Think Tank 101

By Amanda Bennett, Director
Ada Public Library

For many of us attending larger conferences, like the Ohio Library Council’s Expo or the American Library Association Annual Conference, isn’t always an option—tight budgets and limited staffing lead the list of reasons why. Yet our profession calls us to stay abreast of the latest trends, the most timely issues facing e-books, self-checkouts, and who know can keep track of what all else.
So, how can stay connected with your professional peers and trends within the profession?
HOST YOUR OWN CONFERENCE! Many other librarians are learning the benefits of start-up conferences or “think tanks.” (I have been fortunate enough to attend the Take Five Conference—what a group!)
• When deciding on whom to include it is easier to narrow down your group when you have a theme/topic for your conference, i.e.
“Genealogy & the Small Library,”
“ Summer Reading 2015 on a budget,”
“Adult Programs that draw a crowd”
• Now that you have a topic, who will your speakers be? Consider co-hosting the event with other impassioned peers who are bursting to share everything they know about dynamic children’s programs, or what’s hot with teens! Ask local “experts,” someone from the county genealogical society for your program on genealogy; a guest speaker from the local craft store who might have some great ideas for Adult programs. If you want to have a looser forum of sorts, ask for agenda items when you send out the email, and encourage folks to come prepared to share something on the topic.
• Who to invite? You know your library space best, and how many folks would fit comfortably, which helps you set the number of people to invite; think of other librarians in your county, region, or consortium.
• Request RSVPs from attendees (this is especially important when setting up your meeting space, or ordering lunch).
• If your meeting is running through the lunch hour, warn people to bring $ for lunch at a local restaurant or tell folks to brown bag their lunches—hey, we’re all on budgets!
• Follow up: send out a thank you to all for attending, consider including any helpful follow-up notes; encourage attendees to “reply to all,” with any helpful hints or tips which they gleaned from the meeting. Remind people to respond with the contact information for that great entertainer that such-and-such-library hosted last summer!
And as always, if you can’t make it to things, reach out to online communities, who can provide you a forum for advice and ideas; on Facebook alone I have recently discovered and joined
ALA Think Tank
Storytime Underground
Teen Librarians
Teen Think Tank

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