Monday, September 30, 2013

ARSL Conference 2013

 “Empowering Small Libraries”
Omaha, NE 9/26/13-9/28/13

Day Three Highlights
Finishing the conference this morning, I attended “The Future is Now” presented by Andrea Berstler, director of the Wicomico Public Library System. She challenged us to spend time now to prepare for the future of our libraries.  Instead of thinking outside the box, what if there was no box? There is no box. There are no rules. We need to think beyond the limitations we perceive- they are only limitations in our minds. I was especially inspired and empowered by this quote:

 “Yes, I think it's okay to abandon the big, established, stuck tribe. It's okay to say to them, "You're not going where I need to go, and there's no way I'm going to persuade all of you to follow me. So rather than standing here watching the opportunities fade away, I'm heading off. I'm betting some of you, the best of you, will follow me.”
― Seth GodinTribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Ms. Berstler and I will be presenting more about ARSL and more about the sessions I attended at next year’s MLA/DLA conference. If you are interested in learning more about ARSL, please email me at or visit

Marilyn Pontius

ARSL Conference 2013

  “Empowering Small Libraries”
Omaha, NE 9/26/13-9/28/13

I forgot to mention this in yesterday's entry, but it is so timely for the conference:

“This report is a must read for policymakers who are concerned about the health and vitality of rural America. Whether the issue is education, economic development, or access to broadband, small and rural libraries are important communications hubs for people in small towns and rural locations.”

Susan H. Hildreth, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Press Releases Use of Small and Rural Libraries Grows in the Digital

Day Two Highlights

This morning’s General Session keynote speaker was author Joe Starita, the Nebraska author of “I am a man”. An investigative reporter by trade, now a journalism professor, Mr. Starita presented a moving, compelling argument for the need of humanity for good stories. The story of Chief Standing Bear and the need to bury his son in his ancestral home unfolded as one of universal appeal, a story of injustice and injustice culminating in recognition of human needs and rights. Chief Standing Bear and his tribe was driven from his ancestral home in Nebraska to the new Oklahoma Indian Territory. One third of the tribe died within the first year of malaria, including his teenage son. On his death bed, the son made his father promise to bury him with his ancestors.  The Chief returned to Nebraska with his son’s remains, only to be arrested. During his trial, the Indian-hating federal judge was compelled to declare American Indians were, in fact, human beings. Wow. A powerful and moving story, told in a powerful and moving way. Of course, I bought the book.

The first session I attended this morning was “Excel at Rearranging Your Library”, presented by Chris Rippel from the Central Kansas Library System in Great Bend, KS.  Libraries can l learn much from the retail sales models for store arrangement, putting the most popular items at the back of the store, and creating obvious paths leading past other items to get to the most popular. He presented two free tools he has created to help with collection management and floor arrangement, both using our old friend Excel.  The Collection Manager is a spreadsheet template that allows you to look at your collection objectively, using ILS reports. By manipulating collection numbers, circulation numbers, and new items added, you can quickly see where you need to weed and where you need to add more items. The Shelf Shuffler is an Excel template which you customized to your library’s floor plan. After the initial setup and creation of furniture/shelve objects, it is simple to create different floor plans to maximize circulation. Among the many tips offered, I thought placing castors on chairs was brilliant, allowing the chairs to be left in the stacks for patrons to use while browsing lower shelves. They can easily be moved to accommodate wheel chair access. But most of our library patrons are not in wheel chairs, but have difficulty standing and kneeling. I know this would be greatly appreciated by many of our patrons.

The luncheon speaker was another author, Craig Johnson, the creator of the Longmire novels. I had never heard of the Longmire novels, nor the Longmire TV series based on these novels-modern day westerns, following Walt Longmire, the sheriff of a fictitious Wyoming county. Boy, did I feel out of it! Apparently, this is one of the most popular book series and TV series throughout the US. Mr. Johnson is by far the most entertaining speaker I have ever heard. He spoke of his real life inspiration for the books, which he picks up from local newspapers, the real life Wyoming sheriff who is his reality checker, and the many close Native American friends that help him create the complex characters of his series. Excellent speaker. And as an added bonus, by chance I sat next to Terri Farley, the author of the children’s Phantom Stallion series. Her advocacy for wild horses is genuine, and she encouraged me to hand out her book marks to her fans. I have extra book marks if anyone would like some. She loves hearing from the children.

The afternoon sessions I attended were “Innovation on a Shoestring” and “Super Hero Leadership”. “Innovation on a Shoestring”, presented by Christa Burns (Nebraska Library Commission) and Louise Alcorn (West Des Moines  Public Library, Iowa) presented several free applications libraries are using to keep up with online technologies. Some I was familiar with (Pinterest, Wordpress. QR codes), but using Skype, Animote, and Zoho Chat were new. “Super Hero Leadership”, presented by Lisa Lewis, director of the Huachuca City Library, Arizona, was a fun reminder of what it takes to lead your staff in serving the community. Comparing librarians to Spiderman, Superman, Batman, and Captain America, Ms. Lewis reminded us of those qualities necessary to serve our communities.