What a joy to recently attend my first Association for Rural & Small Libraries Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. With the theme of “Celebrate Libraries!”, the tone was set for a learning and sharing experience for nearly 400 who attended, including 215 “newbies” like me. Also of note, several state libraries awarded grants to library staff to cover registration and travel expenses. This was a celebration in itself for grant recipients, many of whom felt that the value of their library work was reconfirmed by this state level financial support.
The general consensus of participants regarding the value of the conference was overwhelmingly positive. No complaints heard; how refreshing! First-timers resolved to attend the 2013 in Iowa because what they gleaned this year was so hands on and focused; many remarked that they could utilize session content immediately upon returning home. Many ARSL “veteran” attendees stated that they try to participate every year, when possible.
In addition to four top-notch keynote speakers, including Susan Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Service, the scheduling by ARSL planners allowed me to attend eight workshops. A college professor presented tips during “Celebrate a Successful Family Literacy Event”. “Surviving (and Thriving) During Challenging Times” reminded us to continue to focus on our individual community’s needs, then look at what we can stop, so we can plan to start new programs or services. The “DIY After School Programs (for K-5th)” presenter handed us a terrific list of book titles, craft ideas, and other resources to use with this age group. A Louisiana speaker showed awesome photos during his “Razzle Dazzle em: the Glitz, Glam and Gusto of Material Displays”. “Signature Events for Small Libraries” highlighted ways to raise funds and make friends. The remainder of the workshops were also helpful.