As an ARSL scholarship recipient, I had the opportunity to go to the 2010 Annual Conference in Denver, which I can say, without a doubt, was the most useful, relevant, professional conference I have ever attended. I serve as a consultant librarian at North Country Library System in Watertown, New York. We are a cooperative library system of 65 member libraries, all separate entities governed by their own boards of trustees. The largest library in our system serves a community of roughly 27,000; the smallest, 121. More than half of our libraries have annual operating budgets of less than $50,000; fifteen have budgets of less than $25,000. We have some of the poorest libraries in the State and everyone works very hard with limited resources. It was so exciting to be in a place with others around the country who understand my work environment and programs tailored to meet the needs of the smaller, rural library.
My primary areas of interest are education (of both staff and trustees), adult reference service, advocacy, marketing and customer service. There were program sessions aimed at all of my interests. I arrived in Denver early to participate in the pre-conference program, “Dealing with Runaway Boards.” The workshop was helpful to me on so many levels. What was most eye-opening to me that day was to see how states are set up so differently in terms of how their libraries and systems are structured. I found it really fascinating and I look forward to learning more about that in the future.
Every program session I attended was interesting and I learned so much from each presenter. One thing I really appreciated was that most of the programs were offered at multiple times. That way, if there was more than one session of interest taking place at one time, it was okay, because I could attend one and catch the other at another time. I managed to go to all of the workshops that were a priority for me. I heard so much new information and I have a list of web sites I wasn’t familiar with that I need to check out. I was reminded of many things I already knew, but that need occasional reinforcement. One thing that sticks out in my mind is that “change is difficult, but can be exhilarating.” Thank you, Lisa Lewis!
What really struck me while I was in Denver was how stories play such a great role in illustrating who we are, what we do, why we’re important. In fact, in one program session on the use of stories in an advocacy initiative, I clearly remember presenter, James LaRue, saying, “We are not in the book business. We are in the story telling business.” That one simple idea has given me so much to think about, not only in terms of advocacy, but in how I go about doing much of what I do.
While at the conference, I heard all kinds of stories… funny, sweet, touching, inspiring, disturbing and even one that was downright chilling and creepy. Since returning from Denver, I’ve been sharing these stories with co-workers, staff at member libraries, friends, family, pretty much everybody. The New York Library Association Annual Conference begins next week. This year’s theme is “The Library: YOUR story starts here.” How fitting that is. I will be sharing some of stories I heard in Denver. Many of them resonated with me and I hope they will with others as well.
I put my conference experience to work immediately… literally. As soon as activities ended on Saturday afternoon, I was back in my hotel room tweaking a customer service workshop I was preparing to present the following Tuesday. I was able to add information, stories, examples, even a video clip from various ARSL program sessions.
For me, the most enjoyable part of the experience was meeting so many people truly making a difference and adding value to their communities. It was so nice to be among such dedicated, library people. While I arrived in Denver alone, I never once felt lonely or out of place. Everybody was so friendly and welcoming. It was so easy to connect with others. I never had to worry about having a lunch or dinner partner. There was always a new friend available. I felt right at home.
To anyone considering attending the ARSL Annual Conference next year, I highly recommend it. It left me feeling recharged and with renewed enthusiasm for my work. I really can’t say enough about this conference.
To all who made my experience possible, I will use a new word learned in Denver thanks to Dr. Loriene Roy… Megwitch! I hope to make it to Frisco, Texas in 2011!
Joan E. Pellikka