ALA Midwinter 2020 Highlights

Last month, I attended the ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia. Going to the conference was a great way to meet and learn from librarians around the country. It was fun to see the City of Brotherly Love turn into a city of library love! Below are a few tips and takeaways from my experience as a first-time attendee:


  • Register and book accommodations early to get the best options and rates.  
  • Download the official meeting app, so you can flag sessions of interest. There may be times you want to attend multiple sessions occurring at the same time. The app includes agendas or slides for some sessions, which can help you decide whether it’s a good fit or gather insights from ones you missed. A few sessions required advance registration.


Kent students and alumni meet at ALA Midwinter
Kent State iSchool Professor Dr. Marianne Martens takes a selfie with alumna Christina Rodriques and students Lauren Zollinger, Raychelle Steele, and Christina Carpino
  • If there are librarians or students from other parts of the country who you’ve met or would like to meet, reach out to see if they will be attending. I penciled in brief, informal meet-ups that turned out to be some of my best memories.
  • Bring business cards. If you are a student, you can print simple ones through a service like
  • Introduce yourself to people while waiting in line at the coffee shop or for sessions to begin. Librarians are friendly and interesting people. You may find it helpful to prepare a one- or two-sentence “elevator pitch” explaining your connection to the library world.
  • Follow up with people you meet to share resources they may find helpful, when appropriate. Connect on LinkedIn. 


  • Some sessions incorporate participatory elements, where you can work in small groups to brainstorm and discuss issues. Most allow time for questions. Engage in these opportunities; they add depth and fun.
  • Explore the exhibits hall, but restrain from picking up every advance reader copy or promotional swag offered. If you can’t resist, there is a post office on site that will ship things home. Look for booths that align with your interests. At the National Library of Medicine booth, I learned about interesting consumer health initiatives and training opportunities.
  • Check out the ALA JobList Placement Center, which offers workshops, job fairs, resume reviews and photography services (headshots) for a small fee. 


  • Pack snacks. The convention center is large, and there may be times you don’t want to leave the action and hike back to a restaurant. 
  • Find a quiet library or cafe where you can do homework or work in the company of locals. I discovered Menagerie Coffee, which had a warm and welcoming vibe. 
  • I found the TripAdvisor app helpful. In addition to finding restaurants nearby, you can filter by other variables, such as whether they’re open or offer free wifi. 


Sculpture by Robert Indiana at 18th St. and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia
  • Build in an extra day before or after the meeting to explore the local area. If that’s not possible, use breaks in your schedule to take a walk or hop on public transit. To guide your path, look for directories of mural art or public sculptures.
  • As you’re meeting new people, ask if they’ve been to the city before and what they recommend. Informal recommendations led me to great spots off the beaten path, like Love City Brewing.


Below are highlights from some of this year’s sessions:

  • At a United for Libraries event, lobbyist Alan Fishel recommended using the “E’s of Libraries” in advocacy efforts: Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Empowerment and Engagement.
  • In a presentation about “Engaging Millennial Members on Boards, Friends Groups and Foundations,” Lina Bertinelli of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and Tess Wilson of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine shared findings from their research and additional resources to increase engagement with people aged 18-29, who are heavy users of libraries, but underrepresented on library boards.
  • In a conversation regarding social problems and innovations, Mariana Chilton of Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health and Joanna Visser Adjoian of Philadelphia’s Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project stressed the importance of trauma-informed practice and training for library staff.
Gensler architects facilitate a workshop focused on library design
  • In a workshop about Framing the Design of Future Libraries, Gensler architects asked attendees what they envisioned. I worked with a group focused on the social aspects of library spaces, which distilled dozens of sticky notes down to this statement: “We see accessible, welcoming, flexible and comfortable indoor and outdoor multi-use group and meeting space that connects diverse groups and builds community.”
Card produced by Seattle Public Library
  • Seattle Public Library Executive Director Marcellus Turner shared SPL’s efforts to prepare for the future by exploring 9 disruptors:
    • Emerging Technologies
    • Future of Work & Education
    • Changing Demographics
    • Financial Sustainability
    • Corporate Influence & Consumer Expectations
    • Climate Change
    • Growing Inequality & Inequity
    • Urbanization & Density
    • Institutional Trust, Privacy & Big Data
  • Attendees packed the ballroom for the 2020 Youth Media Awards on Sunday morning, where the ALA announced the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults, including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King and Newbery awards. There was so much positive energy in the room. In a tweet, school librarian Carrie Shaurette (@LibrarianLove) said “going to bed before the Youth Media Awards feels kind of like the night before Christmas.”
Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia
Musical instrument collection at the Parkway Central Library
  • In the closing session, Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name, shared hand-drawn illustrations that highlighted the library’s role as a sanctuary and the agency that comes with a library card.

The ALA offers additional Midwinter 2020 Highlights on its website. There were so many sessions to choose from that each attendee’s experience was unique.

I’m hoping to attend the ALA Annual meeting on June 25-30, 2020 in Chicago. If you will also be there, please reach out!

All photos by Lauren Zollinger unless otherwise noted.

GSAC Student Survey

The iSchool Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) would like your help in guiding our future as an organization.

GSAC works to enrich graduate student life through social events and professional development opportunities. It is designed to serve as a bridge between Kent State University iSchool students, faculty and administration. GSAC meets once a month remotely, via Zoom, and membership is open to all students in the iSchool.

We’d like to know how to best serve and engage with all iSchool students. Please complete this brief survey by Feb. 15, 2020 to help us improve our efforts. We look forward to hearing your ideas. Your input is greatly appreciated!

Meet & Greet Recap

The iSchool Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) hosted its Spring Semester Meet & Greet on Monday, January 13 prior to the Reinberger Children Library Center’s Mock Caldecott Night.

This event was a fun way to get to know faculty and iSchool students while enjoying coffee and snacks. GSAC is hoping to host more in-person events this semester in different regions.

If you are a current iSchool student who is interested in getting more involved in GSAC, or if you have an idea for a future event we could host, please contact GSAC President Julia Stone at For login information for our February General Meeting held via Zoom on Monday, February 3 at 7pm, please reach out to VP of Communications Brenna Hubschman at

GSAC Spring Semester Meet & Greet

GSAC is hosting a Meet & Greet on the first day of classes Monday, January 13 from 4 to 5:30pm on the 3rd Floor of the KSU Library. Come socialize with iSchool students and faculty to kick off the Spring Semester! We will be serving coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks.

The Meet & Greet will take place right before the Sixth Annual Mock Caldecott Night in the Reinberger Children’s Library Center (RCLC). All GSAC Meet & Greet attendees may attend Mock Caldecott for free! If you are interested in attending both the Meet & Greet and Mock Caldecott Night, please RSVP to Julia Stone at by Friday, January 10.

About Mock Caldecott Night

The RCLC is holding its Sixth Annual Mock Caldecott Night from 5:45 – 9:00pm on Monday, January 13. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss noteworthy picture books and decide on which book they would nominate to win a Caldecott Medal. Dinner will be provided.

If you are interested in attending Mock Caldecott virtually via Zoom at no cost, please email Michelle Baldini at You can also send in your favorite 2019 picture book as a nomination to win by Friday, January 10 to

All attendees of the GSAC Meet & Greet are eligible to attend Mock Caldecott Night for free. Please email Julia Stone at by Friday, January 10 if you would like to take advantage of this free admission opportunity. Also, check out the Mock Caldecott Facebook event or this link for more information.

Meet the New 2020 GSAC Officers

We are excited to announce the new iSchool Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) officers for the 2020 academic school year! GSAC is the bridge between students, administration, and faculty. Our mission is to enhance graduate student life through social events and professional development opportunities.

If you are interested in getting involved in GSAC and attending our next General Meeting, please reach out to Julia Stone at

Julia Stone, President

My name is Julia Stone and I live in Kent, Ohio. I currently work as a Graduate Assistant at the Reinberger Children’s Library Center. I am excited to serve as the President of the iSchool Graduate Student Advisory Council. As President, I hope to create meaningful networking and educational events for iSchool students and enhance our blog to keep students aware of upcoming events, student and faculty news, and career opportunities. I plan to work closely with the other officers to help expand our organization and make it a valuable resource for all iSchool students.

After working in editing and marketing in Chicago for several years, I decided to pursue a career in librarianship because I am passionate about helping people and providing equitable access to information. My goal is to become a reference or cataloging librarian at an academic library. I am currently a member of the American Library Association, the Asian Pacific American Library Association, and the Ohio Library Council. I also serve as the Vice President of the KSU ALA Student Chapter. In my free time, I enjoy reading, journaling, and spending time with my puppy, Koro, who I recently adopted from an animal shelter.


Brenna Hubschman, Vice President of Communications

My name is Brenna Hubschman, and I am a first year LIS student at the iSchool with a focus on information access and discovery and information organization. I live in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with my rabbit and cat, Winnie and Pixie. I am originally from Columbus where I received my BA in English Literature from Ohio State. 

I currently work as a graduate assistant in the iSchool, and I am also an advising officer for Kent State’s ALA student chapter. In my free time I like to sew, cook, garden, and check out thrift stores. I am honored to be a member of GSAC this semester, and I look forward to working together to connect and support the students of the iSchool.


Lauren Zollinger, Vice President of Student Outreach

My name is Lauren Zollinger. I am entering my second semester in the iSchool, with an interest in public, medical and special libraries. I have an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University and currently work for a Chicago-based company that develops corporate information solutions, primarily within healthcare.

I believe the secret to a fulfilling life is forming meaningful connections with other people, continually working on a better version of yourself, and contributing to something bigger than yourself. GSAC is a wonderful platform for all three. I am excited to serve in this role and hope to establish new channels of communication to help students feel more connected to each other and the program. In my free time, I enjoy volunteering for hospice and other local nonprofits, hiking, listening to live music and spending time with my husband and two daughters in North Canton, Ohio. I look forward to getting to know all of you better and hearing your ideas on ways we can leverage GSAC to improve the iSchool experience.


Molly McGirr Norris, Secretary

My Name is Molly McGirr Norris, and I am a first year Library and Information Science student in the iSchool. My areas of interest are management and leadership of information institutions. I received my undergraduate degree in English from Kent State University, and am excited to have returned to my alma mater for my graduate studies.

I currently work at two public libraries, Lakewood Public Library and Rocky River Public Library. Through my experiences at these institutions I gained a passion for advocating for intellectual freedom and equity of access for all users, and particularly for underserved populations. I believe those in leadership roles are uniquely placed to advocate for individual groups. This is true for myself and the other officers of the iSchool Graduate Student Advisory Council, and I look forward to working with them to advocate for iSchool students’ needs. I reside in Lakewood, Ohio with my husband, Daniel, and our dog, Berkeley, with whom we enjoy spending our free time.


Anakarine Solórzano, Virtual Student Representative

My name is Anakarine Solórzano and I am originally from Caracas, Venezuela. I am in my late 40s, I am married, and I have three children. When I am not occupied with my family and schoolwork, I am usually working on art projects. On that regard, I am currently preparing to have my first solo show which will take place in the Spring of 2021.

After finishing my bachelors in my native country, I decided to pursue a masters in music at Central Michigan University. During my time at CMU, my interest in a music career decreased while curiosity about the library’s cataloging, reference, and overall organization became of great interest. The concept of encapsulating a representation of knowledge (or a portion of it) within a building and the possibility of expansion through the web or interlibrary loan was something I had not experienced in my native country. While pursuing my MLIS degree, I have gravitated towards metadata architecture and taxonomies, which are the areas that I am specializing in. I am really excited about my upcoming internship and consequent graduation in the Spring of 2020.


November 2019 General Meeting Recap

Our November meeting was held virtually on November 18th, 2019. During this meeting, we discussed efforts to coordinate and collaborate with Kent State University iSchool’s Alumni Network, which elected a new board this fall. We also discussed next steps for the organization as we elect our new officers for 2020 and set out goals for Spring semester.

This month, GSAC will be holding a Holiday Card Exchange to celebrate winter break and connect students in the iSchool. Additionally, our December General Meeting will be held Monday, Dec. 9th, at 6:00PM EST via Zoom. Please RSVP to for a link to this meeting, during which we will elect new officers for 2020. All positions are open. If you are interested in serving with GSAC, please plan to attend this meeting and complete the self-nomination form, found here.

October 2019 General Meeting Recap

Our October general meeting centered on how to best organize and implement an iSchool student survey to find out what our students need most from GSAC. We discussed the possibility of forming cohorts based on location or MLIS program specializations. Members in attendance also brought up interesting ideas for our blog, including spotlighting student internships or final projects. If you are interested in contributing to our blog about your MLIS culminating experience, or if you have another idea for a blog post, please reach out to Mallory at, or Haley at In addition, we talked about our upcoming event, a discussion with KSU iSchool alumna Erin Fleak about the value of professional organizations in career development. This virtual event will take place on Monday, November 4 at 7:00PM EST via Zoom. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to We hope to see you there! Also, if you would like to attend our next general meeting in November, please feel free to contact Haley at The more, the merrier!

September 2019 General Meeting Recap

During our general meeting for September, GSAC elected a new Vice President of Student Outreach, Lauren Zollinger. We discussed options for social media groups to extend our conversations beyond class discussions and GSAC meetings. If you have any suggestions to increase our social media presence or response, please reach out to us ( or! We also are in the process of arranging committees. Contact us if you are interested in serving on a committee and gaining experience with a student organization! Committees will help generate content for our blog, organize events, and reach out to connect students with each other, faculty, and administration. Stay tuned for information about our next meeting!

Marianne Martens, PhD – Faculty Spotlight

Please tell us a little bit about your current research interests and projects.

As always, I have a few projects in-progress: a grant-funded project with Dr. Campana at Maple Heights Public Library, and a collaborative USAID Grant with American University Nigeria, Columbia University, and Kent State colleagues. I also have a forthcoming book with Cambridge University Press called The Forever Fandom of Harry Potter: Balancing Fan Agency and Corporate Control. The Harry Potter franchise lends itself exceptionally well to fan-based activities, from fan fiction, to festivals, to charitable works, and many who started as childhood fans continue into adulthood. J.K. Rowling (and related corporate entities) have not always been supportive of fan activities, but arguably, fans’ ongoing activity is closely tied to the series’ success. I believe that it is mutually beneficial for corporations and fans to figure out how to work together.

Do you have any advice for students?

 Here are ten tips for students:

  1. Join a professional organization. Take advantage of student rates.
  2. Volunteer to serve on a committee—any committee—within this organization. Your openness will increase your chances of getting picked. Committee work enables you to build your professional network while gaining a broad overview of the field—and make lifelong friends. And you might just get a job out of it—I met former ALSC President and Kent State Professor Emerita Dr. Carolyn Brodie through ALSC committee work, which helped bring me to Kent State.
  3. Attend and present at conferences. Local, regional, and state conferences are great places to start, and are more affordable.
  4. Seek funding and volunteer opportunities.
  5. Partner with colleagues (there is a reason I assign group projects!) to present, or to organize a panel or workshop.
  6. Publish articles in professional publications – that will get your name out there. Co-authoring is a great idea, too.
  7. Post on social media, but spread positivity. Offer solutions to problems when you have them.
  8. Say yes to opportunities.
  9. Do your very best to keep your promises.
  10. Don’t give up.