As a first time attendee of the ARSL Conference, my initial impression when arriving at the conference venue was appreciation for the sheer number of attendees. As rural and small library professionals, we rarely have the chance to meet and I was excited to take full advantage of the opportunities this gathering provided. ARSL is all about empowering small and rural libraries, and creating connections for professionals at the forefront serving their communities.
My connections began before I ever reached Vermont when I met a group of ARSL attendees in the airport (those t-shirts turned out to be handy!) and got a jumpstart on meeting library folk from far and wide. One thing I very much appreciated about this conference was the ample opportunity to meet lots of people and ask LOTS of questions. Working in insulated or semi-isolated environments, sometimes many miles from anyone with a similar situation, meant attendees were ready, willing, and excited to make use of the knowledge, experience, and resources surrounding us. Each day the breakout sessions, small table meet-ups, meals, and vendor conversations turned out to be engaging and useful. It doesn’t hurt that these interactions are also a good reminder of the great things available, “filling the cup” of passion and motivation.
There were practical pieces of advice I felt confident I could bring home and make use of almost immediately, as well as things to apply toward long-term goals. My library is currently undergoing transitions in staff and in the discussion of a new location. One of my takeaways for immediate consideration was about retrofitting the current space to better suit the evolving work libraries are doing, helping our buildings to better suit existing needs. I also hope to share more from this and other sessions as we ponder a new home for our library. Other inspiring talks involved developing initiatives for community advocacy, sustainability, and the major missions for libraries going forward.
If you were not able to attend the keynote session on Saturday with Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, I highly recommend looking up her work. She got me fired up about the role libraries have in advancing sustainability and connection in communities! Libraries are uniquely positioned in our society to advance social cohesion, speaking to the local needs of communities across the U.S. One of my favorite things to tell patrons is that, when they step into a public library, they are not a consumer, they are a citizen. We have the unique chance to be flexible and adaptable in our public service, creating some exciting opportunities for those in the library profession. Meeting so many people who do this work every day was a great reminder of all we can accomplish and how those accomplishments can propel others on their own adventures.