News - MLA
Written by Deborah E. Mikula, MLA Executive Director   

Letter From Debbie

July 29, 2022

It is fun to reminisce about the first conferences I ever planned back in the mid-1980s for those operating historic theatres. Lasting a full week, over 150 attendees would hop on four tour buses and we would go from place to place to place, a different hotel every evening, visiting historic theatres in a particular region of the country (Texas, North Carolina, California, Detroit to Toronto), conducting educational sessions with renowned experts in theatre renovations and operations, and sharing wonderful meals and networking time with those that had something very unique in common. The planning and coordination of these events was fun and exhausting all at the same time. 

The MLA Annual Conference is fun and exhausting as well, but so worth the time and energy it takes to bring over 500 library professionals together every year. There is excitement in the air and a general sense of being “back to normal” as we continue the planning to be in-person at the MLA 2022 Annual Conference in Port Huron this October.  Our last in-person annual conference was in 2019 and while we have had resounding success on a virtual platform, there is nothing better than being with our colleagues again.  

No two events are alike – but throughout my career, I have witnessed the social and the educational benefits that conferences provide, not only to those that attend, but to those that are speaking and to those that sponsor and exhibit. 

So what do we think is the number one benefit of attending? The Harvard Business Review states, “inspiration is the springboard for creativity,” and we think that this statement sums up the most satisfying benefit of attending the MLA Annual Conference.  What could be better than to get out of the office for a few days and be inspired by those you hear from, and those you meet.

So, what are the other benefits?

The biggest benefit…networking. Being with people that are like-minded from all different regions of Michigan, from all different backgrounds, and from all different sizes of libraries who share a common field is exhilarating. We build our professional networks at events like these – we meet new friends (others that are as passionate as we are) and reacquaint ourselves with those we don’t see often but who have turned into mentors over the years. We can’t emphasize enough having the support of people across the state that you can call on at any time of the year when problems and struggles arise. Your peers provide valuable ideas, best practices, insights and contacts that are essential. No problem exists at your library that others have not been through and your network allows you the chance to learn from their experience (or mistakes!). 

The second biggest benefit…expanding your knowledge and finding solutions to local problems, while at the same time reinforcing existing best practices. MLA Annual Conference attendance enhances both your professional and personal development, as well as providing you with new tools and skills. The focused nature of this type of learning allows you to dig deeper and understand a particular topic and learn from thought-leaders that you may not have previously heard of or that you must hear again. MLA’s conference gives you the opportunity to talk to these people one-on-one about what they are working on, and they may even give you advice on how to enhance your own work. 

Some of you will be on the other side of the first two benefits and will be at the conference to share your ideas formally with others at the sessions. (Thank you in advance for stepping up!) These breakout sessions provide a forum to talk about what you do, how you are doing it, what techniques help you in your work, or what research you have conducted with people that have the same interests. Our conference workgroup goes through hundreds of proposals to find the right sessions to offer, and most are led by those working at Michigan libraries. You all have unique perspectives, and it is important to be able to share these with colleagues. Getting out in front of a room full of your peers offers the opportunity to get your name and your work out there and to establish yourself in their eyes as one of the experts.

And of course, there are other benefits to attending conferences such as finding a new job, recruiting skilled people for a position, visiting a new city to explore a library that has been on your radar, and so much more.

Attendance at the MLA 2022 Annual Conference is an investment in yourself and in your organization. What better way to learn, grow and be with like-minded people. We hope to see you in Port Huron in October. Learn more and register at

Deborah E. Mikula
Executive Director

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