So, I just attended my first big, professional librarian conference! The Colorado Association of Libraries holds a yearly conference event for library professionals in the state of Colorado. This year the event kicked off on Thursday evening and goes through this Saturday. There were lots of vendors hawking their wares: books, circulation systems, self checkouts, you name it. I got lots of business cards, handed out lots of business cards.
I understand how important these types of things can be for networking with other professionals, but honestly I got more out of the breakout sessions. Each session was an hour long, and presented by library professionals from all over the state. I attended three sessions on Friday and all were inspirational and thought-provoking in their own way. First, I attended a session about an outdoor learning adventure program sponsored by the public library in Mancos, Colorado. I've always wanted to incorporate outdoor activity with learning. This type of program would be for those "tween" kids (oh how I hate that term!) from around 9-12 years of age. Mancos had the benefit of being a teensy tiny town with only one library, one school, etc. Not to mention that their library is right beside a river and lots of open outdoor space. While applying this type of program to an urban environment could be rather challenging, I'm all about encouraging a kid-centered community in the outdoors. Here in Colorado Springs we are always in view of the mountain range, but a lot of the urban space is concrete and pavement. Without the economic means to get to the mountains a lot of children are robbed of the incredible experiences they could be having in our natural playground. We may have to tweak the program a bit to meet our location's needs, but the foundations of community, citizenship and leadership can easily remain. A lot of their ideas were so wonderful: Putting up bird feeders in the winter, walking to the same area each time to watch how things change with the seasons, putting out bird seed in patterns, making art out of natural found materials, flying Frustrationless Kites! This is a program in the making!
The next breakout session was about using technology more in regular library programming and staff development. Our library district is pretty tech savvy and usually on the forefront of the library technology trends, i.e. Ereaders, Playways, downloadable audiobooks, so we are already doing things like virtual all staff meetings. But this session did make me think about how we could incorporate the use of some of the library's technological offerings to teach patrons about them. One idea I've been playing with is in regards to our Summer Reading Program. We usually have a bonus round, where kids read more in order to enter their names for different raffle prizes. For 2012 it might be fun to have the bonus round be a little more interactive and task oriented: Listen to one book or story in audio format; Play a game from the KidsWeb; answer bonus questions... I am still thinking about it but I think it could be a great way to get patrons to use some of our other resources!
The final session examined self-assessment and tools for assessing ourselves at our jobs. Two librarians from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Tabatha Farney and Beth Kumar, have created a guide for self-assessment of library work. It can be found here: http://libguides.uccs.edu/selfassessment.
I'm looking forward to playing around with the tools found on the website, as this is an area that I often overlook but is actually really important. By assessing our performance we not only justify our place, but we continually acknowledge what we are doing and how successful we are at it. This isn't meant to be a self-criticism but merely a holistic view of how we spend our time- and how we might spend it more effectively.
All in all, a success! To learn more about CAL, go here: http://www.cal-webs.org/. My only gripe was that there were very few sessions related to children's services, and apparently that is because for some reason or another the members on the committee didn't think it was important? Hopefully such a grave oversight isn't repeated next year. The 2012 conference is in Keystone...so if next year's ski season is anything like this year's I'll be able to ski too!