Student Q&A: Gabriella Schaffer, Library & Information Studies

Gabriella Schaffer, a student in the iSchool’s MA Library & Information Studies program.

Graduate students often attend conferences, but Gabriella Schaffer MAx’24 helped plan one. 

The iSchool’s Continuing Education team organizes Power Up: A Conference for Youth Services Managers & Staff on a recurring basis, and graduate students can directly contribute, as Schaffer did, by serving as student representatives on the conference’s programming committee. At Power Up, youth services librarians and staff from public libraries, schools, museums, and other community partners come together to network and hear from leaders and innovators in the field of youth librarianship.

We asked Schaffer what excites her most about the 2024 conference she helped to plan. This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Before we dive into Power Up, tell us a bit about your background. How did you end up at the iSchool, pursuing a degree in Library & Information Studies?

I grew up in Idaho and then went to Montana State University for my undergraduate degree. I got a bachelor’s in English, and towards the end of that program, I was thinking about my career path and realized that there was always something tying me back to libraries. I worked in libraries as a high schooler and had enjoyed them for as long as I can remember, even as a child.

So I decided to apply to graduate programs in library studies, and realized there aren’t very many in the northwest United States, where I lived. I saw that Madison had one and was really drawn to the location, specifically the lakes and being near water. So that’s what led me to where I am now, pursuing a career in Youth Services librarianship.

How did you become involved with planning Power Up 2024 and what has this role entailed?

Last semester, Professor Rebekah Willett recommended me to Casey (Casey Ineichen, iSchool Continuing Education Program Manager) to serve on the programming committee for Power Up. Casey asked if I was willing and interested, and I said absolutely. So I served as the student committee member alongside several other librarians, both from Wisconsin and around the country.

We started out with the broad idea of ‘what do we want this conference to look like?’ We did a lot of brainstorming together, figuring out what we liked in other conferences we had attended, for example. That led us to the idea of play in librarianship. This is also a personal interest that I discovered here at the iSchool. We decided to focus on play and also keep a focus on leadership, as this conference has in the past. 

One of our first tasks was determining the keynotes. Mimi Ito was a suggestion that I brought to the table for the conference based on learning about her initiatives with connected learning and her great book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. We thought she would be a great option for a keynote, and she agreed!

Power Up 2024 keynote speakers Lucia Gonzalez (left) and Mimi Ito (right).

Once we had Mimi Ito confirmed, we decided Lucia Gonzalez was a fantastic option for the leadership side of things, with her background as a public library leader, including serving as President of the Association for Library Service to Children, and her status as an award-winning children’s book author. We’re so excited to have her joining us as well.

The keynotes are only part of the conference agenda. Can you tell us more about opportunities attendees will have at Power Up?

We had so many great proposals for workshops and other sessions this year. That was one of my favorite parts about working on this committee was getting to read all the proposals, but it also was the hardest part, because we couldn’t accept them all. 

There are some amazing things we have planned outside the keynotes. One really fun session is titled “Library Leadership the Ted Lasso Way,” and I think it could appeal to anyone at the conference, regardless of whether they are in a leadership role or not. Another element I’m very excited for are the post-conference workshops, one on how to deal with book challenges and the other on taking a stand for true play. The book challenges workshop is perfect for anyone working at a public library right now with the recent increase in book banning attempts.

Overall, what makes Power Up exciting?

Even beyond the incredible speakers and workshops, I’m excited for the networking opportunities with different librarians and hearing their thoughts on how they manage their libraries. And I think we have a really great selection of presenters who are speaking about being leaders outside of a formal leadership role.

Getting to hear from a ton of people, both conference presenters and attendees, about their experiences and insights allows us to bring new lessons back to our home libraries and instill them into the work that we’re doing.

Power Up 2024: A Conference for Youth Services Managers will be held March 21-22 at the Pyle Center. Registration is now open and tickets are priced on a sliding scale. To learn more about the conference or register, visit its webpage.