Welcome to the RILA Bulletin Spotlight Series, where we feature the important work of a different RILA or RI library section, committee, roundtable, initiative, or organization in each issue.
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April 2021 Spotlight: RILA Conference Committee
This month, we talked to Nicolette Baffoni and Joseph Morra, Co-Chairs of the RILA Conference Committee. Nicolette is the Library Development Manager at the Rhode Island Office of Library & Information Services (OLIS). Joseph is the Branch Manager of Olneyville Library, Providence Community Library.
What is the mission or purpose of the RILA Conference Committee?
The RILA Conference Committee is responsible for planning and implementing all conferences sponsored by the Association. The Annual Conference is to include programs on current library concerns. Any conference is to provide an opportunity for exchange of ideas on a formal and informal basis.
What made you personally interested in being involved with this organization?
Joseph: The annual conference was my first entry point in becoming involved. However, the seed was planted by my URI GSLIS professors, who highly encouraged students to join a professional organization.
Nicolette: I really value the connection and collaboration that come from getting involved with an organization like RILA. At my job at OLIS, I was planning learning opportunities and events for library staff as part of my job and so when I was looking for a way to get more involved in RILA, the Conference Committee was a great entry point for me!
What this Committee's proudest achievement?
Our proudest achievement has been the pivot in 2020 from an in-person conference to a virtual one. In the early days of the pandemic, there was so much uncertainty and no one thought we’d be social distancing and working from home until the end of May, let alone for over a year. We put off the decision until the very last minute and ended up figuring out all the logistics of our very first virtual conference in about 4 weeks because we were adamant that we did not want to cancel. In the end, we were able to offer a mostly smooth-running virtual conference that was free to RILA members and brought together more than 200 people from the RI library community.
What ongoing challenges does the Conference Committee face?
There is always a challenge of balancing the budget. Ultimately, the annual conference acts as a fundraiser for RILA, and we want to end the event in the black. It takes hard work and creativity to attract vendors, keep costs down, and set reasonable registration fees while still trying to put on an excellent, professional conference. The 2020 and 2021 conferences presented an entirely new challenge in this regard: costs are lower for a virtual conference, but how do we attract vendors and attendees, and curate an experience that is worth taking a day to attend?
If money and time were not an issue, what is the number one wish list item of this Committee to support its mission or purpose?
If money were not an issue, we would love to invite some bigger name speakers to present keynotes. Each year, we continue to find absolutely excellent keynote speakers on a shoestring budget, but it would be great to open up our search to include some presenters who are national presenters, but come with a higher price tag. It would also be fun to be able to splurge on whatever the finest meal options are for lunch! Carving station, anyone?
What partnerships with other groups or individuals (inside or outside of RILA) have been most beneficial for this Committee to meet its goals or objectives?
The Conference Committee benefits so much from working with the RILA Communications Committee, who help us promote our events. That includes promoting the request for proposals, registration, and just generally hyping the annual conference. The Conference Committee also benefits from having an engaged RILA President and Vice President (both current and past) who are willing to offer their input and expertise throughout the planning process. Finally, we’d be remiss if we did not mention Bryant University; when the conference is in person, the use of Bryant’s facilities for the past several years has allowed us to put on a comfortable, professional conference while also keeping costs down.
Is the Committee looking for new members, and how can those interested get involved?
Yes! When you become a RILA member, you have the opportunity to be a part of a number of different committees (e.g., Conference, Intellectual Freedom) or become part of the mentorship program, either as a mentor or mentee. The Conference Committee, in particular, is always excited to welcome new members and requires a commitment of about 1 day per month, plus additional assignments and day-of-conference support. As a Conference Committee member, you help to plan the conference theme, speakers, and sessions and brainstorm creative ways to make the conference a great experience for attendees, presenters, and exhibitors. If you want to get involved in planning for the 2022 conference, please email Nicolette Baffoni (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Interested in attending the 2021 RILA Conference? Registration opens on April 19th. Please visit rilibraries.org/rila2021 for more information.