“Size does not matter. Quality matters” (Susan Hill Pieper)
As an introduction to the revised edition of the popular “Small But Powerful Guide to Winning Big Support for Your Rural Library,” this one-hour webinar was indeed “Small But Powerful.” It packed a punch of great insights and ideas that will help small libraries stay strong, relevant, and vital to the communities they serve.
Jennifer Peterson, community manager at WebJunction, ARSL board member and chair of ALA Rural, Native, and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds Committee, kicked it off with suggestions for “amplifying the value” of libraries every day and everywhere through the use of technology tools and data resources. Reach beyond the library walls with cool tools like digital frame slide shows, social “satellite” sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), library calculators, and videos of non-library people expressing what they value about the library.
Susan Hill Pieper, director of the Paulding County Carnegie Library (OH), shifted the presentation into high gear with her no-nonsense advice and first-hand experiences that have built a community of patrons who “cannot imagine life without the public library” and will rally enthusiastically to support it. Counseling that “your library must show excellent service consistently” in order to garner ardent support, Susan discussed a host of strategies and tips for sustaining a “modern library”—no matter how small—and for broadcasting its value loud and clear. She urges libraries to be willing and ready to adopt new technologies but to examine them for relevance and meaning to each community. The audience appreciated her example of scrutinizing “self check-out” for its detraction from the one-on-one interactions that may be the soul of the rural community library.
Marci Merola, director of the ALA Office for Library Advocacy, wrapped up the session with a quick tour of the substantial aggregation of resources that ALA has amassed on behalf of library advocacy efforts. Their Advocacy University is a potent collection to get you amplifying your library’s value on multiple fronts.
This is just an appetizer for the full meal of possibilities. Go to the webinar archive page for:
[The following excerpts from the reports of three more participants in the Project Compass workshop before the ARSL conference affirm the power of the curriculum and the collaborative exchange of knowledge among rural library representatives.]
From Pamela Thompson, Director, Mason County Library System (WV):
As I attended the Project Compass workshop, I had mixed feelings about what our small library system could do in helping unemployed and small business entrepreneurship. With limited budgets I thought we were doing all we could to help our community. Unemployment rate is high in our county. After a half day in the Project Compass workshop I was wondering why we haven’t done more!! The ideas I brought back to Mason County were affordable and helpful to our community. I have already implemented various ideas at the libraries. I also realized that we are not alone in this “Not enough funding, what more can we do.” As I participated and listened to all the people we met, I realized that we all in rural libraries face the same problems, whether it be West Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Arizona, or wherever a rural library is located. By the time the day was over, I was more excited about returning to work to start sharing ideas and implementing programs in our system. After talking to the other WV libraries in our group, they felt the same way.
On returning to Mason County, I immediately came up with a game plan and talked to staff about what we intended to accomplish. In a week’s time we have two libraries with couponing stations, a couponing group in two libraries. Also will be attending County and Town meetings more often, allowing patrons to fax resumes free of charge, allowing patrons to print resumes free of charge and we will be starting a Computers 101 class twice a month at each library to help patrons get an email address, learn how to print resumes, or whatever the need is.
Thank you for the scholarship to allow us to attend an awesome workshop!!
From Hope Wilson, Fremont Public Library (IN):
The pre-conference workshop was inspiring and refreshingly well-organized. I had visited the Project Compass website before attending (before I was even aware of the conference) and had downloaded the Project Compass workbook for myself and the other two librarians on staff. The workbook is so resourceful that it can be a bit overwhelming. We were unsure as to where, when, how to begin.
Attending the workshop gave me the big picture. I now see that the resources are there when/if needed; for example, I don’t have to visit all the links in the manual before proceeding, because proceeding today is the important thing. I was able to return to my library and put some small things in practice immediately. Now, we offer free resume faxes and have purchased a new bulletin board just for local entrepreneurs. We can revisit the resources as we progress.
This workshop came at a great time for me as an administrator. We just added an online, self-paced computer training program and are asking the staff to improve their computer skills. Project Compass reiterated the need for them, as employees, to keep enhancing their own job skills.
I appreciated the positive, encouraging approach of the PC workshop. During my brief staff meeting I found that my employees felt good about what they are already offering and felt validated that their work is indeed a service in ways not considered before. For example, I don’t think that they thought of gardening programs as a help to the un/underemployed. Yet they well might be. This is not to say that the staff does not realize how much more we can do. They are looking forward to seeing the library meet the goals they suggested at our staff meeting.
The PC workshop was so beautifully organized and offered such great discussion ideas that I found it easy to pull out an hour’s worth for my staff. Next month I’ll be attending a six-county consortium where I’ll present a short summary to other directors. And next month we’ll have another staff meeting to measure our progress on Project Compass goals.
From Joan Pellikka, Outreach Services Coordinator, North Country Library System (NY):
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. The ARSL conference offers programs tailored to meet the specific needs of the smaller, rural library presented by people who clearly understand that work environment.
My first day in Frisco, I attended the Project Compass workshop, which left me with a more focused direction for collecting and presenting workforce development resources on the NCLS web site. From there, my goal is to offer training for member library staff, who in turn will share these resources with the public. More importantly, I gleaned bits of information that will stay with me for a long time. The following quote was probably the most important thing I saw and heard at the conference:
Lifelong learning is not an option anymore; it’s a necessity. SMART is the new RICH.
~Bernie Trilling, 21st Century Skills
One librarian pointed out that this statement clearly illustrates the value of libraries at all times, not just in times of recession. Her comment, along with the quote, struck me very powerfully. Also during Project Compass, we viewed the video, Did You Know 3.0, which provided statistics that were, for me, eye opening. I am working on integrating both the quote and the video into advocacy efforts for our member libraries.
In the same session, we were reminded that it is so important to not make assumptions about job seekers. Highly skilled professionals such as physicians and pilots are finding themselves in situations where they must learn to assess their abilities and market them in another industry. We must be flexible and prepared to assist everyone with varying levels of expertise.
You may say I’m a biased ARSL board member, but after attending my third Annual Association for Rural and Small Libraries Conference, I stand by my word that this is the best library conference around. Every moment I was awake, I was inspired, motivated and entertained by 300+ of the most amazing librarians in the country. The conference program was packed with sessions filled with practical and actionable ideas for staff working in rural and small libraries. Our WebJunction table in the exhibits area provided us with an opportunity to connect with folks excited about WebJunction. And the many meals and hallway conversations let me reconnect with some of my favorite people in libraryland. As others have said, the conference feels like a small town, with potential conversations, or certainly warm hello, around every corner. [Picture above: So pleased to spend time with my fellow JP, Jennifer Pearson of Geek the Library fame!]
But don’t take my word for it! Guest bloggers have been posting to BlogJunction this week with their ARSL experiences and with reflections on attending the Project Compass workshop held just before the conference. Nearly 50 librarians from around the country gathered for the workshop that Betha and I had the pleasure of facilitating. As we worked through the Project Compass curriculum, attendees worked together to create a new list, Ideas for Workforce Recovery from Small but Mighty Libraries. Jami Carter, from the Tooele City Public Library in Utah, shares how the workshop provided her with terms, ideas, and collaborations to affirm and expand the work their library does to serve the community:
And be sure to explore all the other great conference coverage out there:
Thank you to conference planners, presenters, and participants for yet another fantastic ARSL conference. I hope to see some of you again next year in Raleigh, North Carolina!
[Susie Sharp from the New Rockford Public Library, ND, also participated in the Project Compass Workforce Recovery workshop before the ARSL conference. She shares how much the experience connected her with others serving small and rural communities who share the same challenges and provided an opportunity to exchange solutions.]
I had the honor to receive a scholarship from WebJunction to attend the Association for Rural and Small Libraries Conference in Frisco, Texas, and what I found was a wonderful community of rural and small librarians facing the same challenges we do, no matter where in the country they’re located. One of my favorite quotes from the conference was by Pat Tuohy of the Central Texas Library System who acknowledged and applauded rural librarians’ ability to “run a small, underfunded, shoestring operation that can take a dime and squeeze it to a dollar because they know how important library services are to a community and how powerful they are in changing lives.”
The Project Compass workshop put on by WebJunction was so enlightening and gave me some great ideas of how better to help my job-seeking patrons. I have already contacted some other organizations in my community to create a comprehensive community resources guide to help job seekers and new members of our community. It was such a great opportunity to discuss these challenges with other librarians and to hear new ideas and solutions to similar challenges we all face.
The conference itself was a great one! Gene & Bill from Unshelved put on a great program and Gene gave me some great ideas on how to start a graphic novel collection at my library and took the time to email me a selection of his favorite graphic novels [see list shared on ARSL along with other conference handouts]. Also all the program ideas I was able to come away from this conference with were invaluable. I am ready to start planning some of these no and low cost programs right away! The Reel Reads program was very helpful because it dealt with having an event about books to movies even when you can’t afford to buy the movie license but can still have a program celebrating books to movies. Joe Bob Briggs put on a really fun program too!
What I came away with from this conference was a great sense of community. ARSL is an association that immediately made me feel at home and able to network with other small & rural librarians from around the country. It is a great opportunity and I am proud to spread the word about it. [See also a short video of Susie's presentation about ARSL and her experience at the recent North Dakota Library Association Confernece.]
New Rockford Public Library, North Dakota
[Jamie Matczak, from the Nicolet Federated Library System, Green Bay, WI, participated in the Project Compass Workforce Recovery workshop before the ARSL conference. The patron story that Jamie relates took place shortly after the conference and reflected a key message of the workshop training—to help patrons uncover their skills and learn new ones.]
I work for a library system, so I don’t get a lot of interaction with patrons. I do volunteer (when I can) for my neighborhood library, usually helping patrons with using the internet or laptop basics.
On Tuesday, I helped a woman named Rita. She is a retired widow, age 75. She had never used a computer or the internet before, but she wanted some part-time work at the local Kwik Trip. When she went to the job fair at Kwik Trip, they gave her a newspaper clipping with a web address and told her to apply online. She told them she didn’t know how to use a computer, and the Kwik Trip folks told her to “go to the library. They will help you.”
She was very nervous and quiet. Because of a medical condition, her hands shake. She kept apologizing for this, and I said, “no problem, let’s work on your application.” She did not have an email address, so I set up a gmail account for her. Her work experience prior to retiring was working for our Norbertine Center in town, which we also call The Abbey. She was a cook for 20 years. Most days she would cook and clean for 40 priests/fathers, two meals a day. On weekends, she would cook for up to 100 of them, and sometimes she only had one other person helping her.
We started working on her application. I had never worked with someone who had zero computer experience, so this was new for me, too. Because she had never used a computer and did not have familiarity with the keyboard, I did all the typing. We probably would’ve been there for hours if I had let her, so in the interest of time, she dictated and I typed. I told her that we could set up separate sessions for going over email, the mouse, computer basics, etc. We worked through the application. Rita was never late for work in the 20 years she worked at the center. She had a clean record and was willing to work any hours.
When we got to the section of “other skills,” she said she didn’t have any. Then she said, “Well, my husband and I did own a restaurant, but that was 20 years ago.”
I said, “how long did you own this restaurant.”
“About 30 years,” she said.
“Rita!” I said. “You owned your own business? Did you supervise? Manage? Do payroll? Those are all great, valid skills!” She confirmed that she did all of that, without a computer of course, but she still knows those things.
It took us close to an hour to finish, which is how long my sessions usually run. We we finished, she started getting out her wallet and asked what I charge. I told her nothing. This was something I do as a volunteer, and it’s what libraries are all about. Then she asked if she could give me a tip! I laughed and said “no.” She had tears in her eyes and said “thank you” about 20 times. I told her she could let the staff know when she wanted to meet again, and I would help her with other things.
I started tearing up on my walk home. It was definitely one of those “ah ha!” moments for me. It made me grateful for the skills I had and happy that I could help someone else.
I really hope I can help her more, and it would be awesome if she got this job. :)
[BlogJunction will be host to a number of guest posts in the coming weeks by scholarship recipients who attended the Project Compass Workshop and ARSL conference in Frisco, Texas. Thank you to Anita Simpson, Library Assistant at the Mohave County Library, Lake Havasu City Branch, AZ for her guest blog post!]
I attended my first ARSL Conference 2011 in Frisco, Texas. I was extremely excited with the energy of the entire conference. Everyone that attended was happy to be there, openly friendly, and helpful. The Project Compass Workshop was very rewarding and I came away form the workshop excited, ready to get started planning for the future. The knowledge and resources provided are going to be instrumental in setting up our One Stop at our library. All three days of the conference were exciting and informational. The opening keynote put on by the Unshelved guys Gene and Bill, was a personal favorite [see video of the Unshelved Library Simulator!]. Our staff are big fans, so it was special to meet them personally. All the programs I attended were informational and interesting. It was fun to exchange ideas and learn about all the online resources available for staff and patrons. I want to thank WebJunction and IMLS for their generosity. I truly enjoyed myself and have made several new friends.
Mohave County Library, Lake Havasu City Branch, AZ
Still reeling from the 2010 joint ARSL/ABOS conference doings and very excited to report with some session followup. I was joined by these fine folks below, to present twice, our session on Libraries and Workforce Recovery. I wanted to showcase a couple excellent resources mentioned during the presentations as well as encourage you to take a look at our session page on WebJunction.
Kathleen Rainwater, Business Librarian in the Arapahoe Library District, shared how her library is using free web tools made available by the U.S. Department of Labor on CareerOneStop.org to support their patrons. Attendees were very excited to hear that she’s created and made available on WebJunction, a comparison of subscription based job tools and these free, federally hosted sites. She also explained the “Book a librarian” service they provide to patrons who need a bit more time than can be provided during regular reference desk shifts. Their library also provides instruction to patrons on how to search the hidden job market and how to leverage social tools in their job searching. She concluded with some of the tools and databases they use to support small business development in their communities.
Jackie Kuusinen, Associate Reference Librarian at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs presented on how her library hosted a volunteer-staffed resume writing workshop. And she’s kindly recorded her presentation to share with all who are looking for shoestring strategies to address job-seeker’s needs. Thank you, Jackie! In addition to the video, Jackie has shared the emails she used in recruiting and preparing her volunteers for the workshops.
And in true WebJunction collaborative form, the ARSL session attendees provide their own suggestions and examples of libraries responding to their patrons’ workforce development needs. We collected their responses to these questions and have posted the full list of responses here.
And as Shelley Walchak, from the Colorado State Library, shared in our session wrap-up, this conversation continues! WebJunction wants to hear more about the work you do in your community to support job-seekers! All are welcome to contribute, to learn, and to share in the growing Workforce Resources collection on WebJunction.
Last week, the joint conference of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) and the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Librarians (ABOS) was held in Denver. More than 450 attendees from around the country made the trip to participate and hear from a great a group of presenters. The conference was kicked off by Andrea Berstler, Conference Planning Chair, sharing some responses that came through the ARSL listserv last year in response to the statement, “You know you’re a rural librarian when….”. The list brought claps and laughter from the audience and a lot of head nodding in agreement. So how exactly do you know you are a rural librarian? Here is the top 13 list:
13. Your library has a hitchin’ post.
12. You need to leave early to take your kids and their livestock to the 4-H weigh in.
11. Your bookmobile has had to wait for a flock of sheep to clear the road
10. You stop at yard sales to buy movies for the library.
9. A perfectly good excuse for being late to work is “there’s a skunk on my porch and I can’t get out”.
8. The only time you lock your car is in the summer, so that people won’t leave bags of squash in it.
7. FEMA requests that the bookmobile notify people in low-lying areas they need to evacuate within 24 hours.
6. You can correctly identify the farm implements you see on the road & the owners.
5. Patrons use your car as a bookdrop, within a 60 mile radius of the library.
4. There are two seasons: Hunting and Fishing.
3. Automotive repair manuals are filed under “landscaping”.
2. A patron wants to trade a dozen eggs or a freshly baked pie in lieu of paying a fine.
1. A patron has to pay for books he accidentally shot trying to shoot the possum he noticed in his living room.
Do you see yourself anywhere in this list?
WebJunction had a table at the conference to talk about our services and projects like and the response was great. So many people stopped by just to say thank you! We heard about how much they appreciate the webinars, the free resources, the online courses and the community that continues to grow each day. This is work that we are all really proud of, and we know that it couldn’t be done without the amazing community of library staff that make up our membership.
Since part of the conference also focused on bookmobile and outreach services, Colorado libraries from around the state brought their bookmobiles out for show and tell – the parking lot was an impressive sight:
Thanks to everyone who stopped in to visit our table and for attending the WebJunction presentations at the conference. This was clearly a dedicated, hard working and enthusiastic group of professionals and we hope to see even more people next year!
In September of 2007, the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) was a new organization. Having just separated from Clarion University because of the impending retirement of Professor Bernard Vavrek, and the university’s subsequent decision to discontinue the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship, ARSL’s 12-member board was meeting that fall for the first time. According to Patty Hector, 2008-2009 ARSL board president, “We were fairly overwhelmed by the massive amount of activity that needed to be addressed and decisions that needed to be made in a very short period of time.”
About this same time, WebJunction approached ARSL with the offer to use follow-on funding from the Gates Foundation’s Rural Sustainability Project. The idea was to support ARSL’s website on WebJunction.org, and make WebJunction tools available to the ARSL board at no charge. The board accepted the offer of support as they helped the association get off the ground. Since then, ARSL has been using the webjunction.org/arsl page as their primary home page, along with ARSL BCR pages that allow memberships and conference registrations to happen as a link to that page.
I’ve worked closely with the team who managed our Rural Library Sustainability project since its inception, and served on ARSL’s board as an ex-officio member since February. In my time with ARSL’s board I’ve had a unique opportunity to observe an exciting time in the history of their organization’s development. Every member of the ARSL board has made great strides in developing an organization that’s truly poised and responsive to the rural and small library members they serve. It has been a great pleasure to get to know the ARSL board members and to be a small part of this work.
Two years later, ARSL is no longer a new organization. They have many things well-established now and are looking to step out into new directions. One of their areas of focus over the coming year is to look for ways to define their unique identity, and to be more responsive to their members. One way they plan to do this is to launch an all new, independent website. The vision for this site is that it be a dynamic space that captures ARSL’s personality and mission in a way that is appealing and relevant their members. Elements of this website, including the new ARSL logo, were unveiled at their annual conference this weekend.
Please visit their new website at http://www.arsl.info.
We are very excited about this development for ARSL and look forward to seeing the new site evolve. We also look forward to finding new ways to partner with ARSL in the coming year, as we each strive towards a common mission of working together to meet the needs in small and rural libraries. Co-sponsoring webinar programs is one idea, but there are so many other possibilities.
WebJunction will continue our focus on public access computing support for rural and small libraries. We’ll publish our Rural Update with news and announcements of special interest to those working in small and rural libraries. We’ll also keep you posted when we have rural-focused programs, webinars, or new content posted to the site. WebJunction will remain a great resource for people to find and connect with one another to support whatever you’re working on in your library. If you have ideas for topics, programs, or other things you might need, as always, please let us know.
Listen up, trustees! It’s time to get serious about showing your library’s value to your community. A rocky economy means fierce competition for tax dollars from the police, Public Works and others.
Make sure local officials help, not hinder, your library. Where to start? With ARSL’s first-ever two-part webinar, Library Value: What’s YOUR score? On October 9, find why you need “TWO goal posts: Library and community.”
Veteran trustees Jim Connor and Ellen Miller will join PJ to “tell it like it is” to get your dream team. Audience participation includes rating your relations with city/county officials, Q&A and a webinar evaluation.
On November 13, log in for the ARSL webinar’s second part, “How they see us: Bulls-eye or fringe?” Topics will include:
Tip: Bring a power bar to these fast-paced sessions! To join the ARSL webinars visit us at: http://www.webjunction.org/rural-webinars
Coinciding with National Talk Like a Pirate Day, Joan Frye Williams kept the opening session rolling by encouraging the 280 attendees here to practice their best “Ahoy”, “Avast”, and “Aye”. One example of the laid-back, easy feel this conference always seems to deliver. Day one in Sacramento was full of tips, tricks, laughs, and fun. The presenters have shared their hand-outs and presentations with everyone, and they are available on the ARSL site. So if you’re not here with us, pull some of those slide decks and follow along at home.
A theme running through the first day’s sessions is to meet your members and guests where they are…go with their strengths and experiences. Williams told folks to emphasize their mainstream convenience (“Librarians are the only one’s who like searching. Everyone else likes finding.”), and stop thinking of them as clients and patrons (See: aforementioned members and guests). Bill Harmer stressed the importance of thinking like an entrepreneur, and getting out there. His mantra: “Don’t ask permission.” Just be passionate and connect with your community. Try new things. A senior “lock-in”, and a free monopoly tournament for seniors are two of the many examples he gave of connecting with that important segment. His slides give recipes for many of the successful programs that made Chelsea District Library the Best Small Library in America.
Finding a place at the table for everyone in your community is really the key task of those who work in libraries. Williams told folks: “Allow others to work at the top of their game rather than trying to prove you are at the top of yours.” That’s what everyone here is working on: How can I better serve my youth, my seniors, my tech savvy, etc. Which really comes down to leadership. Leaders don’t need to have the world know they are at the top of their game. They just act it. They succeed when those around them succeed.