Scholarship Report: LaVonne Beach – ARSL Conference 2018

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

Attendee: LaVonne Beach – Director, La Crescent Public Library

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

Attending this conference is a way to learn what other library’s are doing on small or nonexistent budgets.  It is always interesting to see how others are making their library’s be the focal point in their communities.  The break out sessions are relevant to what I/we do on a daily basis or what we strive to do.  The committee that puts together the break out sessions reviews the topics to be sure that they are something that rural and small librarians can use.  The topics ranged from programming, fund-raising, making your library relevant to your community, human resources, physical arrangement of your library and everyone’s favorite statistics.  One of the great things about this conference is the breakfast and lunch sessions.  I always try to sit with a different group every time.  The conversations around the table are normally about what sessions we attended and what we learned.  It is not only a great way to connect with other librarians but to get the executive summary on the sessions you didn’t attend.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

I had two sessions that stand out more than the others although I will say that all but one of the sessions were extraordinary!  “Attracting the Elusive Teen” was a favorite.  They outlined what they feel teens need: a safe place; a place to hangout; free WiFi; privacy/respect; direction in relation to future plans; a friend/place to belong.  What teens want from the library: technology that they do not have at home; a study space.  To build teen services we need to make them feel welcome and build the relationships with the teens that are currently coming in.  Go to where the teens are to attract the ones that are not coming in to the library.  For one of the presenters that meant going to the local Quick Mart and connecting with the teens there.  Build your base with the tweens and change your expectations.  Eavesdrop to find out what teens are talking about and what is important to them.  Try different program names like: Bad A$$ Crafts, Hipster Crafts or DIY Crafts.  “So Bad it’s Good Movie Night” with heckling encouraged.  Give them marshmallows or cotton balls to throw at the screen.  Make it interactive.  I loved when one of the presenters said that we want teens “running in to the library not running out”.  Another favorite was “30 Ways to Extraordinary”.  This focused more on staffing, which seemed to be a thread at the conference.

What was your biggest takeaway from the event as a whole?

We focus so much on the patrons that it is easy to forget that we need to also focus on staff.  In the session “Low Cost/No Cost Ways to Reward Your Staff” I was reminded that in the craziness of our work days it is easy to overlook how over-worked and stressed the employees are.  We as directors need to show our employees that they are appreciated and valued.

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

I have more than one, of course!  1) Giving the staff that filled in for me so I was able to go some extra time off – with pay. I want them to know that the extra effort was appreciated and so are they.  2) In terms of making our library extraordinary — * Pay attention to the entrance of the library making sure it is safe, clean and attractive;  * Make sure our signage is consistent and contains all of the information (like if something is out of order when it will be fixed);  * Make sure the circulation desk is clean and uncluttered (if possible);  * Scent – people will stay 30% longer if a place smells nice;  * Implement a printed monthly newsletter.

Would you recommend this event to others and why?

I would definitely recommend ARSL to all directors.  Even the one session that I had trouble relating to gave me a few ideas that I could apply to my own library.  That session was on rearranging the physical layout of the library presented by the director of the Perry Public Library in Ohio.  They have a staff of 17.1 and a building where my library would fit in the space that they have their books.  They also had the support of the Ohio State Library to conduct a study on usability and flow and see it through to the end.  To my knowledge we do not get that type of support from the Minnesota State Library Services or SELCO.  Would be nice if we did.