Making Library Conferences Better for Small Libraries

I am very fortunate that I am able to take my employees with me to our OLC Chapter Conference every year. It is always a great day to gather new information, network with other librarians, and get out of the library together as a group. We usually take two cars full of people, and it’s interesting to listen to the conversations on the way home.

There is always a common sentiment after spending the day getting new ideas: the presenter/presentation was great, but I don’t see us being able to do that in our small library. I do not hear this from only employees. I have sat with fellow directors during presentations and when mention of cost or staffing comes up, you can usually see the small library directors look at one another and make the same expression that says “Yeah, right!”

There is no mistake the OLC Conferences we are attend are some of the most valuable experiences in our careers. We learn from one another and we always come back to our libraries with new ideas, more confidence, and renewed friendships. We wish to see more sessions with the “small library” focus.

Apparently we are not alone in our feelings. Here is some feedback from this year’s Chapter Conference in our area:

  • Some would not apply to smaller libraries, but great ideas.
  • Could you make the presentation more applicable for small libraries?
  • From a small library standpoint, it was not worth it.

And when asked for topics attendees would like to see in the future, there were numerous votes for small library information.

We are all doing great things in our libraries. Even if we feel as though we are only doing our job, we are doing our job really well. You can help make the Chapter Conferences better for attendees from small libraries.

  • Reflect on what you currently do. What good ideas do you have? What good things do you do?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What programs at your library have had positive feedback?

If you were able to think of answers to these questions then you can help contribute to your Chapter Conference. As a disclaimer, I am not on a Chapter Conference Action Council; I am not soliciting anyone to contribute. I simply know we are all doing great things, and there is no reason why we cannot take part in conference presentations.

There are a few ways you can help. Perhaps you have great ideas, but you do not like to speak in front of a crowd. That is okay. You can contact anyone on your Action Council to give them your idea. You can also contact any of us on the Small Library Division. If you do not want to present then we can go with your idea and look for those who could present on the topic. You could also suggest your topic and let us know that you would be willing to contribute, but you do not want to speak. Naturally, the final option would be for you to actually give the presentation yourself. Bonus: You attend the conference free of charge if you are a presenter.

Two years ago I gave a gentle nudge to employees wanting to see more for small libraries. Two employees got together and made the decision to present their programming/outreach ideas at the 2015 Conference. It has been one year, and they both get excited to talk about the experience. I asked them to sum up the experience in one word. One said it was “exhilarating” and the other said it was “exciting.” I attended the session; the room was packed and more chairs had to be brought in. They also received very positive feedback because they were reaching out with ideas that were feasible for a small library. The best part is they were able to present on a topic that was exciting to them. Their love for what they do was shown in their presentation.

We love attending the Chapter Conferences and Conventions. We love hearing ideas from all sizes of libraries. We hear you when you say you need more sessions for small libraries. If you have an idea for a conference session, or you are excited about what you do in your own library, you can help make the conference even better than it already is.

Betsy Eggers, Director
Napoleon Public Library

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