By Jennifer Milligan
Share. Learn. Grow. Change. Rinse. Repeat. After all, isn’t that what libraries are all about? A place to share and learn and grow and change, a place to be inspired, a place to be yourself, a place to figure out who you are?
A little over two years ago, I left a successful career in engineering to become a public library director after having completed my MLIS while continuing to work and raise a family. I did so because I believe in the power of public libraries to educate, inform, and inspire those within our communities, because I believe in the power of continuing education and growth to improve our lives. To be effective in my role as a director of a small rural public library, I need to learn and grow and change, I need to be inspired, and I need to share that inspiration with those around me, creating stronger and more effective public libraries for all of us. The ARSL conference offered me that opportunity; the opportunity to learn and grow, to make connections, and to better serve my community.
Whether it was getting ideas for fundraising, learning about free tech tools, discussing ways to incorporate makerspaces into small libraries, exploring options for family literacy programming, or sharing the importance of library advocacy, I found every session I attended to be full of passionate professionals, eager to share and learn. My enthusiasm only grew as I realized that these are ideas that will work for me, a director of a small rural library with limited financial and personnel resources. How exciting it is to share big ideas and lofty goals in ways that will work for the smallest of libraries, presented by people just like me, people who understand my challenges! The opportunity to network with similar professionals was priceless, providing me with contacts and friendships that will continue to help me learn and grow and serve my community.
Libraries are a place of change. We need to be inspired and innovative to meet the challenges of the changes in our communities, to continue to meet the changing needs of our patrons, to ensure that we are continuing to educate, inform, and inspire. I believe that attendance at the Association for Rural & Rural Libraries Annual Conference provided my entire library system with new information and ideas that will reinvigorate us as we move forward to meet our next challenge.