I never did get to write my take away from the conference on the board at the registration table because I was dithering with the choice, fine tuning and editing my phrase and then I lost the moment. The board had gone. We moved on. I was flying across the country again still pondering a good catchy summary phrase.
Would my take away have been something to do with the repeated urging to connect with our community, be present, be where the action is, participate, be the library 24/7 gleaned from the many library advocacy sessions available: Best Small Libraries, Building Community Partnerships, Celebrate with Successful Family Literacy Events, Curation vs Creation, Easy Advocacy, Knock Their Socks Off, Mentoring as Subversive Activity.
Would it have something gleaned from the meal table and conference corridor networks – all that talking and sharing which took place? Perhaps something to do with the amazing experience of commonality derived from being amongst almost 400 librarians from across the nation who all have the same issues, same sized budgets, same missions. We all had so much to say, to share, to question one another about, compare. We experienced that deep meaning of the word conference - to confer, to gift one another with our experiences. We see anew and are refreshed.
Back up a little: I heard I had been awarded the conference scholarship around about the same time that I also heard that the funding for my library was being cut 50% in the coming fiscal year. So it was with tempered excitement that I accepted and started on the journey to a conference on the theme of celebrating libraries. Was this the right time to leave my community? Wasn’t it better to be at home answering questions and comforting those who feared the loss of their more than 100 year tradition of public library?
Going to conference allowed me to step back, take a breath and bring in reinforcements – in the form of the knowledge of all those other small and rural librarians I was meeting who faced the same challenges and who found solutions and made plans. From the first presentation I attended, David Singleton’s on Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Times, I knew I was in the right place. I began to feel more optimistic about the future not only of my library, but of rural libraries across the nation. They are in good hands.
ARSL 2012 conference was an intense 3 days of mingling, learning, laughing, talking, introducing, sharing which invigorates, refreshes and renews
I have come away full. The long return flights, three plane changes and three hour time difference gave me time to ponder and digest.
We live in different time zones, have different climates yet we can learn, strengthen and grow by gathering together. Ultimately the one word which sums up this conference for me is relevant. For small and rural librarians in the USA, this is the most relevant conference out there. Every aspect of the programming is geared to our specific concerns, size of budgets, staffing issues and communities. All the networking which takes place, is with colleagues across the nation who have some much in common.
If one is in a rural or small library in the United States, the ARSL is one of the associations really worth joining. The listserve has already brought me professional community and valuable advice. The conference reinforced this. The generous scholarship award enabled me to be there in Raleigh, NC. Without it I would not have been able to afford the considerable expense of the trans-continental flights, the hotel and conference registration. We weigh and balance membership in professional associations these days where each expenditure has to earn its place in our budget. Membership of ARSL and this conference attendance is certainly real good value.
The 2012 conference in Raleigh with its quality presentations and invaluable connections will inform and strengthen my future practice in a myriad ways.
(Kate Skinner is a Manager with Libraries of Stevens County in rural north eastern Washington State where she manages Chewelah Public Library. She was the recipient of the 2012 Ken Davenport Conference Scholarship.)