Hope to see you in Denver, Colorado

Join us in Denver for the 2010 Annual Conference

The Association for Rural & Small Libraries 


The Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services

are pleased to announce that registrations are now open for their

2010 Joint Conference

Magic in the Mile High City!

to be held in Denver, Colorado at the

Crowne Plaza Hotel

October 14-16, 2010

 There are some interesting, educational and exciting plans for this year’s conference. 

The Keynote Speaker for Thursday’s Opening Session will be Dr Loriene Roy, past President of ALA.  For the Closing Session on Saturday morning, Pat Wagner from Pattern Research will address the group.  Both individuals are well known and respected speakers in the library world. 

In addition, local author and radio personality Dom Testa will speak at an Friday Author’s Lunch.  A Wednesday night Welcome Mixer is planned to allow you to meet old friends and make some new ones.  There will be dine-arounds on Thursday evening and a Magic Show on Friday night.  A time to visit bookmobiles, stop by the vendor tables as well as to reconnect with friends and associates from across the county will be included in this year’s schedule. Workshop selection is being finalized and workshop titles will be announced in a few weeks. Some of the topics for this year’s workshops include gaming in the library, using outreach programs for children and teens, ethics, library advocacy, and managing change. 

 Early Bird member’s rate for conference registration is $200.   (good through 8/29/2010)

 Three exciting pre-conferences are planned as well. 

All are scheduled for Wednesday, October 13, 2010 

Dealing with a Runaway Board will offer real world solutions for those who are having difficulty managing boards, directors or other library personnel who are out of control.  A panel of experts will work with attendees to develop solutions for your situation. 

 10 Things You Should Know Before Disaster Strikes will take you step by step through disaster preparedness; what you need, who you should call and how to organize now, before a disaster hits your library.  This workshop includes a hands-on salvage workshop for restoring damaged library materials.

 Think Outside the Box is a 1/2 day tour of the two newest libraries in the Anything Library System.  LEED Certified and completely Deweyless, these two new libraries offer an opportunity for you to see a different kind of library.  Meet with the architect, talk to the directors and tour the facilities.  Transpiration to and from the libraries is included.


The Crown Plaza Hotel - Denver Airport - is situated just outside lovely Denver, Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.  Minutes from the Denver International Airport, the hotel offers a lovely lobby area, a restaurant with a wide variety of meals, an exercise room, business center and swimming pool.  All the rooms for the conference will have free internet access and the conference room rate is only $99 per night (single or double occupancy).  This rate is good for 3 days before and after the conference, so plan an extra day and do some sightseeing. The hotel also will provide a free shuttle service to and from the Denver Airport.  Be sure to ask about it when you register (303-371-9494). 

Conference registration information and an online conference brochure can be found at the following link:  

 To register, please stop by the Conference Registration and Exhibitor website –

 If you have any questions regarding the upcoming conference – please  send email to

I really hope to see you there!

Library Olympians

Well the Vancouver Olympics have begun, with medals being given to those who are the fastest, the strongest, the best at what they do.  I would, however, suggest that small and rural libraries have been involved in a Library Olympic competition of our own.  Here are a few of the events that we see daily.


We have the Short Track Circulation Desk Relay Competition where staff strive to serve customers and check in items while not running into each other or tripping over the carts of items stored behind the desk.

There is also the Reference Desk Bi-athalon, an entertaining sport that requires the participants to do any two skills from the following at the same time: answering reference questions, offering reading suggestions, solving computer problems, fixing a stuck printer, explain why we can’t do your taxes for you or fielding phone calls.  Points are given for style, smile, customer satisfaction and being able to discern what the customer wants versus what they actually asked.

 If you like team sports then you should watch the infamous Downhill Weather SuperG which pits an entire library staff and their movie collection against the fury of Mother Nature in full winter mode.

and here is an Olympic quote for the week -

“The important thing in life is not to triumph but to compete.”

- Pierre de Coubertin (French Educator, primarily responsible for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1894)

Keep Competing!


The Librarian’s Christmas Tree

Librarian's Christmas Tree

Librarian's Christmas Tree

This whole library tree idea has been floating around for some time.  We found a few examples on the Internet.  In fact, our Main Branch in Exton, PA created a similar tree in the local mall, which is where we got the idea.  We did  tweak it a bit for our lobby – here are some instructions:

Start with some books – actually, start with lots of books.  We used adult non-fiction books because they are all of similar size (height, depth and width).  Most of the books we used were donated titles.  We selected them for their cover colors (red, green, white, gold).  For once – it was good to judge a book by its cover.

Lay out your first row – placing the books end to end in a gentle circle.  Each layer needs to be made of books that are the same depth so your tree does not tilt to one side. the next row should be staggered – like laying bricks.  For the third row, we chose to make that layer of books open – this added a Pine Tree feel.  You don’t have to do this – but if you do, you need to make sure the open books are also about the same height. For every 2 or 3 rows, the book in the back will have to be turned 90 degrees so that the rows begin to get every so much smaller as the tree goes up.  Don’t rush this – it seems to happen on its own.

After approx 12 rows, we place a set of boards across the tree to tie the sides together.  We used old wood shelves, but any strong board or even heavy duty cardboard would do.

We placed a second set of boards under the first vertical row of books.  This row has 2 titles with the spine out and then one with the pages out. The “backward” book is fanned open to help support the rows above it.

After some additional horizonal books, we used a round piece of cardboard and some old VHS cases for the second set of vertical titles.  Then topped the tree with small Books on Tape cases and a bow.

The whole tree is just under 6 feet tall.  We forgot to count the items used – but best guess is around 250. We put the restraints around it because the tree’s exsistance created a need in people both young and old to see if they might be able to pull one book from the tree – sort of a monsterous Janga puzzle.  It has received numerous comments and we are already wondering how we can top this next year.

Happy New Year!

Feeling like you are a Mile High

Earlier this month I was privileged to spend 3 days in Denver.  I can say that the air is dry, the mountains are stunning and the folks at the Crowne Plaza are warm and welcoming and are looking forward to seeing you all next October.

Denver is the site for the 2010 Joint Conference for ARSL (that’s us) and ABOS (Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services).  It’s been a few years since we held a joint conference with our sister organization, but we are already hard at work, planning the upcoming conference.

Mark you calendars now- that’s right, set aside what you are doing while you browse this blog, get out your calendar, blackberry, Iphone or that scrap of paper you use to note dates and write this down – October 14 – 16, 2010.

Just a few previews – to help you decide to join us.

The location is the very lovely Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Denver International Airport.  The hotel and conference center has a wonderful, open lobby, well lit conference facilities and warm, comfortable guest rooms.  Speaking of rooms, the daily conference rate for the hotel is $99 (plus tax) per person per night and is available 3 days before and after the conference, in case you want to stay and explore Denver a little more.  You can begin making your hotel reservations now – just make sure you mention the Library Conference when you call.  A link for online reservations will be on our website soon.

We can let you know that two of the keynote speakers are Dr. Lorraine Roy, past president of ALA; and Pat Wagner, from Pattern Research.  We are very excited to have these leaders in the library world as part of the activities.

The Conference Committee is hard at work preparing an exciting, interesting, fun-filled yet educational conference.  We plan to begin accepting proposals for workshops beginning in February, so watch for that notice.

We are also hard at work organizing 2 preconference workshops, a welcome mixer and dine arounds, small evening excursions, an author lunch, a magic show and other fun events so you can chat with old friends, make new ones and enjoy the Denver Area.

So make your plans to join us in Denver for

“Magic in the Mile High City!” 

October 14 – 16, 2010

The Library Routes Project & Rural Librarians

Library_Sign in PIIn October 2009, three information professionals began a project called, The Library Routes Project.  The Project is designed for library and information professionals of all kinds to tell their story;  how they got into librarianship, the deciding factors, and the wending routes leading them to their current career.  I’ll write a little about the project, why I think rural librarians and Library Routes belong together, and tell my story.  A link to this blog will appear on the Project list.  If you decide to contribute, please let us know.

The purpose, as stated by the creators, is a collection of stories that is interesting information, but also a potential tool for people just entering the profession.  Already, there is a long list of librarian names, where they work, and a link to their stories.  To see more about the project, go here:

I write about it here on the ARSL blog to urge my colleagues in rural & small libraries to also contribute.  Many poignant stories I’ve heard and read during ARSL conferences and  journeys to visit rural and small librarians are stories worth telling and preserving.  It stems, perhaps, from a belief that rural and small library staff voices are not only interesting, but crucial to the sustainability of the library profession.

Often, we emphasize telling our library and community story, which is, no arguments, important, but the stories of the people are a shadowy epic untold.  The Library Routes Project, combined with the voices and stories of rural librarians is a sensible union.  With the creation and contributions to Library Routes, an opportunity to tell your story is brilliantly presented.

My story in brief…

I was a new mom raising three small children and situated in Northern Maine with a rocky marriage, sees an add in the paper for an assistant children’s librarian a block away from my apartment.  I applied, but with a high school education only and no library experience, I wasn’t even interviewed.  I was crushed.  My heart said, this is where you belong and I knew that I’d do my very best.  I wanted the job because I knew that I enjoyed solving mysteries, I was passionate about reading something and passing it along, and I loved people.

Weeks went by and the phone rang.  It was the children’s librarian.  The original candidates  selected had quit, the original interviewees no longer interested. I’m leaving out the fact that I had chicken pox when they called and implored them on the phone that I’d be cleared for work soon and to please hold the position.  I was in. Not the most glamorous of circumstances, but it was a gift from the library goddesses and I made the most of the offer.  I stayed for five years, took classes online to fulfill a BS in Library Science, and then I wanted management.  I knew that I wanted to make a larger impact on the profession.  I still love people and believe that their access to information is paramount–not a perk, but paramount to their quality of life.

With a smattering of library courses and library experience I’d come a ways but needed more if management was the goal.  I wanted to be the best librarian possible.  I started to look all over the country for management jobs.  We had friends that moved to Moab, Utah and there was an assistant library directorship open.  Never imagining that I’d get it, we visited the area and it seemed like paradise (and it is),  I applied for the job and got it.  Within a few months, the library director moved on and I became the interim library director and subsequently hired for that position.

Life has a way of throwing rocks in a road and my divorce was a boulder.  I stayed as long as I could in Moab and loved every minute, but the fibers of my life were unraveling and now a single mom struggling to find daycare, still going to school to finish a bachelors, in the high desert (for a northern Mainer, this is the purist of culture shocks) without family and I knew I had to regroup with family nearby.  There’s a digression about desert hairy scorpions taking residence in the walls, roof, and inside my condo at the time too but I’ll spare that revolting epic for another time.

If there is a turning point in this story, it is now.  This fork in the road was hard.  What is important to note is that, however, by now, I’d built relationships with people who served as friends, mentors, colleagues, and acquaintances.  The network of persons were former professors, long time friends, new friends, work mates, community members and patrons.  It is the network of persons that let me make the decisions, but offered help and guidance along the way.  If you have room in your belief system for one more belief, make it this:  your network of people and relationships propel you forward in your career in tandem with your own dogged determination.

Packed up the kids, returned to Maine and worked in a school library.  It was a professional culture shock, going from public library to the structure of a school library but I learned a great deal about the dynamics of school librarianship.  Finished my Bachelor’s in library science and continued to look for a position in management.

My hometown, Presque Isle, within a couple of years needed a librarian.  It never occurred to me that I’d return to my hometown and a circuitous route never my plan.  However, my heart pounded hard at the opportunity to return to where my library career began and to contribute what I’d learned along my journey.  I was hired.  That was nearly 6 years ago.  With a full scholarship to the University of South Carolina, I graduated with a Master’s degree in library and information science with an emphasis in rural librarianship offered by Clarion University.

I was fortunate to be chosen for a scholarship to go to the Association for Rural & Small Libraries conference in Columbus, Ohio and met rural librarians from across the country and Canada.  What I learned there was enormous but nothing was as clear to me as the desire to serve and become friends with rural librarians and communities.  I’ve now attended the ARSL conference three years in a row.

Honored to be current president of the Maine Library Association and VP/Pres Elect for ARSL and still work in a rural library and spend a great deal of time speaking at conferences and teaching people the value of mitigating rural isolation and reaching out to one another to determine where our missions intersect and what challenges and solutions can be exchanged irrespective of ones geographic location.

There are still boulders that intrude and the route to librarianship hard at times.  At the most difficult times, I returned to that brief list of why I set out on that path and the answers were always the same–solving mysteries, sharing books, loving people.  There wasn’t a boulder big enough to change that, really.

Not sure whether the next route is winding, rocky, smooth, uphill or down, but I’m looking forward to the people that I meet along the way and the ride.  What’s your story?  I really want to see it on Library Routes.

Serving Older Adults Part 2

This is the second blog on the ALA RUSA Pre-Conference:  A Dialogue with the Aging Network and the Library Community, July 2009

Barbara Mates, author of 5-Star programming and Services for Your 55+ Library Customers and Adaptive Technology for the Internet, had a lot to say about providing services to older adults.  The most effective changes you can make to your library to improve services are:

  • make sure you have good lighting in your building (eliminate glare at service desks and make sure light in stacks is adequate);
  • have wheels available (wheelchair, walker with a basket, or electric cart);
  • keep the aisles clear;
  • provide multiple formats of materials;
  • make sure computers are accessible (use a large font on the screen and oversized keyboards and trackballs);  and
  • provide reachers, magnifiers, a listening device and CCTV.

arbara brought one of the new digital players from the National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  The new players take a new digital cassette and will also be able to use downloaded books from NLS.  If you’re not familiar with the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped’s programs, check them out here:

She also talked about a universally accessible audio player, the Victor Reader Stream DAISY.  It plays the NLS downloadable books and can also be used with Overdrive downloadable books.  When you think of how small the controls of ipods and mp3 players are, you really appreciate the DAISY controls.

Lastly, Barbara suggested making sure library staff are trained to serve older adults.  Programming should be appropriate for this age group.  It should be stimulating and encourage interaction.  She suggests book talks, book discussion groups, and programs on the following topics:  gaming, reminiscing, health care, investing and financial planning, sports, fashion, cooking, music appreciation, movies, wills and trusts, life planning and computer skills.

She mentioned one library that was partnering with a group in England on an online book discussion (I think they used OPAL).  They also emailed each other.

For more ideas, check out her book.  Next time, I’ll talk about the SCEP program.

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.