval. Your timely responses really allowed us to move much more quickly through the acceptance and scheduling process. THANK YOU!

As we begin to communicate with each program organizer individually with details about their accepted proposals, the next steps for the committee are to triple-check for speaker conflicts (let us know if you find any!) and confirm the grid. Then we will upload all of the programs, including social events, keynotes and luncheons, to the conference website (you'll see a new tab for Schedule fairly soon). We'll also be sharing information on the website about room rates and hotel registration. The Conference Committee will continue to communicate with all program organizers throughout the next few months leading up to the 2017 Conferece. Plus stay tuned: We'll be hosting some virtual conversations and sharing more details about PROMOTION (starts now!), taking care of and making arrangements for speakers, AV and room setup, reimbursements and more.

We are excited to announce that details about programs and 2017 NJLA Conference registration will be available by February 1, 2017! Everything you need to know will be posted at as well as in your email. If you are not an NJLA member, now's the time! NJLA now offers rolling membership, so you can join anytime for discounted conference rates.

Kate Jaggers and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

Happy Holidays from the NJLA Conference Subcommittee!

Dec 22 2016 - 4:34pm

With the holiday season about to kick into full gear, the NJLA Conference Subcommittee would like to wish all of our fellow library workers a very happy holiday! No matter what you may celebrate, we hope you find time to spend with family, friends, and maybe curl up with a good book! Because, as we all know, the only time you get to read is holidays despite the public's popular belief "You're a librarian?! That must mean you read all the time!" Which, of course quickly prompts "the glare":

We would also like to ask you to remember NJLA in this season of giving by considering donating to the NJLA Annual Appeal. Now, if you are wondering why the Conference Subcommittee is asking you to donate; besides supporting our invaluable professional organization, this year there are two very special conference incentives:

  • If you donate $75 or more, you will receive a new NJLA tote bag, a great carry-all for your conference take-aways (notes, books, NJLA store finds and all!)

  • If you donate $125 or more, you will not only receive the fabulous tote bag, but you will also be invited to a special (and secret) reception at this year’s NJLA Conference.

Now if that’s not incentive enough, we don’t know what is.

So as you check off names on your gift list, please consider checking twice and adding NJLA to your gift-giving cause!

See you in 2017!

Emily Witkowski and the 2017 NJLA Conference Subcommittee

How NJLA Leadership Worked Up the Ranks (and how you can too!)

Nov 29 2016 - 6:34pm

NJLA may seem like a mysterious organization to some, but it shouldn't be that way. If you’re new to the profession, looking for a way to break into the organization, or searching for an opportunity to reinvigorate your involvement and career, maybe the following information will help you do just that! I interviewed our Past President and director of the Piscataway Public Library James Keebler, Current President and director of the South Brunswick Public Library Chris Carbone, and President-Elect and director of the Kenilworth Public Library Michael Maziekien to demystify how to get involved in NJLA, work your way up the ranks, and get the most out of your conference experience.


Q1: How long have you been involved in NJLA, and what has been your trajectory through the organization to where you are now as past, current, and future leaders?

James Keebler (JK): I have been involved in NJLA for over 15 years.  My first committee assignment was as a member of the Conference Committee under the leadership of Cindy Czesak, Heidi Cramer and Nancy O'Grady.  I was amazed by how organized they were, and when I later became a Conference Co-Chair I realized how much work goes into planning the conference. In 2010 I crashed a Public Policy meeting, and a few months later I was picked to be vice chair for the upcoming year.  In the meantime I have also served as a member of the Member Services Committee, as NJLA Treasurer and then NJLA President.  The key to moving through the organization?  Showing up, pitching in and be a positive influence even in the most dire situations.

Chris Carbone (CC): I became actively engaged with NJLA in 2008 when I became the Director of the South Brunswick Public Library.  My one career regret is that I did not make NJLA a bigger part of my early career! Through the great mentorship of Eileen Palmer I quickly became very active with the Public Policy Committee, serving as Vice Chair and then Chair...  Through my work on Public Policy over the years I have had the opportunity to serve on the NJLA Structure and Funding Task Force, the Advocacy Subcommittee, participate in Task Force presentations across the state, be an Advocacy Captain and coordinate NJ’s delegation for ALA’s National Library Legislative Day. I was elected to serve as NJLA Secretary from 2012 to 2014.  This was followed by a partial term as Treasurer from 2014 to 2015 when I was humbled to be selected as NJLA President-elect.  I have been very fortunate and honored for the opportunity to work with so many of New Jersey’s amazing library leaders and provide service to our vibrant Association.

Michael Maziekien (MM): I've been involved in NJLA since 2007. I started out working with the Reference Section, serving as co-editor of the Reference Section Quartertly newsletter, and working on the first annual Adult Services Forum. While working at the Nutley Public Library, I took part in NJLA's Emerging Leaders program. I became president of the Reference Section, and later worked on the Virtual Reference Task Force, researching opportunities for digital reference service. I was then appointed to the Member Services Committee, and worked with fellow committee members to establish a series of social events for NJLA members and their families. I was elected to the NJLA Executive Board as Member-at-Large, served on (and later chaired) the Personnel Administration Committee, and here I am today!


Q2:  Do you remember your first NJLA Conference? What was it like?

JK: My first conference experience was more of a day of professional development.  Arrive at conference, attend some programs and see if I could leave early.  Once I became more involved in NJLA and made more friendships, I started to participate in more of the NJLA Conference events and the experience became much more rewarding.  NJLA has many opportunities for meeting others, and I would highly recommend participating.  It is all about having someone to go to lunch with.

CC: It was so exciting!  There is just something about being among hundreds of other library people, all sharing great ideas, enthusiasm and advice.  It was truly eye opening to see such collaboration, commonalities and opportunity.  Everyone is so accessible, so for a first time attendee is was such a great experience.  And going to Conference still is!

MM: At my first NJLA Conference, I knew very few people, had no detailed plan for attendance, and signed up to speak on a panel with Rutgers Library Science Professor Marie Radford. Needless to say, I felt like I was jumping into the deep end. By the end of the conference, I had met so many wonderful people, learned so much, and had such a great time that I couldn't imagine missing a future conference.


Q3: What are some of your favorite NJLA Conference moments?

JK: Most of my favorite moments are as a co-chair with Karen Klapperstuck, Lynn Schott and Kathy Schalk Green.  Chairing conference is a constant running around trying to make sure the Conference experience is enjoyable for 1,000 attendees and the exhibitors and speakers.  Lynn always had a bag with everything you didn't realize you needed until you did, like tape, scissors, markers and much more.  By the end of the conference you are exhausted but filled with a sense of pride at having pulled it off for another year. More recently, this year's pool party was an event that added so much to the Conference experience.  Since we went to Revel, many of us have discussed how much more of a Conference feel there is when you are able to attend the events at night and the Pool Party was the best yet.  The discussions, meeting new people and the relaxation after a long day was such a great experience and one I look forward to in the upcoming years.

CC: Finding inspiration and sense of purpose at key notes and the Awards Reception. Shopping the NJLA store.  Visiting the vendors.  Seeing new and familiar faces all with the common bond of developing great New Jersey libraries.   Being proud and thankful to learn from all these inspiring New Jersey librarians.  Those Aha moments when you realize others have the same hopes, dreams and challenges, and together we can make things happen!

MM: To name a few: Ignite sessions, Battledecks, Conversation Starters, Brown Bag lunchtime talks, and, of course, dance parties. I always return to the library feeling like my battery has been fully recharged, and these are just a few reasons why.


Q4: What are you most looking forward to at the 2017 NJLA Conference?

JK: Having almost no official responsibility as Past President.  Also, the Conference being in Harrah's a second year building on last year's success.  The Conference Center at Harrah's is such a great fit, larger rooms for programs, a centralized exhibitor area, more affordable rooms and of course the Pool Party.

CC: I’m looking forward to the energy and power of New Jersey libraries coming together, for some great Beyond the Box programs, the keynote speakers, connecting with everyone at the Pool Party, and to hear where Michael will lead NJLA next!

MM: It looks like NJLA President Chris Carbone has picked a wonderful slate of keynote speakers. I'm looking forward to hearing them all!


Q5: Do you have any advice for library school students or young librarians who want to get the most out of their NJLA membership and advance in the profession and in the organization?

JK: Get involved and meet others.  Join a section, or if you are a library school student become a Committee Intern.  The more people you meet, the more doors will be open to you and the more fun you will have.  New Jersey libraries have amazing people, and many of them are involved in NJLA.  Meet them, learn from them and work with them within the Association.  You will definitely enrich your life and career and may even make the world a better place for those who rely on NJ Libraries.

CC: Do it!  Get involved and be active.   Network with fellow members, at all levels, and don’t be shy.  We all learn from each other.  Participate in areas that you are most drawn to – and also try some areas beyond your box!  Take advantage of opportunities to talk with colleagues from all types of libraries and experiment with sections focusing on different types of library services.  Make as many connections as you can; you will find that we all have far more in common than you might think.  There are many opportunities and the rewards are great.  Look into the Emerging Leaders program.  Take advantage, volunteer and have fun!

MM: Raise your hand when volunteers are needed. Raise your voice; you always deserve to be heard. If you're getting used to the idea of public speaking... Fortunately NJLA members are a thoughtful, friendly and engaging audience. Share your experience and enthusiasm with others. And above all, take the time to listen to those around you. I've met more wonderful people through NJLA than I can count.

I think it's safe to say that NJLA leadership all feel that involvement in NJLA and attending the annual conference helps to take your job from just a... job... to a career. So the next time someone asks you if you love your job, avoid the answer of the little boy below and jumpstart your career by attending this year's conference!
Emily Witkowski and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

The Conference Committee is Giving Thanks!

Nov 21 2016 - 4:29pm

Thank you to all of the program planners who submitted proposals for NJLA 2017! We received 105 proposals total, from 21 separate units. We appreciate the work you've put into the planning process so far, and we're excited to dive in and get all the details so we can make some decisions. 

The Conference Committee is meeting in December, we will contact program planners with questions if we need clarification, and final decisions will be made and shared in early January. But for now, breathe that sigh of relief - proposals are in, you're off the hook for now!

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!!!

Kimberly Paone and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

Conference Proposals Due Friday, Nov. 18 by midnight

Nov 14 2016 - 2:31pm

Time is running out!

Proposals for sessions at the 2017 NJLA Annual Conference are due THIS FRIDAY, November 18, by midnight, NO EXCEPTIONS! Please make sure submissions go through your correct conference point person so that no proposals are lost in translation!

Avoid doing the dreaded late run (at least the proverbial virtual late run) and make sure you get yours in ASAP!

Emily Witkowski and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee

The FAQs of Conference Program Planning

Nov 4 2016 - 12:31am

Once the big questions are answered -- who, what, when, and where -- the Conference Committee must focus on all of the details that make up the HOW of conferencing:

  • Selecting and scheduling program sessions, keynotes, luncheons, and other events
  • Determining and coordinating payment for everything
  • Making arrangements for and with speakers
  • Getting the word out to participants and attendees
  • Making sure it all gets done (seemingly) without a hitch!

The NJLA Conference is technically a three-day event: Day 1 has pre-conference events, a selection of longer session programs that allow for more in-depth topics, discussions, or even hands-on workshops. Days 2 and 3 are considered the “full conference” days, with as many as eight 50-minute sessions per time slot, as well as a major keynote each day and luncheon events. Networking events are scattered throughout the three days, particularly at lunch times and in the evenings.

Proposing & Selecting Programs

Conference events are created entirely by the members of NJLA. Events must be proposed rather than simply submitted as “done deals” so that they can be vetted and double-checked for overlapping topics. While the Conference Committee schedules and organizes some of the logistics of those events, the design and execution of the content is all put forth by our membership. To ensure that our membership controls the content, all events proposed must have the sponsorship of at least one NJLA Committee, Section, Roundtable or Task Force.

In the Fall, a proposal form opens in conjunction with an informative Program Planners Orientation, to which all NJLA leadership is invited. The leadership includes those who are Chairs, Co-Chairs, Presidents and Vice Presidents of NJLA’s various Committees, Sections, Roundtables and Task Forces (or a representative of each), as well as those who are members of the current NJLA Executive Board. Each NJLA “group” is asked to select a single member to represent their entity in the proposal process. This allows the Conference Committee to easily direct questions or requests for clarification about conference proposals and subsequent program details to the appropriate person. In addition, only recognizing those proposals submitted by the designated individual ensures that the NJLA group has, in fact, approved that submission. We have had proposals in the past that were submitted by individuals outside of NJLA, who have marked NJLA groups as sponsors without the its knowledge or permission. For the ease of organization -- yours and ours -- all events must be submitted using our online proposal form. (The link is provided directly to all program organizers.)

Each year, over 100 proposals of all types are submitted. The amount of regular session programs accepted for the NJLA Conference is dependent on the number of program rooms (usually 8) and time slots available (up to 5 per day). The more programs in one time slot, the more options and variety there is, but the less programs any one person can actually attend! Pre-conference programs, luncheons and social events are selected and scheduled largely based on projected audience and space/time allowance.

Once the deadline for proposals has passed, the Conference Committee schedules a full-day meeting to discuss all of the proposals and make initial selections. Some programs are eliminated if there are similar, more fleshed-out proposals submitted that year; others are eliminated because of incomplete submissions or lack of details included on the proposal form (most commonly, insufficient speaker or budget information). Often, there are a considerable number of programs that are tabled (given neither an immediate “yes” or “no”) to give the committee time to ask the sponsoring groups questions, for more information, or to rework a title, description or sponsorship. The majority of completed program proposals are accepted. Last year we were able to accept 75 programs and special events representing almost all of our NJLA Sections and Committees, and we anticipate about the same number for 2017.

With a final list of accepted programs, the committee creates a schedule grid, which places every program, keynote, luncheon, and special event in a specific timeslot on a specific day. This takes some time, as we do our best to try to avoid scheduling programs submitted by the same sponsoring groups in the same timeslots, or scheduling speakers presenting multiple programs in two (or more, yikes!) places at once. We also make an effort to spread out the content of various programs so that attendees have the best possible experience, whether they are able to attend the full conference or only a single day. We factor in special requests, try to maintain the guidance of our own common sense, and use a ton of reusable post-it notes.

The Conference Committee Chairs aim to notify program organizers by email within the first month or two after proposals are submitted. Typically sometime in January or February communication has been made and program organizers can begin the process of confirming speakers and other details. Once details are confirmed, program organizers can spend the next 4-6 months promoting all of their sessions, speakers and special events to library workers and members of other like-minded community organizations with information about our events and how to register for the NJLA Conference!

Coordinating Special Events

Most programs are put together by individual members, working together within and among NJLA Committees, Sections, Roundtables and Task Forces. However, there are some special programs and events that somehow seem to just “happen” every year. Social events and most luncheons are almost always submitted by NJLA groups, though occasionally they are organized by the Conference Committee itself.

A special President’s Program is held the first night of Conference, following the pre-conference program sessions. It might be obvious from the title that this program is organized by the current NJLA President as a kick-off to the Conference. The program can be as traditional or out-of-the-box as the President chooses. Past years have brought us anything from inspiring speakers to NJLA Battledecks. Last year, the Member Services Committee worked with the President to organize a Bar Trivia Night with the program speaker, Stanley Newman (crossword and trivia guru), which was held at a nearby hotel restaurant immediately following the traditional program. The venue at Harrah’s provides us all with a fabulous opportunity to incorporate a number of social networking events throughout the course of all three conference days.


It is tradition at the NJLA Conference to offer keynotes both full days of Conference. Keynote speakers are coordinated by the current President with the Conference Committee, though suggestions from the membership are always welcome. The President may choose to organize the keynote planning from start-to-finish or delegate the work to a representative, or pass the organization over in full to the Conference Committee. Quality speakers are always in demand! Therefore, we aim to have keynotes committed as far in advance as possible. The President often provides recommendations for speakers before his or her presidential year, or at least begins pursuing some options to determine availability, cost, and interest.

There has been much open discussion over the past decade about diversity in leadership and librarianship, as well as diversity in the selection of keynotes and other highlighted speakers at conferences. Because there is a great expectation for diversity (as there should be!) -- of gender, background, lifestyle, socioeconomic status, abilities, speaker content and perspective, and more -- those speakers who meet the desired reflection of diversity and quality are in exceptionally high demand (as they should be!), making them both less available and less affordable.

In 2016, while we did a relatively decent job of keeping quality high and costs low (best laid plans, anyway), the Conference Committee recognizes that we didn’t do the best job of offering much diversity in our special program speakers. However, we strive going forward to really pay attention to reflecting our audience -- and the audience that we wish to see each year going forward -- in our speakers. If you have recommendations, send them along to any time of year!

An announcement of the 2017 Conference keynote speakers will be coming very soon!


A number of luncheons are also organized each year at conference. The Garden State Book Awards Luncheon is a collaborative event sponsored by the NJLA Children’s Services Section and the Young Adult Section, highlighting the winners of that year’s Children’s Book Awards and Teen Book Awards. There is typically an author selected as a keynote speaker and authors of the winning titles are invited to accept awards in person. The College & University Luncheon is planned by the NJLA College & University Section (also the NJ Chapter of the Associate of College & Research Libraries) and often features an expert in the field to discuss relevant and hot topics. The NJLA President’s Inaugural Luncheon sets aside a time for all to officially welcome and celebrate the incoming NJLA President. This lunch includes speeches and announcements from a number of NJLA leaders, and it is where the incoming President announces the next year’s theme. All attendees of the conference are welcome to these events. (There is a $35 discounted lunch fee, negotiated by NJLA and the conference venue, that goes directly to the cost of the luncheons.)

Like after-hours social events, other lunchtime events -- like Lightning Lunches and Brown Bag Lunches -- are planned and proposed by members of NJLA Sections or Committees, and are given space at the venue to hold special sessions during these times. These additional events are always free (and always fun and informative), but no food is provided.

Special events at the NJLA Conference often include, at a minimum, the listing below. All of our special events, except for ticketed formal luncheons, are absolutely included in your conference registration fee.

  • Formal luncheons, as well as informal lunchtime events
  • President’s Program
  • Keynotes
  • Vendor events
  • NJLA Awards Reception
  • State Librarian’s Breakfast
  • Poster Sessions
  • NJLA Store
  • Evening social events

Find out more about all of these wide-ranging opportunities to make the most out of your conference experience in future blog posts from the Conference Committee!

Kate Jaggers and the 2016-2017 NJLA Conference Committee


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