Conferences, Edge Initiative, OCLC, Rural and Small Libraries

ALA Midwinter Love Letter to Libraries

By Jennifer | January 27th, 2012 | Comment?

Perhaps it was the initial threat of cancellation that made my ALA Midwinter experience so endearing. Regardless, it brought about a renewed love for libraries and for all the amazing work of librarians, ALA members and staff, and for the organizations that support and sustain that work. Wearing more “hats” than ever, I traveled through the conference with others committed to showcasing and sustaining rural libraries, public access technology, workforce development efforts, youth literature, and equity of access for all! The weekend was a poignant reminder of just how grateful I am to be in a profession committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to public resources and services. I’m sending this conference report/love letter out to all who share this commitment, but especially to those of you who were back at your libraries doing the great work you do so well!

Directly from the airport, I joined attendees at the OCLC Americas Regional Council Symposium unfortunately too late to hear keynote Sara Lacy (recordings now available for all speakers at symposium) but glad to have heard OCLC’s Cathy De Rosa, share a preview of librarian perception data collected in a recent OCLC Membership Survey (See Public Libraries Snapshot of the data). Thanks to Jamie LaRue for highlighting from his notes some of the very interesting librarian perspectives on their library priorities, how they stay connected, and where they think OCLC should focus efforts. With WebJunction webinars near and dear to my heart, I was particularly pleased to see confirmation of my gut feeling that library staff are more often using webinars to stay up to date and to connect with others. Of the public library responses, 43% of library directors, 50% of managers, and 52% of librarians use webinars to support their ongoing learning and development. We’ll be sure to let you know when the full results of the survey are released.

Day two began with a visit to the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) Advisory Committee meeting. I was very excited to hear from other committees that work with the OLOS office and especially looking forward to the upcoming release of a new toolkit focused on adult literacy. I also learned about an ALA grant project with Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the American Dream Starts @ your Library project, which has enabled libraries around the country to develop and implement programs engaging English language learners in their communities.

Later that morning, I led the ALA Rural, Native, and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds Committee (RNTLOAK) meeting where we shared an update on the distribution and promotion of the recently updated Small but Powerful Toolkit for Winning Support for your Rural Library revised in collaboration with OLOS, RNTLOAK and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL). If you haven’t yet explored the toolkit and want to learn more, check out last month’s webinar. We also talked about our committee’s ALA Annual plans and are very excited to be co-sponsoring two programs in Anaheim with OLOS, ARSL and the American Indian Library Association (AILA). The two programs will explore Advocacy and Fundraising for your Rural or Tribal Library and Building and Sustaining Strategic Plans and Partnerships in your Rural or Tribal Community. And thank you to Stephen Matthews, our committee’s ALA Executive Board Liaison, for sharing the opportunity made available by Annual Conference planners for attendees to present or facilitate outside of traditional program presentations. Learn more and submit a proposal for a Conversation Starter or Ignite Session before February 19.

Following a lovely Saturday lunch with Texas librarians (at Cindi’s Deli, where I ate lunch on Sunday too! mmm), I attended a forum and group discussion on the Edge Initiative, a national effort to introduce benchmarks for high quality public access technology in libraries. The session included a “sneak peek” at a draft of the benchmarks and some insightful and engaged table discussions. Thanks to PLA’s Mary Hirsch and TechSoup’s Sarah Washburn who both provide a summary of their table’s discussions. WebJunction’s Kendra Morgan shared a bit about our involvement in the initiative in December and we’ll keep you posted on next steps!

Project Compass staff wrapped up the day with a state library focus group to share year-two outcomes of Project Compass and to get input on one final event we’re planning for the spring: a national convening of librarians focused on responding to economic impact on communities, supporting 21st century skills development and building sustainable partnerships. We’ll have more details very soon!

The OCLC Update Breakfast was, as always, very informative, even to this OCLC staffer! I just have to share one cool project from the OCLC Research folks, the WorldCat Identities Network, a new way to visually explore the interconnectivity and relationships between WorldCat Identities.

The climax of my love letter comes with Sunday afternoon’s Small but Powerful Forum, which brought together a small but powerful group of attendees representing state libraries, regional trainers, rural librarians, and my good friends from TechSoup for Libraries, to hear from Dr. Robert Martin about UNT’s powerful PEARL project, Tina Hager about her powerful Texas rural library collaborations with community partners and more on the Small but Powerful Toolkit for Winning Support for your Rural Library. But if you know me at all, you know the table discussions, world cafe-style, are always my favorite part of a conference. The all-too-short time to brainstorm the “core qualities of rural leadership” was a good start, but we’ll have to keep the conversation alive!

Early Monday morning, I felt honored to be invited to join in the great Midwinter tradition, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at this year’s Sunrise Celebration, Honoring a Legacy that Still Inspires. On behalf of RNTLOAK and ARSL, I was invited to join many other association, committee and round table leadership in a presentation of quotes from King’s legacy, inspirational speakers, and always my favorite, some singing! I touched base with folks who are co-chairing this fall’s 2012 Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC) in Kansas City. I attended the first ever JCLC conference in Dallas, and similar to the ARSL conference, it is an intimate but powerful gathering, with a focus on exploring issues of diversity in libraries.

And since I was up at that hour, I was lucky enough to attend the Youth Media Awards, the “Oscars” of libraryland. You may not know that I came to libraries as a children’s bookseller with my first ever library job as a children’s services substitute. It was a real treat to sit amongst the thousands of youth librarians gathered for the exciting event, knowing they’ve probably read most all of the books and have already done the work of getting the outstanding books into the hands of readers. You can watch the webcast of the event or videos of the winning authors and illustrators. I have enormous respect for all who bring these works of literary and visual art into being and for the committees who award them the recognition they deserve.

I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures this time round, but I do recommend browsing the ALAMW12 pool on Flickr to catch a glimpse of the love in the air.

As Louie Schwartzberg says, “we protect what we fall in love with” and so, may we continue to protect what we love, including our libraries.

In love,

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