Scholarship Report: Lezlea Dahlke – ARSL Conference 2018

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

Attendee: Lezlea Dahlke – Director, Winona Public Library

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

Several of the sessions I attended were in direct correlation to current trends or projects we’ve been working on, big or small: building diversity and social capital, improving library signage, serving underserved or homeless populations, designing a strategic plan.  It was timely to inspire new ideas and have a lot of questions/concerns answered.  I am always in awe of the big things small libraries are making happen for their communities, on shoestring budgets.

What was your favorite session you attended and why?

The standout session I attended was “Your Library within Your Community” by Gavin Woltjer, the Director of Billings Public Library.  It focused on identifying the community’s needs–who do we serve?  How would they describe us…and does it make you happy?  How are we a voice within our community and is it passive or proactive in building goodwill?  He talked about how people have a bond of affection around their libraries and our leadership philosophy should match that: we are the host and patrons are our guest.  We want warm fuzzies when they think of us.  Craft a narrative that gives a heartbeat so people can believe in our mission.  Identify the 3-4 things we do really well and build on that to grow a cooperative spirit and use staff talents.  Libraries can always do better at transparency–how we get our message out and how people know about us.  Be adaptable–know what season we are in and be preparing for the next season, ability to change with the world.  “Serving Underserved” by the Director of Trinidad CO Public Library had some succinct takeaways: The most important service we offer is that we are welcoming.  Listen w/o judgement and help as much as you can to humanize connections.  Going fine-free gives people grace…don’t make them choose between belly hunger and hunger of the imagination.  I also enjoyed the “Library Signage” session with Curtis Rogers from SC State Library Services–do a sign audit on your building…good for a laugh!

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

I really enjoyed the networking at mealtimes: breaking bread with folks from Washington State, Alaska, North Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas.  It was great to hear how (mostly) alike we are in service populations and to also hear lots of other sessions summarized and brainstormed around the table, as there were many great options on the agenda.  Biggest takeaways: new ideas on growth mindset and how to build human capital, challenges vs. opportunities, how important it is to also be part of the community we serve and to be the third place–where people want to be if they aren’t at work or home.