PLAI's 1st online nat'l Congress: reaction & experience

PLAI National Congress

The PLAI annual national Congress is one of the biggest annual gatherings of Librarians all over the country. The Congress usually features the latest topics, issues, and concerns in librarianship. I have only attended two national Congresses so far since I started as a librarian, which I talked about in a Facebook post below:

This year's PLAI National Congress was supposed to be held in Iloilo City but due to COVID-19, the physical conference had to be canceled and moved online. 

Ever since the lockdowns started in the country, there have been many webinars organized by local PLAI regional councils and other organizations. These webinars have quite a good attendance since many librarians and library staff are seeking answers and it's a good avenue to network and share ideas with fellow librarians. 

The theme of this year's PLAI Congress is “Libraries as Catalysts in the New Normal Environment: Changes. Reforms. Transformation.” This was a free event streamed via Zoom, Facebook Live, and Youtube. There was also an online learning platform in Moodle for participants to keep track of their progress. 

PLAI's first online national Congress

This is not the first webinar that PLAI organized since the pandemic. Last May 2020, they held "COVID-19 Post-Quarantine strategies for Libraries" which I also blogged about

Regional councils and organizations also organized their own online seminars. For PLAI WVRLC, our annual seminar was also moved online and I also participated as a speaker (Read more: First time as a webinar speaker).

My experience and reaction

Overall, the conference ran smoothly. Since there is a limited number of people that Zoom can accommodate, it was also streamed live on Youtube and Facebook. The recorded stream is also available to watch for those who couldn't attend live. However, only Zoom participants could ask questions to the speakers. The Moodle platform, was also down for some time, maybe due to the traffic.

The topics covered were interesting and relevant, and it also included other perspectives not just from libraries but also teaching LIS, data analytics, professional development, social services, and mental health. It's also good that they got international speakers such as Dr. Raymund Pun and Diljit Singh.

The most interesting talk for me was Diljit Singh on "Libraries and Information Services in the New Normal: the role of Research." Other than the topic, he had this really nice voice that I could listen to all day. When asked about how to build a 'research culture' in the country, he answered that we as librarians can't just sit around and wait for someone else to motivate us. According to him, someone has to start and you can start with yourself.

Our Library, the Henry Luce III Library of Central Philippine University, was also featured in Dr. Reysa Alenzuela's talk on Virtual Library assistants of academic libraries in Western Visayas. 

What I love

PLAI made this seminar free for all librarians. It is also more convenient because we don't have to travel or spend too much on travel and accommodation. Because the event was online, it was not difficult for speakers or participants outside the country to connect with PLAI.

I also like that they designed the webinar in a way that those who could not attend live can still watch the recordings at a later time. I wasn't able to watch the live due to my schedule, but the recordings are also linked through their online learning platform which is useful and convenient for attendees.

I am expecting that for the next few years (I hope for a shorter waiting time), we may have to get used to online conferences until the pandemic situation is stable. 

However, while the online conference is great, for me it can't replace the actual conference. Nothing compares to actually meeting colleagues and librarians in person. Though at this time, it is the best option. 

Overall, the event was a success and congratulations to PLAI and Filipino librarians for making it happen.

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