When I was a young mother, I went to my first book club meeting at my local library. My kids were finally old enough to stay at home for an evening by themselves, and it had been years since I had gone to an all-adult meeting. Incredibly this one act changed the course of my entire life. In the book club, I was surrounded by others who were as passionate about reading as I was. I felt as if I had landed on another planet inhabited by people like myself. For the first time in many years, I felt like I was “home.”
That book club meeting years ago put me on a path to obtaining my MLIS degree and becoming a librarian of a small, rural library. When I was hired as Branch Librarian, I once again found myself feeling like the Lone Ranger, trying to navigate the winding roads of funding, politics, and policies, all with the weight of my community’s needs resting on my shoulders. At ARSL, I felt again as if I had landed on another planet with others like myself. I was able to talk with people from Nebraska, Vermont, and even as far away as Alaska. Everyone I spoke with noted similar challenges that I had experienced, and offered advice or support. Suddenly I didn’t feel so alone anymore. ARSL helped me connect with others like myself who had experienced similar challenges while navigating the murky waters behind the scenes of the circulation desk. My only wish is that I had found and joined ARSL sooner.
Besides meeting others who are dealing with the same issues that I am, this experience was special in that it included many “firsts” for me. I have lived in North Carolina for most of my life, and this was my first trip west outside of my state’s borders. It was my first time on a plane in twenty years, something I never thought I would get another chance to do. It was my first time being in a different time zone, and it was also my first library conference. Everything at the conference was meticulously organized and flowed seamlessly. Any conferences I attend in the future will have a hard time living up to the standards of ARSL.
Had I not won one of the ARSL scholarships, I doubt that I would have had the opportunity or the initiative to attend a national library conference. I am eternally grateful for not only the chance to attend, but also for the number of friends and support that I came in contact with. Should an issue arise here at my own library, I now have Rolodex of librarians that I feel comfortable calling and asking for advice. I learned that I am not alone out here in Library Land, and that my library’s challenges are not unique. I am grateful and humbled to have been chosen, and I thank everyone at ARSL for one of the most memorable experiences of my career.