This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was a wonderful experience both professionally and personally.
There were some great speakers for general sessions and individual break out groups. I came home with my head swimming and a better understanding of why I many times feel overwhelmed in a technological and fast paced world.
Large group presentations included topics of customer service, community leadership, online services and long range planning with a few fun subjects such as Tennessee talk and the pack horse librarians of Kentucky.
A valuable small group session was on safety including how to evaluate a building. Another encompassed ideas on taking children's services out into the community. Web 2.0, Leading Edge Internet Services and an impressive session called Gaming in Libraries left me feeling technology challenged but I am excited about possibilities. My favorite was Wonder Woman Syndrome -- Coping with Burnout. It was good to laugh with others (including some guys) and recognize the risk factors, causes and symptoms of burnout.
It was fun to talk to librarians from across the country. One woman I spent time with runs a small branch of a county system near Tucson and is balancing the needs of wealthy retirees with those of impoverished children. I rode in a taxi with a man in charge of an extensive rural county system north of San Francisco. He and others from California talked about horrendous budget cuts and fears for future library service in that state. I also had a chance to visit with a lady from Louisiana whose parish library was flattened by Hurricane Katrina. This is only a small sample of the people I encountered.
An added bonus was spending the weekend with long time colleagues from Hawarden, Spencer, and Milford. Our discussions ran a gamut from budget concerns to patron problems. We got a kick out of the fuss made about Dewey, the Spencer Library's cat, and felt a little fame by association. After all, we had all petted him at some time or another.
Throw in a few trolley rides up and down the mountain, a luau at an incredible aquarium, a short tour of a small part of Smoky National Park, dinner outdoors by a burbling creek, an awesome view from the hotel window and it adds up to a marvelous weekend. I thank the Library Board for allowing me to attend the conference and look forward to sharing and implementing the things I learned from it.