PLAI Congress 2017: Libraries Take Action

Last November 21-24, 2017, the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. (PLAI) held its National Congress at SMX Convention Center, Bacolod City with the theme Libraries take Action: Providing Access and Opportunity for All. This is the second PLAI Congress I attended ever, the first was in Ilocos (you can read about my experience in the PLAI 2015 Newsletter here). More than 1,000 librarians all over the country attended the event.

This is also the first national congress with CPD (Continuing Professional Development) implemented. For those who aren't aware, there is a new CPD law that requires all professionals in the Philippines to acquire a certain number of points to renew the professional license. One way to get points is attendance in CPD-approved seminars, workshops, and conferences. Professional organizations have to comply and PLAI is doing its best to provide CPD programs and activities.

Its good to see that PLAI also improved their registration and attendance systems. Online Registration before the event was promoted. Barcoded IDs were provided so we don't have to write our attendance for each session, we only have to scan the official PLAI ID. Even if there was some problems with the internet connection which caused people to wait in lines, I think this is already a big improvement.

Day 1
We took a fastcraft to Bacolod City from Iloilo, we left at 6:05 am and arrived around 7:30. The conference was in the SMX Convention Center right inside SM  City Bacolod, so it's easy to locate and convenient. Since the main registration was held the day before, the processing was quite fast.

The keynote speech by Ms. Elvira Lapuz was on the UN 2030 Agenda. The United Nations recognized libraries as important institutions that can help accomplish their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the decade.

There was also an MOU signing between Philippine Librarians Association and Thailand Librarians Association. I'm sure this is a milestone for libraries and librarians in both countries. I'm excited about the possible partnerships and other projects this collaboration can bring!

Day 2 & Fellowship Night
This day consisted of parallel sessions, and there were three different topics to choose from in each session. I attended the following:
  • Transcending Time and Space: Ensuring continuing access to digital heritage by Efer Nierras
  • Librarians' Role in the Reproducibility of Research by Maria Juliana Gasmen
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for Libraries: Advocating free and accessible learning opportunities by Janny Surmieda
  • Technology-based experiences among teens and tweens: Challenges and opportunities for Librarians in Panay Island by Danilo Baylen
  • The Role of Librarians in Inclusivity and Advocacy Framework by Rysa Alenzuela
  • Political Campaign Videos in Social Media: Visual and Media Literacy, Librarians, and Library Services by Danilo Baylen and Rysa Alenzuela
  • Librarians from LMK Movement, Inc. take action in Poor Communities and Indigenous People Group by Ross Bachiller and Rhoel Rondilla 
These are diverse and interesting topics, but I'll write more about the ones that stood out for me. Prof. Danilo Baylen has visited our classes for MLIS and I've participated in one of these researches. He discussed how millennial teens and adolescents use technologies and how libraries can help facilitate their use. It was good to hear that groups like the LMK Movement promote literacy in poor communities and indigenous groups.

Prof. Baylen and Dr. Rysa Alenzuela also talked about their research on the political campaign videos of Presidential candidates in the 2015 Presidential elections. They started their research before President Duterte was elected. This study is more on Visual Literacy and analyzing the symbols present in these campaign videos that represent each candidate's platform. They viewed and analyzed campaign videos posted on Facebook and chose one video for each candidate that best represents him or her.

They talked about the use of color (for example, Grace Poe wearing white, Duterte using red, and Mar Roxas' yellow) and the visual symbols that usually trigger an emotional response in Filipinos. I think librarians should also be aware of these when we have to teach information literacy. This presentation is quite eye-opening and encourages critical thinking on what we see and hear during important events in the country such as elections.

Fellowship Night
Mary Grace & me (masked) with the new librarians Vince, Joy, and Donna
Photo credit: Mary Grace Oliveros
Every PLAI Congress has a Fellowship Night where librarians just get together and have fun. The night's theme is Maskara, inspired by Bacolod's famous Maskara festival. We wore all-black costumes and bright masks.

There was also the OathTaking of New librarians where many from Western Visayas attended. I am very happy to see my students in the review class march in the aisle and take their oaths as new professionals! It's great that they joined the PLAI Congress. Ms. Raia Tiongson of La Consolacion College Bacolod delivered a great speech on their board exam experience, which made us remember our own difficult time in preparing for the exam. My sincere congratulations again to the new librarians!

Day 3
PLAI-WVRLC. Photo credit: Rene Manlangit, RL [link to picture]
The first topic for the last day was refreshing, and its the first time I've heard it being talked about in a librarians' conference. Benedict Olgado talked about the topic "Coming out of the Stacks: The Role of Information Professionals in the LGBTQ+ Movement." It was interesting to learn that one of the early advocates of LGBTQ+ movement in the United States, Barbara Gittings, was involved in librarianship and a lifetime member of ALA.

The point of his talk that in our library work, we must also be respectful and if we can, plan our book collections to cater to the broad range of clients. He also introduced that there is an LGBTQ+ library book collection in UP Diliman's Center for Women Studies Library.

Dolores Carungui of the National Library of the Philippines also presented their programs for library access for persons with disabilities. The last presentation for the conference was promoting inclusivity in LIS Education presented by Marian and Carlos Eclevia.

The last part of the conference was the General Assembly with PLAI  updates and proposed changes. One of the notable proposed changes is revisions for RA 9246 and I've heard that they're thinking of removing Indexing & Abstracting from the subjects in the board exam. For me, I approve. It is one of the difficult subjects and it is one less burden for the test-takers. Though, its still in the discussion stage and revising a law is a long process. I do hope it pushes through.

Observations & Suggestions
First off, let's start with the good things. I only attended PLAI Congress once before, and I can say that there's a huge improvement on processing registration during the event. It wasn't perfect but its good to see progress. In events with a large number of participants, we can't help some problems.  I've been part of organizing events before, and it's not the easiest or the most enjoyable volunteer job. I applaud the committees who worked hard to make this event possible.

My suggestion is clearer rules on lines. Senior citizens, pregnant women, and PWDs should always be first in lines for registration, food, or claiming certificates, but due to people being in a hurry this was not always followed.  This is just a personal preference but I don't like how conferences are always so cold. I know that this is because there are many people and the air-conditioning must be turned up to accommodate everyone but I think it contributed to the fever I have now. My body doesn't do well in aircon, I'm really not used to it.

Instructions were not always clear. PLAI members had to manually sign a Red Book for the attendance in the General Assembly. It was announced on stage that it would rotate around while the meeting was going on, but this didn't happen. A really long line formed at the back and you can imagine how long the wait was with more than 1000+ people. Some people said it was required to sign it, others said it wasn't. Anyway, I didn't get to sign because the line was too long, it was the last day of the seminar and we were tired.

Other than that, the PLAI Congress was an enjoyable experience, I learned a lot of insights that I can apply to library work. We librarians should also care about issues such as inclusivity, and not just be content in our libraries. I've seen from the presentations that libraries and librarians can help the poor, the country's  peace process, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized groups.

Blind Panic!
This is unrelated to the conference, but we experienced a horror scenario at the hotel where we were staying. I and a friend transferred from Bacolod Pension Plaza to the newer East Square Inn (since we were planning to go to Campuestohan Highland Resort the next day with two other people). In the middle of the night when all four of us were asleep, the building's fire alarm went off! Of course, adrenaline shot up through our system, we immediately grabbed our bags and prepared ourselves to escape the fire. We ran to the ground floor and then…

There was no fire! We went back to our room shaking in panic and very much awake, and all we got from the girl manning the reception desk was that it was a false alarm. We were really disappointed and quite embarrassed. Turns out there was a party on the fourth floor and one of the speakers emitted smoke which alerted the fire alarm. Some people from the party even laughed slightly at our reaction, but it was no joke. The party eventually stopped because we complained.

Lesson learned: if we stay in another place, let's make sure to check the fire exits and know where to go in case of accidents. Even if we were disappointed with the false alarm, we were lucky that it was false. The last place I want to die is in a fire and when I'm just attending a seminar! The panic was real and all our survival instinct alarms also went off. Anyway, as they say, 'charge to experience.'

Bacolod Sight Seeing
We went to the photogenic Bacolod City Hall at night. I noticed that there are many restaurants in Bacolod City and each have eye-catching interior designs. We ate dinner in a place named Talyasi Bar with our BLIS course mates.

For our last day in Bacolod, we went to Campuestohan Highland Resort. It’s a resort with rides and activities like Zipline, Sky Bicycle, etc. The place kind of reminded me of Disneyland but in a smaller scale. The place was cool, but instead of going for the rides I just fell asleep in some wooden lounge chair. Anyway, I'm not the type who likes picture-taking but I prefer wandering around alone. I prefer taking pictures of objects rather than people.

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  1. Hi - thanks for the shout out on our presentations. Good to see you and thanks liwat for signing your zine ;-)

    1. Hello Sir, great seeing you too. Thanks for buying my zine but I noticed the copy you got was the one with the soft cover, there's a better-quality copy that I will give you as soon as I have it reprinted. Will you teach in CPU this semester? Thanks again.

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