Such a supreme pleasure to meet so many people from all over the country at the 2009 ARSL Conference in Gatlinburg, TN. With one remaining day, I can see the fatigue on faces. However, our speakers were, thanks to the Conference Commitee and Don Wood in particular, outstanding and inspiring today, yesterday, and I know will be tomorrow too. Usurping the tired expressions is a look of satisfaction.
ARSL presents an incredibly well-rounded speaker’s bureau during their conference. What does this mean? Well, it means that participants hear from all types of librarians in myriad circumstances as a matter of course each year. This is as it should be. Our membership is a broad spectrum of persons in a variety of library and economic circumstances. What perhaps I am suggesting is that what makes the ARSL conference well-rounded are the speakers that represent the locale and, in this case, the State of Tennessee.
Examples of speakers–consultants, former ALA President, local author and columnist, a park ranger (representing the Smoky National Park), an officer from the Public Safety Coalition (how to stay safe when dealing with the public), a representative from the National Rural Assembly, speaker from the University of Tennessee MLA Rural Scholarships, and someone to speak about customers service and the importance of libraries to ecomonic development from the Department of Economic and Community Development. A beautifully coordinated set of speakers that, I believe, leaves participants with a snapshot of life in another part of our country and history.
What makes conferences special and memorable are several things, including the quality of speakers. Learning more about our profession, how to exact positive change, to communicate better, best practices, or even how to be a better librarian is priceless. The experience of the library-related information, hearing the ideas, meeting new colleagues, and gathering innovations relevant and retrofitted to your own mission, priorities, and community are a few significant things. Doing so, in a small way perhaps, builds our tolerance for diversity.
We learn information about a place, meet the librarians that live and work here, interact with local people, hear dialects, eat traditional foods, hear the stories, probe the local lore, and see the landscape that strongly imprints on our memories. All of this contributes to a greater understanding for our colleagues and their sense of place and brings us closer as professionals scattered throughout every corner of the country with our renewed understanding.