On a blustery fall Wednesday in October, the independent public libraries of Dickinson County, Iowa, closed up shop for a very important purpose: their annual all-staff continuing education event. Hosted by the Arnolds Park Public Library (a tiny resort town boasting what is believed to be the 13th oldest wooden roller coaster in the U.S.), the group consists of 5 city libraries ranging from populations of 366 to 4,925. With staff ranging from 2 (part-time) to 9 (2 full-time and 7 part-time), this group of libraries has been committed to ensuring that all staff members, not just directors, have a chance to attend at least this one event each year.
Beginning the day with refreshments and a welcome message, they quickly set about the first of 3 (50-minute) sessions taught by local experts. A library director from a neighboring county gave a session on getting started with genealogy reference. The lead consultant from the library district office taught a session called “A Sweet Suite of Resources,” featuring databases and other resources provided to libraries through the state. A staff member from one of Dickinson County’s own libraries offered a session entitled “Little Things Mean a Lot: Being a library professional when you are on the job.”
The day was wrapped up with a round table discussion on youth programming, but not before the group had a chance to walk downtown for lunch on their own, networking among their peers and patronizing the local businesses.
A few staff members from neighboring county libraries made their way over to join the fun, making for around 22 in attendance, total. There was no charge for the event, which drew on the experience of local library practitioners. Bonnie McKewon, former ARSL Board Member and Consultant for Iowa Library services, says “For me, the strength of this countywide staff c.e. approach is that it fosters communication and collaboration among colleagues within the county and adjoining. Plus, a big bonus of this format: it features local talent …Local library staff step up to do the presentations, which I think is a real plus. That’s ‘staff development’ in itself, since local staff need to prep and deliver a 50-minute presentation—that’s real skill-building!”
By Tena Hanson, ARSL President