Robert Frost & Rural American Libraries

Faye Pekas'

Today someone came to my library.  Many someones, point of fact.  That in itself is reason to celebrate.  Just one is reason to celebrate, really.  We are nestled in Northern Maine and, despite our rurality and sparsely populated county, we are a busy library.  It is cold today and people were lined up early at the door waiting for us to appear with the library key.  One of those someones brought me several poems by Robert Frost.  She had a question and I an answer, it often works just like that.  Only this time, she had a question, I had an answer, then I was stopped in my tracks.  It seldom works like that.  That’s even more reason to celebrate.  One of the poems, “An Unstamped Letter In Our Rural Letter Box” caught my eye.

I’ve been thinking about people who are homeless as the days grow colder and shorter.  Those that spend their days in the warmth of our rural library buildings.  Every day, from now until the sun warms us again, someone who is homeless will be at our libraries during the day somewhere in America, many somewheres in America.  The challenges and considerations that that brings us as librarians or as patrons could be discussed all day but at its core is the reality that they are homeless and you are helping them be warm instead of cold.  Setting aside all the details and philosophical debate, the homeless are cold and we are librarians and we are humane.  Homelessness comes to mind partly from my own experiences, partially from the terrific program on Social Services Triaging offered at the last ARSL Conference, and from friends who know more about it than I probably ever will.

With early frosts, heaps of snow by January that stays until June, and very short summers, people love their library here and inclement weather must be very, very inclement indeed to prevent our patrons from visiting.  The leaves at this point are past peak and dropping, swirling in a colorful blur.  Dramatic foliage scenes for which I’m grateful as I look out the window of my library office.  But more to the point (and there is a point) someone, many someones, came to our library today and one of those someones brought me a poem.

In your neck of the woods, the leaves may swirl this time of year as well and I hope that your library is teeming with rural community members and patrons.  Most of us rejoice in this, probably all of us.  But today’s visitor strikes me as unusual. I love reference questions.  I do.  Each and everyone a treasure hunt in its own right.  Once in a glorious moon, once in a passing moment, there is that question that stops me.  Stops my busy self to notice what is around me. To care about something different than the next task, the next goal, the next success, the next change, the next…whatever.

Much like your rural and small library there are the regular job seekers, passport applicants, gamers, internet surfers, instant chatters, newspaper readers, the people picking up books they reserved, people browsing the shelves, or people checking out audiobooks for their trip south.   There are phone calls, emails, bloggers, instant messages, passerbys, toddlers playing peek-a-boo, screaming infants, genealogists, and people who are homeless and this is what I and many of our colleagues would consider “usual.”

So I share with you a part of this poem and urge you seek it in its entirety as you go about the usual business of rural and small librarianship and open doors early on a cold morning, refuse to shake a boot of a sleeping homeless person, and think of the cold that may populate your library.

An Unstamped Letter In Our Rural Letter Box

“Last night your watchdog barked all night,

So once you rose and list the light.

It wasn’t someone at your locks.

No, in your rural letter box

I leave you this note without a stamp

To tell you it was just a tramp

Who used your pasture for a camp.

There, pointed like the pip of spades,

The young spruce made a suite of glades

So regular that in the dark

The place was like a city park.

There I elected to demur

Beneath a low-slung juniper

That like a blanket to my chin

Kept some dew out and some heat in….”

~Robert Frost

Terrific Conference

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries this year on the Founder’s Scholarship.  What a terrific opportunity this was to meet librarians from all over the country who are in situations and with challenges similar to those we face in rural South Dakota.  The workshops were very helpful in addressing issues that were applicable to small town libraries.

One of the best programs was the pre-conference workshop at Anna Porter Public Library in Gatlinburg.  It was most interesting to see and hear their step by step processes of fundraising, construction, and collection developments made over the last 5 years.  Building on their progressive themes I attended as many of the community development, fundraising, partnerships and advocacy, and foundation development workshops as were available.  Each workshop had something valuable that I could bring back with me and apply to my library.

I made some new acquaintances and a couple good friends and the food was terrific!  Thanks go out to all who worked so hard to put together such a fantastic conference.  I plan to attend next year in Denver, no doubt!

Paula DeMars

Library Director

Hill City Community Library

Hill City,  South Dakota.

Fare Thee Well, Ken Davenport

Ken Davenport

Many of people read the post on our ARSL listserv of Ken Davenport’s obituary.  I’m reposting it here, for those who may not have seen it with some additional information about Ken from my experiences with him in Second Life.  Ken Davenport helped found the Association for Rural & Small Libraries so his impact on rural and small librarianship we feel is profound.  Originally posted by Eunice Riesberg:

*Obituary: Kenneth (Ken) Marvin **Davenport WATERLOO — Kenneth (Ken) Marvin Davenport, 66, of Waterloo, died at the University of Iowa Hospitals on Tuesday, September 29, 2009 after a long illness. His body was cremated 
by the Cremation Society of Eastern, Central and Western Iowa. Kenneth Marvin Davenport was born February 18, 1943 in Harbor Beach, MI to Angus Marvin and Clarice Elaine (Dollman) Davenport. Ken graduated from high school in Tawas, Michigan. He attended Michigan State University where he earned a B. A. in Geography as well as a Master’s degree in Geography. He attended the University of Minnesota where he did postgraduate work in Library Science. He then attended Kent State University where he earned a Master of Library Science degree. Ken married Diane Carter in 1966; they were later divorced. He later met Patricia Dunfee; they married in 1996, but were together for many years before that. Ken worked as a library consultant for the Northeast Iowa Library Service Area from 1990 until his recent passing; he worked with approximately 85 libraries, many of them smaller libraries located in small towns of Northeast Iowa. Ken became an expert on library governance as well as E-Rate, a federal program that helps schools and libraries get internet access. He was a tireless advocate for libraries in Iowa, and was a regular participant at local Legislative Forums, where his beard, suspenders, and dry sense of humor were all appreciated. He was a great story teller, and even when he became very ill, posted notes on his Facebook page about his most recent exciting ride by helicopter to Iowa City. He was a long time member of the Iowa Library Association; he served on the Executive Board in the 1990s and was the long time Chair of the Credentials Committee for the 
annual conference. Ken was also a member of the Cedar Falls Supper Club. His interests included reading, geography, Renaissance festivals, Celtic culture, fine food, and spending time on his computer, corresponding with friends, blogging, and getting into Web 2.0. Ken was on Facebook and Twitter, and used them not only to socialize but further his causes/passions.  *Survived by:* his mother, Clarice Davenport of Lansing, MI; brothers: Grant of Salsa, Alaska, Bruce (Rose Mary) of Lansing, MI; and sister, Patricia (Jack) Kirk of Preston, Maryland. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Ann (Frank) Carraro of Ottawa, Illinois; 16 nieces and nephews; and by many dear friends from the Iowa Library system.  *Preceded** in death by:* his wife, Patricia (Pat) Ann (Dunfee) Davenport on January 20, 2008 and his father, Marvin Davenport on May 24, 1983.  Ken’s body was cremated, but his spirit lives on. A celebration of his life is planned for Friday, October 16 at the Waverly Public Library. Friends wanting to contribute to a memorial fund are asked to do so in Ken’s name at small public libraries in their area.  Sympathy cards to Ken Davenport’s family may be sent to his office, and will be shared with his family.

In the words of Bernard Vavrek, another founder for ARSL, “Ken helped to define and nurture the rural library movement.  As the first president of ARSL, his historical impact is assured.  But he assumed other significant roles that went beyond his home state.  Ken’s wit and insight could always be counted on despite his personal medical issues.  His physical presence will be missed.  But don’t be surprised if you see his spirit attending the next library meeting.”

That sums is up so perfectly, it’s hard to improve upon it for sure.  There were many who wrote to share their experiences and express regret.  Take time to do a search of the ARSL listserv archives to see the wonderful contributions that Ken offered throughout the years.

The photo that you see is of Ken’s memorial created in Second Life by Steve Eyler, our webmaster and Second Life consultant/volunteer and me.  It features memorial candles, flowers, and a picture outside of the ARSL Second Life building.  In SL, he was Brother Homewood and he often attended events, sent words of encouragement and helped programming, and was a big supporter of virtual worlds.  He is missed by persons who participate in Second Life as well.

We Win

Like many of you, I am enjoying the fall spectacle that is playoff baseball.  As a Phillies fan, I truly enjoyed the game the other evening as the teams battled through all 9 innings. Neither one gave up, neither one rolled over or surrendered, they continued until the last out was made. It was exciting. It nearly gave me a nervous breakdown, but it was exciting.  (my sympathies to any Rockie fans out there)

Many of us in “library land” are in the midst of a struggle, a playoff of our own, so to speak.  We battle against those who cut our funding, who seek to marginalize us, who do not understand or desire intellectual freedom or who think that perhaps we should just go the way of the dinosaur. But I encourage you to consider that even if you feel as if you are in the bottom of the ninth with 2 out,  you are still in the game. Good teams do not resign themselves to losing games, they continue to play because you just never know what could happen.

Also, good teams work together.  They encourage each other, they cover the errors of other players, they give 100%.  Many of you are doing this – and we applaud you! But there is one more thing – good teams are a team. No one player gets a team to the playoffs or wins a World Series. It is a team – not just the men on the field, not only those in the dugout. That’s why teams give their staff WS rings – we don’t see them, we don’t applaud them, but they contribute.  You are not in this difficult time alone.  There are other’s battling alongside you.

So I say all this to get to this point. Although you may feel like it is the 9th inning and you are about to lose – the game “ain’t over ’til it’s over.” We will continue to play and here’s the catch, as long as we do, we win.


Embracing Change

When it comes to change librarians, like most people, usually subscribe to 1 of 2 schools of thought.  Change is to be avoided, delayed or downright stymied at all costs or change is to be sought out, welcomed and embraced.  Personally I like change; it can give us a fresh perspective, allows us to see things in a new light and can often bring the most wonderful people into our path. 

But not all change is good or welcomed or embraced.  Such is the change wrought in our organization with the passing of our friend Ken Davenport.  While I never got to work with Ken in person, I did speak with him over the phone, chatted with him online, exchanged notes on Facebook and have read through the minutes of meeting that described his contributions to our association. Ken did not seek praise or even acknowledgement for his contributions, he simply wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who served in small and rural libraries, so they could in turn make a difference in the lives of those in their communities. 

We honor Ken’s work when we take up that mantle, when we become the ones who strive to make a difference.  A difference in the lives of our co-workers, friends, family and in our communities.    It’s a big task, a nobel calling; and it will make a change in the lives of those around us. A good change, one we can embrace and welcome, and pass along.


What I read on the plane going to conference…

Brag!  The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.  By Peggy Klaus

All too often librarians are not good at tooting our own horn.  So after I saw this book mentioned by a librarian online, I decided to take it with me to read on the plane going to Gatlinburg.  Although the book is geared toward career building, I think much of it applies to promoting our libraries.

Bragging and self-promotion don’t have to be obnoxious.  You can tell your story in a way that authentically showcases your strengths and honors who you are.  Klaus outlines key communication techniques that make for more dynamic bragging in any situation and every audience.  She teaches you to take the emotional temperature of the listener, be authentic at all times and act like your best self even on rainy days.

I think Klaus is correct when she states, “…most of us remain curiously unable to articulate our stories and the diversity and extent of our skills, abilities, and attributes.  We are equally unaware of how others perceive us and what exactly they like about us.  We take ourselves for granted, thinking that we haven’t really accomplished anything, that we’re ‘just doing our jobs,’ that the recognition we seek will naturally follow our hard work.”

Even when we know we need to be marketing our libraries to the city council or county agencies or whoever, we don’t always know where to start.  It’s all preparation, preparation, preparation.  Klaus has a questionnaire (available online at to help you prepare an inventory of what you (or your) library have done.  She also emphasizes using that information to tell the human-interest side of your story, to get personal, to use layman’s terms and to be enthusiastic and funny.

Want your story to go from boring to extraordinary?  Check out Brag.

Overheard from CA librarians at the conference…

I now have a whole list of ideas for how to help job seekers in the library (Helping Your Community Get Back to Work session)- the Job Search Toolkit wiki, utilizing the expertise of HR persons from local businesses to help patrons review and revise their resumes/applications/interview skills; show them how to access skills assesments and tutorials to learn new skills. — Jody Meza, Orland Free Library, CA

I attended a great program this morning called Getting IT online, and finally got the lightbulb above my head regarding Twitter.  The presenters explained how you can put an RSS feed link on your library’s website so that all your Twitter posts will appear there!  This would be great for our library, since I would then be able to post directly to the website without asking for help from the IT guy!  –Margaret Miles, Plumas County Library, CA

I was here for the preconference on “Dewey or Do We Not” at the new Gatlinburg Public Library. This program really spoke to me about ways to update and merchandize our collections and library spaces to our customers. I took about 80 pictures of their library illustrating the ‘book store model’ modified dewey approach that they took for their library collection. It was an invaluable workshop for me. — Wendy Burke, Colusa County Library, CA

Here are three quotes and one statistic that resonated with me:

  • “How you think about the customer is how you will treat them.” If you have a colleague who thinks that a library would be a great place to work, if the annoying patrons would only stop bothering them, that attitude will inevitably percolate through to the service that is provided.
  • “Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” (Samuel Ullman) Times are tight and we are all being pulled and strained in all directions. We need to guard against losing sight of why we love libraries.
  • “Today’s service is tomorrow’s reputation.” I lived in China for a year twenty years ago, in a city that had millions of inhabitants but only 40 foreign residents. I was always aware that I was the first foreigner that many of the people I encountered had ever met, or might ever meet. If I was having a bad day or bad moment and someone had a negative interaction with me, that could color their impression of all Americans, so I made an extra effort to always be gracious, patient, and diplomatic. The stakes are similar when you work in a service profession, and it’s important to remember that.  — Laura Pappani, Nevada County Libraries, CA
If you are interested in trying gaming at your library, and you do
not have a lot of money to purchase electronic games such as an
X-Box or a Wii, there are free online games that you can direct
your patrons to such as<>
and<> .  Patrons can also design
their own games at<>. 
--Victoria Mrozek, Merced County Library, CA

I primarily chose to take breakout sessions that covered the topic of
building community and partnerships. Two workshops on the first
day, one after the other "Community Leadership - it's not a spectator
sport" with presenter Jim Connor opened up may possibilities for
developing new relationships in our communities that could provide
support for our library. This support might be in the form of volunteers
as well as dollars. His training material should be on the ARSL web
site and is worth reading through most especially if your funding
sources seem to be dwindling, but also to open your eyes to some
new possibilities for relationships that can provide new funding for
your library.
–Kristen Freeman, Humboldt County Library, Kim Yerton
Memorial/Hoopa Branch
I primarily chose to take breakout sessions that covered the topic of building community and partnerships. Two workshops on the first day, one after the other “Community Leadership – it’s not a spectator sport” with presenter Jim Connor opened up may possibilities for developing new relationships in our communities that could provide support for our library. This support might be
in the form of volunteers as well as dollars. His training material should be on the ARSL web site and is worth reading through most especially if your funding sources seem to be dwindling, but also to open your eyes to some new possibilities for relationships that can provide new funding for your library. –Kristen Freeman, Humboldt County Library, Kim Yerton Memorial/Hoopa Branch

It’s a Small, Small World

Ok – now that you are stuck singing this silly song for the next few hours, here’s why I called this post by such a title. One of the best parts of the ARSL conference, which is now officially concluded, is meeting and sharing with librarians, trustees and library staff from other parts of my state, other states and even across the county.  Doing so has made me aware of several things.

First – the ARSL conference allows you to travel all over the county by traveling to one location.  Here in Tennessee I have become aquainted with California, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, North & South Carolina, Maine, Alabama, Georgia as well as my home state of Pennsylvania.  I have learned how their libraries function, are funded, the tales of their towns and villages, the stories from their trenches. 

 Also I have learned that while some librarian’s talk funny (you can decide which ones those are) we are often telling the same story. We have the same struggles, the same joys, the same insecurities, the same pet peeves; it is as if we run the same library, just in the next town or state over. If you will allow me to use an over-used phrase – we are all in the same boat.  Their tales are similar to my tales, their funding woes are like mine, their insecurities are mine, their crazy patrons visit me in PA and their trenches look surprising like the ones I visit daily. 

Perhaps that is why this conference and this organization has struck a resounding chord at the heart of so many? ARSL members and conference attendees know they are not in this alone and they know that someone else is working and may have already come up with a solution to the problem they just found that they have.  

As we travel together over the next weeks and months – remember this.  We are all in this together.  The land of small and rural libraries is truly a small, small world.

Andrea Berstler

Diversity at the 2009 Conference

Gatlinburg, TN Early morning

Gatllinburg, Tennessee

Such a supreme pleasure to meet so many people from all over the country at the 2009 ARSL Conference in Gatlinburg, TN.  With one remaining day, I can see the fatigue on faces.  However, our speakers were, thanks to the Conference Commitee and Don Wood in particular, outstanding and inspiring today, yesterday, and I know will be tomorrow too. Usurping the tired expressions is a look of satisfaction.

ARSL presents an incredibly well-rounded speaker’s bureau during their conference.  What does this mean?  Well, it means that participants hear from all types of librarians in myriad circumstances as a matter of course each year.  This is as it should be.  Our membership is a broad spectrum of persons in a variety of library and economic circumstances. What perhaps I am suggesting is that what makes the ARSL conference well-rounded are the speakers that represent the locale and, in this case, the State of Tennessee.

Examples of speakers–consultants, former ALA President, local author and columnist, a park ranger (representing the Smoky National Park), an officer from the Public Safety Coalition (how to stay safe when dealing with the public), a representative from the National Rural Assembly, speaker from the University of Tennessee MLA Rural Scholarships, and someone to speak about customers service and the importance of libraries to ecomonic development from the Department of Economic and Community Development.  A beautifully coordinated set of speakers that, I believe, leaves participants with a snapshot of life in another part of our country and history.

What makes conferences special and memorable are several things, including the quality of speakers.  Learning more about our profession, how to exact positive change, to communicate better, best practices, or even how to be a better librarian is priceless.  The experience of the library-related information, hearing the ideas, meeting new colleagues, and gathering innovations relevant and retrofitted to your own mission, priorities, and community are a few significant things.  Doing so, in a small way perhaps, builds our tolerance for diversity.

We learn information about a place, meet the librarians that live and work here, interact with local people, hear dialects, eat traditional foods, hear the stories, probe the local lore, and see the landscape that strongly imprints on our memories. All of this contributes to a greater understanding for our colleagues and their sense of place and brings us closer as professionals scattered throughout every corner of the country with our renewed understanding.

Greetings from Gatlinburg

Welcome to our new blog site, new website and new logo! It’s as if we have turned over a new leaf, and we are so glad to include you in the Grand Opening.  As we go through the next few weeks, we will be glad of your comments, suggestions and ideas. 

As for my blogs, I believe they will focus very much on programming, networking and partnering with local organizations to allow libraries to continue to reach their communities even with budget cuts at every turn.  I hope to share the great ideas gathered from this year’s conference.  I look forward to hearing from you as to the great ideas you have found in your piece of “God’s acre.” 

Greetings from Gatlinburg!


Welcome Readers & Ideas

It is exponentially good news that ARSL bloggers can communicate better than ever with members and constituents on the new ARSL website!  It is my pleasure and honor to participate.  Please be patient as our developers and project managers train us to use the site to maximize its usefulness.

As a reader, you can expect to find news that is relevant to librarians in small and rural communities, resources to assist your daily endeavors for best library practices, and other content that we believe you as members find interesting and useful.   Moreover, your ideas are valued and this blog is the ideal venue for an exchange of ideas, to make us feel connected regardless of our geography, and to build a rural community that exemplifies the best networking and finest of librarianship.  Future posts will contain interesting photos, links, and information.

For now, it’s off to the 2009 Conference in Gatlinburg, TN where we’ll learn together, exchange ideas, and at last get to meet in person.

Yours very truly,


VP/Pres Elect

New ARSL Board Members

Our membership has spoken!  Newly elected ARSL Board members are as follows

  • Dwight McInvaill & Jim Connor
  • Larry Grieco and Becky Heil were reappointed and Sonja Plummer-Morgan, elected VP/Pres Elect

Who are they?

Dwight McInvaill, Director, Georgetown County Library, Georgetown, SC

James D. Connor, MBA, IOM, Hastings, Nebraska

Becky Heil, Director, Dubuque County Library System, Farley, Iowa

Larry Grieco, Director, Gilpin County Public Library, Black Hawk, Colorado

Sonja Plummer-Morgan, Director Mark & Emily Turner Memorial Library in Presque Isle, Maine

Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote.  Your voice matters and you as members are extremely valuable.  Our membership is at the forefront of all planning, decisions, and discussions.

The American Library Association Annual Conference

American Library Association logo

The American Library Association

I was invited to attend a pre-conference a few weeks ago during the American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago. It was sponsored by the Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) Committee on Library Services to an Aging Population and they wanted, not me in particular, but someone from ARSL to attend.