Every year since 2004, the REFORMA Northeast Chapter (RNE) has held a Joint Mini-Conference (JMC). It’s usually the Chapter President’s big final program, an annual professional development event that people look forward to.
The global pandemic hit in the midst of planning for this year’s conference, and with social distancing in place I proposed to the JMC Organizing Committee the idea of moving the conference online, something new for all of us. I am proud to say that everyone joined in and supported the idea - and worked really hard to make it happen, learning and having fun along the way!
I reached out to the other American Library Association (ALA) ethnic affiliates, who responded with advice or directly participated. With the support of my amazing Committee, our sponsors, authors, presenters, and many others, the 16th Annual REFORMA Northeast Chapter Joint Mini-Conference 2020 “Facing New Challenges: Working in Community, Responding to Crisis” took place on June 19th, 2020. An amazing 203 people, our largest audience ever, attended.
We started the morning with a brief Land Acknowledgment by Past RNE President Louis Muñoz Jr. to recognize and respect the traditional inhabitants and cultures of the lands from which each virtual attendee was participating, after which we celebrated Juneteenth with stirring and inspirational words from Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) President Richard Ashby Jr. Our keynote by Rhonda Evans further inspired us with her presentation about “The Power of Libraries in Times of Crisis.”
Throughout the day we had a great lineup of presenters from all over the United States, which addressed topics such as social justice and activism, librarians’ role in the census and in community engagement, how to talk about anti-Asian racism with children, and how to serve Spanish speakers in times of crisis. Partway through our conference, we had a welcome wellness break which included stretching and breathing exercises with Lisa Melendez and Jenny Lizarraga. Miriam Tuliao moderated our author panel, which included authors with Latinx and Asian backgrounds. We held space and heard from all our different - yet similar - voices. We learned together.
We presented Georgina Rivas-Martinez with the 2020 Pura Belpré Librarian of the Year Award for her great work serving the Spanish and Latinx community of Long Island, and last but certainly not least we introduced our newly renamed “Teresa Mlawer Lifetime Achievement Award,” with Teresa’s family present, and were able to remember her with a video tribute created by Libbhy Romero with heartfelt contributions from several library and publishing colleagues who shared their experiences of knowing Teresa.
My heart is full of gratitude. I really want to emphasize the importance of working together. We need to continue to take care of ourselves and support each other. We are stronger together.
Thank you Asunción, Elisa, Fred, Libbhy, Linda, Louis, Mary, Manny, Roxana, Tania, and Tess - part of mi familia REFORMA. ¡Sí se pudo!
Sharing some comments from Committee members:
Mary Marques: “The global pandemic made us rethink the way we create, collaborate, and share content. We took on this challenge with positivity and the desire to learn on-the-go, on a new level of digital culture and digital literacy. Librarians must adapt to new environments very quickly and transform in-person library services, and professional content, to various digital platforms engaging with the community on a new level of digital services not seen before. This conference was the reflection of the opportunity to grow as library professionals because we want to serve our community.”
Tess Tobin: “I have been on the Planning Committee for the Joint Mini-Conference since 2010. Putting on the conference requires time and effort, but I am always amazed at how my Northeast Chapter Reformistas come together to deliver such an excellent program. This year was special since we had to work out the technology, but in the end, it was a wonderful conference with a remarkable group of presenters. Thanks to all who made it possible. Keep up the terrific work RNE!”
Louis Muñoz Jr.: “The annual Joint Mini-Conference of the ALA ethnic affiliates, initiated by Past RNE, REFORMA, and ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo, has not only been one of our signature events, but it has also been one of the favorite ways for library and publishing professionals to meet, learn, network, share, and grow together for almost 20 years. It was heartbreaking to cancel this year’s conference in order to protect everybody, but then we decided to bring everybody together virtually. It was not easy to plan an experience that many of us had not tried before, and we couldn’t have done it without several villages’ worth of friends and colleagues from all across the country and from ALA’s ethnic affiliates. Librarians’ flexibility, adaptability, and ingenuity are of course always called upon and freely shared in the course of our personal and professional lives, but the unique circumstances of the global pandemic challenged each of us to grow and learn and collaborate in ways that we could hardly have imagined. Humor and patience also played no small part in accomplishing what proved to be a unique, productive, and, yes, FUN day for everyone involved, and I am proud of what our profession can achieve, even in the midst of one of the most difficult crises ever. ¡Muchísimas gracias a todos!”
For conference details please visit https://tinyurl.com/2020JMC.
For a video recording of the full conference visit https://tinyurl.com/JMC2020-video.