North of Normal. Define “normal”. This conference was very “not normal” compared to the many conferences I’ve been to, 90% of which were for city government related issues. None of the workshops I attend as a government official have creative titles such as “Where the Wild Things Are” (in city government lingo this is referred to as “Ethics & Civility”) or “From Chicken Little to Fred Astaire: Conflict is a Dance” (in city government lingo this would be a class on “Personnel Management”)
I became excited about this conference staring in Sept of 2015 when I heard about the conference and realized it was within a decent driving distance AND there was still time to register. My husband and I discussed and plotted and schemed to find a way to get me there, but alas, it was not to be. So I did what any good librarian would do and I quickly began planning for this year’s conference. I watched as the countdown went from 365 to 250 to when I could enter my scholarship that I had started writing October of 2015. Come famine or loss of my Amazon Prime, I was going!!
As the clock ticked down and I put in my scholarship, another timer began. Long story short, my patience paid off and I soon found myself looking up AMAZING things to do in Fargo and my 6 year old was counting down the days that she could play on the pirate ship.
The most difficult part of conference was trying to pick through all the AMAZING workshops and let me tell you, that was not fun! With titles such as, well the ones above, and “How to Break Up Boredom” and “Lights. Camera. Advocacy. Digital Storytelling for Your Library” how do you choose?
Well, let me tell you, you pick them ALL!! Well, maybe not all, but you grab a program and start with Day One and then circle what you know you don’t want (if that’s possible) and then rank the ones left. Once you’ve done that you’re set. At least you think you are for when day one begins you start second guessing yourself. Honestly, go to your first session and just breath it all in! All that energy and creativity. If you’ve had your fill, go ahead and feel free to jump into another class! I attended three separate classes in one block. Sometimes I sat in on two in the same block. Knowing I could have access to the handouts online really made that easy for me.
Besides classes, there were volunteer opportunities galore! I very much enjoyed my time checking badges for the meals! I met several people of whom their names escape me, but I won’t forget their smiles and our conversations. I met librarians who like me, are solo librarians in small towns and was able to bounce ideas around with them. I made sure to sit at a different table with different people for each meal. I wanted to meet as many people as I could!
The presenters were equally impressive! I loved when they spoke about their writing process and how one spoke about “THEY don’t exist” for when you hold yourself back from doing things because of what “They” might think.
I listened intently in the classes that spoke about how to engage the community, get the youth involved and programs we could do using folks in our own neigbhourhood. When asked where you begin with the teens the answer was “Nerf guns.” I’m putting an order in for Nerf guns! For programming, find someone who has traveled, or has a hobby they’d like to share. Simple, no cost activities.
Before I went to conference, my mom and another librarian gave me some great advice. Pick ONE thing you want to do when you get home and do it. Though my mind was swimming as we said our good-byes, I reflected on just what I wanted to take home and mulled over the workshops I had taken.
My goal is to engage the youth and so I walked away with “Start a youth advisory board.” And so I have! I now have a TAG Team and their goal is to “TAG” teens to join the Team. We held our first unofficial meeting the Wed. before Thanksgiving and came up with over two dozen activities they’d like to do. Yes, Nerf guns are involved. In fact, as I type this, I have a TAG Team member completing her NaNoWriMo novel here with me.
I am so very grateful for being able to attend such a warm, welcoming and educating conference. It is a very inspiring time and I can’t wait to get to St. George next year!
Submitted by Vanessa Everhart (Bennington, KS.), Ken Davenport Scholarship recipient