Imagine the Possibilities

How-To Festival

Pennsylvania Convention Center, Exhibit Hall AB

Join us at the PLA Stage in the PLA Pavilion in the Exhibits Hall for the How-To Festival—an incredible line-up of 20-minute hands-on sessions provided by and for conference attendees! A How-To Festival is a cooperative learning experience, teaching practical, hands-on skills that can be learned in short sessions. It’s a fun way for attendees to learn something new and to experience a taste of the wildly successful How-to Festival that attracts 4,000 individuals to the Louisville (KY) Free Public Library every May.

Photo from a demonstration at the PLA 2016 How-To Festival
Photo from a demonstration at the PLA 2016 How-To Festival
Photo from a demonstration at the PLA 2016 How-To Festival

Wednesday, March 21

Time Presenters Topic
3:40 PM–4:00 PM Elaine Knox, Youth Client Services Specialist, Pickering Public Library, ONT, Canada HOW TO Create an Escape Room
An escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy to complete objectives. This presentation will offer tips for creating an Escape Room experience at your library. Presenter will cover engaging youth, using nontraditional marketing techniques, maximizing registration numbers, planning and logistics, mapping your escape room, key materials needed, using technology in your Escape Room, involving youth in the planning process, and community partnerships. Four Escape Room examples will be shared.
4:40 PM–5:00 PM Julie Gabb, Library Assistant, Computer Emphasis-TechCentral, Cleveland (OH) Public Library HOW TO Home Roast Coffee
Presenter will demonstrate how to roast green (raw) coffee beans at home using a common hot-air popcorn popper. Attendees will learn the basics of home roasting, including the necessary equipment and how to use it, where to purchase green coffee beans, and how to alter the flavor profile of beans. Will feature a discussion of purchasing fair-trade beans, and a demonstration of the techniques used to achieve light roast and dark roast beans.
5:40 PM–6:00 PM Becky Shaknovich, Children’s Department Head, and Jessica Walker, Children’s Librarian, Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library, Free Library of Philadelphia HOW TO Make Slime, Stress Balls, and Other Sensory DIYs
Session participants will have the opportunity to make stress balls and slime from common, inexpensive household items. This is a quick, fun, calming sensory experience. Participants will take away their sensory toys and have them available to relieve stress throughout the conference. Presenters will show how these activities can also function as library programs for teens, school-age kids, and adults. Ideas and instructions for other tactile activities will also be provided.

Thursday, March 22

Time Presenters Topic
10:30 AM–10:50 AM Elizabeth Thompson, Public Services Librarian, Millcreek Library, Salt Lake City, UT HOW TO Create Alcohol Ink Tiles
Presenter will demonstrate how to create Alcohol Ink Tiles. This inexpensive, simple, and fun craft will enliven your library’s craft program.
11:30 AM–11:50 AM Carol Lovos, Librarian I, Salinas (CA) Public Library HOW TO DIY Dog Toys
Learn how to create durable, safe pull toys for your pooch using free and low-cost materials. Old jeans, socks, tennis balls, and plastic water bottles are just a few of the fun and inexpensive items you can use to keep your pup playing for hours. Directions are easy to follow and won’t take up much time. Not a dog owner? Donate your creations to the local animal shelter for a warm fuzzy feeling! Not the creative type? No problem! There are almost always teens needing community service hours willing to lend a hand.
12:30 PM–12:50 PM Dr. Amber Simpson, Binghamton University, and Dr. Adam Maltese, Indiana University HOW TO Develop a Low Cost MAKEngineering Kit
During this How-To presentation presenters will share the development and implementation of low-cost kits currently being circulated in Title I school libraries for youth in grades 3–6. The purpose of the kit is to provide interdisciplinary learning experiences and discovery of knowledge for youth and their families/caregivers with a focus on underserved communities. The average cost is under $10.00 and includes ruler boxes, cotton swabs, index cards, playing cards, and button batteries; materials that are easily replaceable and improves the likelihood of sustainability of the kits in settings with limited resources. Presenters will also discuss how to create activity instructions for families and caregivers, marketing, curriculum integration, and circulation of materials. Materials will be available to assemble your own kit to bring back to your library.
1:00 PM–1:20 PM Allison Herens, Harm Reduction Coordinator, Philadelphia Department of Public Health; and Rachel Feuerstein-Simon, Scholar in Residence, Penn’s Center for Public Health Initiative HOW TO Reverse an Opioid Overdose with Naloxone (Narcan)
Libraries have long been safe spaces for vulnerable populations and resources for health information. Now the US is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and library staff are increasingly asked to respond. The Healthy Library Initiative, a collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania and community partners, documented that 12% of public libraries across Pennsylvania experienced drug overdoses on-site last year. The Healthy Library Initiative and colleagues at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health will demonstrate concrete actions you can take to help combat the opioid crisis and prevent fatal overdoses, including recognizing and treating opioid overdoses with naloxone (Narcan).
1:30 PM–1:50 PM Allison Murphy, Children’s Librarian, Wallingford (CT) Public Library HOW TO Run a Take-Apart Workshop for Kids
Learn the ins and outs of offering a Take-Apart Workshop for kids at your library. This type of event, in which household items are disassembled to learn what’s inside and how they work, teaches kids about tools, dangerous substances that may be in electronics, and more. The kids use problem-solving skills to get inside the item, where they then learn about motherboards, cooling fans, lights, timers, and so much more. Broken and unwanted electronics are collected from library staff, resulting in a low-cost programming idea.
2:30 PM–2:50 PM Daniel Beringhele, Reference Librarian, Berkeley (CA) Public Library HOW TO Fix a Bicycle Tire Flat
Presenter will show you how to fix a bicycle flat tire.
3:30 PM–3:50 PM Gwen Glazer, Recommendations Librarian, New York Public Library, and host of The Librarian Is In Podcast HOW TO Recommend a Book You Haven’t Read
“Have you read every book in the library?!” Patrons sometimes think that librarians are the best-read people on the planet… but even the best-read people on the planet haven’t read everything, and many of us are often called upon to recommend books we haven’t personally read ourselves. Presenter will offer tips on finding the right book for your patrons regardless of your own reading habits. Even if you haven’t read the latest fantasy epic or haven’t tried YA since you were a teen yourself, you can learn to listen to your patrons’ book preferences, find more relevant details, do better searches, and use tools you have at hand to find a broader base of books to recommend. Also, will discuss how to help patrons read more diversely and out of their comfort zones… and why you should too!.
4:00 PM–4:20 PM Jared Oates, COO and Co-Founder, Niche Academy HOW TO Spark Community-wide Collaboration on Homelessness Issues
Find out why public libraries are uniquely positioned to catalyze effective local solutions. This presentation offers specific actionable recommendations and examples of how libraries are facilitating critical conversations and helping to deliver essential services.

Friday, March 23

Time Presenters Topic
9:30 AM–9:50 AM Kyra Hahn, Librarian, Douglas County (CO) Libraries HOW TO Enroll in Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Do you work full time (30+ hours) in a public service organization? Do you (or someone you know) have student loan debt? Learn about how to enroll in and take advantage of potential benefits of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program offered by the Department of Education to eliminate your educational debt faster! Receive a packet with all the forms you will need to help make the PSLF enrollment easy! Want to be a workplace hero? Receive information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to share with your organization’s Human Resources Department to aid in increasing awareness of and participation in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
10:30 AM–10:50 AM Jenifer Phillips HOW TO Host a Teen LBGTQ Club
In the past decade, young people have started coming out as LGBTQ at much younger ages than in previous generations. Public libraries and youth services librarians are in a unique position to provide services and safe spaces for this underserved population. With a focus on middle school-aged patrons, “Out @ the Library” is an LGBTQ club that I have hosted during the past year. During this presentation I will demonstration promotional tools, ground rules for creating the club’s safe space, and age-appropriate activities that have been successful.
11:30 AM–11:50 AM Nicole Guenkel, Head of Youth Services, Poughkeepsie Public Library District HOW TO Hoop Dance
Learn to use Hula Hoops in new and unexpected ways. Hoop dancing is a graceful prop dance that encourages coordination, creativity, and perseverance. Hoop dancing improves mind-body connection, coordination, focus, and concentration. This session will include gentle stretches, the basics of waist hooping, exploration of off-body tricks, and resources to support your practice.
12:30 PM–12:50 PM Omelio Alexander, Library Assistant, Paschalville (PA) Public Library HOW TO Tie a Tie
Four-In-Hand, Half Windsor, Full Windsor, Nicky Knot—did you even know there was more than one way to tie a tie? Come learn about all the fun ways to tie a tie, and how Paschalville Library, a branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia in Southwest Philadelphia, is working to boost the prospects of job seekers by loaning out ties through its ‘tiebrary.’ We’ll share practical steps for assembling and displaying a collection of ties (and scarves, too!) and share insight into how this fun, nontraditional collection helps promote Paschalville’s Job Readiness Lab, where patrons can learn how to write a resume, fill out a job application, prepare for an interview, or apply for a green card.
1:30 PM–1:50 PM Jeromy Wilson, CEO and Founder, Niche Academy HOW TO Supercharge your Staff Training in Four Easy Steps
Quickly learn how to increase staff productivity and morale in 4 immediately actionable steps. We’ll talk about motivators, simplifying the process, learning styles and more. You will walk away ready to implement or reinvigorate your library staff training.


PLA thanks Niche Academy for its support of this event.

Niche Academy

For questions about…

Cancellation Policy

The PLA 2018 Conference is offered on a cost-recovery basis. PLA reserves the right to cancel all or any part of this event if there is insufficient registration or for other reasons. Neither ALA nor PLA is responsible for cancellation charges assessed by the airlines or travel agencies, or other losses incurred due to the cancellation of the workshops. All information listed on this website is subject to change.

Attendee Cancellation Policy

Written cancellations, requests for refunds, and/or changes will be accepted until February 23, 2018, and are subject to a $30 handling fee. Refunds will be processed after April 23, 2018. According to PLA policy, all meal events require preregistration. The above cancellation/change information also applies to all preconferences, meal events, and tours. No meal tickets will be sold onsite.

Exhibitor Cancellation Policy

All booth space cancellation requests must be received in writing by Show Management (Corcoran Expositions). If space is reduced, the net reduction of space will be treated as a cancellation of that space. If Show Management receives a written request for cancellation of space on or before October 31, 2017, the exhibitor will be eligible for a refund less the nonrefundable deposit of $950 per 100 square feet of exhibit space. For cancellations received after October 31, 2017, exhibitors are liable for 100% of the cost of space.


Print and electronic advertising opportunities are available to reach PLA members and attendees both before and during the conference.


Interested in exhibiting at PLA 2018? Contact Carly DiVito, Corcoran Expositions, at 312-541-0567 or


Contact Macey Morales, Deputy Director, ALA Public Awareness Office, 312-280-4393 or Please review our conference media policy.


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Registration & Housing

Problems or questions regarding registration or housing? Contact Experient at or 800-424-5249 (U.S. and Canada)/847-996-5829 (all other countries). Experient representatives are available Monday–Friday, 9:00 AM–6:00 PM Eastern.


To discuss PLA 2018 sponsorship opportunities, contact Corcoran Expositions, Mary Michalik at 312-265-9650,; or Matt McLaughlin at 312-265-9655,

Thank You PLA 2018 Conference Sponsors!

Other Questions

Many commonly asked questions are answered in our FAQ. If you don’t find the information you’re looking for, please contact PLA at 800-545-2433 x5PLA (x5752) or Or the PLA Staff directory may help you find just the right person to ask.

PLA 2016 Archive

Looking for handouts and other information from the PLA 2016 Conference, which took place April 5–9, 2016 in Denver, CO? The PLA 2016 Conference website has been archived at

View the list of past PLA Conferences from 1983 to present.