The following is a guest post by Mary Marques. Mary currently works with REFORMA Northeast. More information, including links to her various projects, is included at the bottom of the post.
“In the midst of planning for this year’s conference, the global pandemic hit. I proposed to the team the idea of moving the conference online, something new for all of us, and I’m proud to say everyone joined it and supported the idea, and we have been working hard, learning, and having fun along the way,” stated Adriana Blancarte-Hayward, President of REFORMA Northeast (RNE) 2019-2020 in her opening welcome remarks. With this statement, she emphasized the challenges ahead, as an organizing committee, into navigating new and unexpected waters. The journey of the 16th Annual Joint Mini-Conference, and First Virtual Gathering, started delineating the basics, laying out a detailed plan for a four hours virtual conference, including 5 networking sessions, without a how-to-do manual.
“The global pandemic made us rethink the way we create, collaborate, and share content. We took this challenge with positivism, and the desire to learn on-the-go, in a new level of digital culture and digital literacy. Librarians must adapt to new environments, very quickly, and transform in-person library services, and professional content, to various digital platforms engaging with the community in a new level of digital services not seen before. This conference was the reflection of the opportunity to grow as library professionals because we want to serve our community,” mentioned Mary Marques, Library Coordinator for the Free Library of Philadelphia and current Chair of the REFORMA Northeast Leadership Institute.
The virtual conference started with the Land Acknowledgment presented by Louis Muñoz, Past President of the REFORMA Northeast Chapter and currently an ALA Councilor-at-Large : “Before we start this year’s Joint Mini-Conference, we wish to make a simple land acknowledgement to recognize and respect the traditional indigenous inhabitants and cultures of the lands from which each of us in today’s virtual conference is participating, wherever you may be, and to honor the past, present, and future legacies of those peoples.”
The hard work of two months were reflected on the day of the conference with presenters that represented different voices. The Keynote Speaker, Richard Ashby Jr., BCALA President 2018-2020 addressed the attendees with a powerful message about freedom, social and community emancipation. He stated during the Juneteenth Celebration Acknowledgment: “Be proactive in your freedom.” He highlighted the need to reflect about the social impact of what “freedom” means at the individual and community levels.
Rhonda Evans presented “The Power of Libraries in Times of Crisis,” reflecting on how libraries throughout history supported the community. “Freedom Libraries,” she stated, provided access to books, black history and children programs. Through the presentation she mentioned that people will always need libraries, and the librarians must embrace the unknown and adapt to new challenges, support each other and stay connected.
The rest of the presentations touched unique perspectives: Alex Gil presented “Librarian Nimble Tents for Social Justice and Moments of Crisis,” highlighted the importance of data and maps in times of crisis. Latanya N. Jenkins and Vitalina A. Nova presented “Pre-crisis & Post-crisis: Partnering with a Mayor’s 2020 Census Response Initiative to Leverage Civic Engagement.” The program followed with the Wellness break, the presentation “La Biblioteca in Time of Crisis,” the author panel with the topic “The immigrant experience,” and closing the online event with the REFORMA Northeast Awards, the closing remarks and the networking session. The replay of the conference can be viewed in the RNE youtube channel and you can visit the 16th Annual Joint Mini-Conference for the detailed information of the program.
Mary Marques works as multilingual Library Coordinator at the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP). Mary served as REFORMA Northeast (RNE) President for 2015-2016; currently, she supports RNE as the Chair of the Leadership Institute. Mary holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from Clarion University (USA), and a second Master’s Degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Studies from La Salle University (USA), and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Science, Journalism, from Inca Garcilaso de la Vega University (Peru). Mary is passionate about diversity, culture awareness and cross-cultural communication in libraries. Some of herblogs posting are in the IFLA, New Professionals Special Interest Group (NPSIG) webpage and the FLP website. She co-presented at PLA 2012 “Total Branch Makeover: A Six Months Action Plan” and PLA 2028 “Curious About #FreeLibraryofPride: A Successful Collaborative Story.” In her volunteer time, Mary writes for Impacto Newspaper and leads the Board of Acción Colombia. She loves to travel and to learn about other cultures and traditions. Also, she adores capturing special moments with her creative photography and enjoys being in contact with nature throughout practising road biking with her husband. Contact: email@example.com.