2022 Conference Bursary Report – Shannon DeSilva

Evoke 2022 did exactly what the word says.  It evoked so many different emotions in me throughout the 3 days that I don’t even know where to begin.  The lightning talks provided a unique opportunity for us all to come together with our library colleagues across the state to listen to inspirational presentations relevant to our library communities.  Every lightening talk showed just how diverse and inclusive libraries are in their program planning and delivery.  If I had to choose which lightning talks impressed me the most, I would have to say Nadia Rutley from Brisbane City Council talking about their Human Library project.  The time and effort taken to plan this program was truly why it succeeded.  Having real people sharing their personal stories about topics such as addiction, disability and other diverse issues was such a great program.  The other lightning talk I was impressed with was the Shout out Youth Story Telling.  How great was it that Western Downs Libraries were able to engage with their youth in such a special way and incorporate this program within their library.  The partnerships and support formed along the way was inevitably why they were able to create such a great event.  Each and every lightning talk gave me something to take away.

While every day of the conference gave me so much new insight, and every presentation and workshop were so valuable, there were 3 keynote speakers, Sami Shah, Ryan Dowd & Jahan Kalantar who left me internally asking so many questions.  Mostly though, I was left with one very important question…are we doing enough to make people feel welcome and safe in our space?  They made me realise that perception and unconscious biased can be a dangerous tool if we only deal with people based on our own perceptions of who we perceive them to be.  Nobody knows how past traumas and life events can affect a person in their present.  Just one small gesture can change everything for a person. Many times, without us even knowing it.  A simple hello, and name exchange can make all the difference.

Sami spoke about the library feeling like a home to him and when he moved to a small isolated Western Australian town it was the library, he considered his family’s safe place.  He also spoke about nothing being handed to you, that we need to work hard to keep what we have, and that failure is more important to learn from then success.  His statement “it is important to keep going and learn from what happened” and “everyone is trapped in their own algorithm” hit home for me. 

Jahan’s presentation must have truly kept me enthralled as I did not take as many notes, yet I remember him the most.  I think it was because I was so involved in what he had to say I forgot to write anything down.  Being a powerful lawyer, it would be easy to believe he had no trepidations however, he spoke about the life battles he had included the anxiety he often struggles with.  The stories he told of those he has represented and the trauma they had faced was fascinating and thought-provoking. 

Finally, having completed Ryan Dowd’s Homelessness training in the past, his presentation reinvigorated what I had already learned.  The most important thing I took away from his presentation was, we do not know what people are dealing with in their lives and that treating everyone with understanding and compassion is the key.  Watching his video showing how such simple things such as body language and communication can go a very long way in deescalating a situation really hit home how things could be improved in my own library service to prevent escalating situations. 

Overall, the important topics I took away from the conference is resilience and trauma.  Everyone including myself has a story to be told and by sharing, it is those stories that help us connect with people.  I could write so much more about QPLA EVOKE 2022, but if I had to sum it up in a few words I would say for me it certainly did everything I feel it aimed to do.  I came away empowered to do more, I am so inspired to reach others and I have made so many connections during my time away. 

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