Scholarship Report: James Hill – ARSL Conference 2018

Event: Association of Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) Conference — Springfield, IL — September 13-15, 2018

Attendee: James Hill – Library Director, Zumbrota Public Library

How does attending this event relate to your current role in your library?

This conference was particularly relevant in presenting administrative issues at smaller libraries.  This was a chance to get more targeted presentations towards smaller libraries.  Normally, I find some presentations at larger library conferences (ALA, MLA, PLA) a bit less relevant because often topics revolve around institutions that have much higher funding streams and are often department specific instead of generalized for smaller libraries.  As a library director of a small library, I was able to get information that is more useful to what I am able to do in my current position.  It was great being able to speak to other library directors facing the same demographic and funding challenges that I do, as well as listen to presentations from library directors around the country with similar service populations to my own.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

My favorite session that I attended was titled, “How Relevant is Your Library”.  The session revolved around developing a culture of “yes” at a public library in Eagle, ID.  The library’s director presented this session and talked about the changes he made to transform his library into a community hub.  In particular, he talked of his experiences developing ways to listen to community input about what the residents wanted to happen at their library, and how he stressed to his library staff that saying “no” should be the exception and not the rule.  I took away a number of great ideas from this session and am already working on implementing several ideas presented.  I have not traditionally been a fan of non-traditional circulation materials, such as cake pans, but I really feel like this presentation made me think more about how a library of things is a good idea.  I really liked the idea behind trying not to say no to ideas brought forth by the community since it is, after all, a resource for those residents and meeting their collective needs.

What’s one (1) idea that you gained from the event that you plan to implement now that you’re back?

I plan on implementing more data visualization techniques in my data reports.  One of the sessions I attended was really informative about bringing annual report data in a more appealing manner.  Every year, I present what is essentially raw data tables to my board and after attending this session I got a better idea of how to actually present the data using more informative, colorful graphs and images.