Monday, November 14, 2011

Nuggets of Nourishment

The annual California Library Association conference was that happy mixture of inspiration, ideas and relaxation.  Unlike ALA, there is no staggering about in a foot-sore, exhausted daze; the exhibits are a manageable size and there are only 2 days of workshops and sessions, with another day of institutes tossed in.

Sometimes conference workshops and speakers synch exactly with what I am doing at work, and there are multiple "Eureka!" moments that transform my thinking on one or several topics (early literacy, outreach, etc).

This didn't happen for me last weekend, but almost every event or session I attended either planted a kernel of an idea or nourished a sprout that has already taken root.  Here are a few:

 "Dream Big! CLA's 2012 Summer Reading Workshop"
Our children's and teen summer reading committees have already begun planning our 2012 club, and this workshop was full of great ideas for kids', teen, and adult programs - check them out here.

My take-away nugget -
  • Buttonhole Sarah Vantrease (easy, 'cause she's at LAPL) to talk about ways we might incorporate an altruistic element into our program - if not in 2012, then in 2013 for sure.  Kids reading to earn a grooming for shelter animals?  Now that is magic!

"The Future: Frankenbooks, Social Collaboration and Learning on Steroids"
No one could ever say that Stephen Abrams tiptoed around a subject, and thank goodness.  His talk on how to keep libraries relevant was both positive and heartening (books are not going away, they're just in a different format; librarians are more necessary than ever in this booming informational world) and a wake-up call (don't live in the past! get out there and show the world what our values and strengths are and why they're more relevant than ever).

My take-away nuggets-
  • It's librarians, not books, that need to be the branding for libraries.  
  • Libraries are about community, learning, and discovery.
  • We're good at teaching patrons how to frame questions and at showing them how to get at those how and why questions that Google sucks at answering
  • It's about engagement with our patrons - this is our strength
"Single Service Point, Multiple Models: The Market Place Concept in a New Economy"
Several different library systems (Pasadena, San Jose, Orange County) presented their experiments in offering patrons new models in terms of face-to-face service.  In most cases, this means offering one all-purpose information desk that can handle both reference questions and circulation questions (while also offering patrons more and better self-check machines).  Staff are cross-trained and empowered to answer many types of questions (support staff can do catalog searches; librarians can answer questions about fines).

My take-away nuggets:
  • Patrons don't divide their questions into two types (circ and ref); they just want answers.  Why bounce them from one desk to another?
  • Love the idea of empowering staff to do more.  We all know that it's the pages/MCs who get asked all the questions while putting books away
  • Librarians and clerks should get out from that desk and be out with the patrons, mingling and helping.  ENGAGE!
  • When librarians help at the front (and only) desk, they are meeting patrons they never met before - 'cause most patrons don't go to a reference desk.  They find their stuff, then check it out - no librarians required.
  • Love San Jose's lazy-S narrow info desks allowing "hip-to-hip" service to patrons that allows staff to show patrons how to do computer searches
  • Also love the "marketplace," which guides all patrons past face-out displays of popular (home and garden/cookbooks/etc) and new items.  Think browsing at a bookstore
"Play and Learn: Early literacy and Childhood Development"
Rancho Cucamonga Library shared how they created their cool museum-like "Play and Learn" stations, not just for their own branches but to lend out to other library systems - for free!

My take-away nugget:
  • Ever since I watched a webinar about Storyville, I've been mulling over a way to bring small-scale, portable versions of these "play stations" to our branches.  The Play and Learn stations are a bit bigger than I was thinking, but they are much closer to something that would actually work for us.  I can imagine how we might get funding to do a pilot in one of our Areas, so that 10 or 13 libraries might share 4 different types of learning stations, keeping each for 2 or 3 months.  A "market" station, a "kitchen" station, a "construction" station, a "dinosaur discovery" station, an "art" station... so many possibilities.
And I attended lots of other meetings and events as well (a New Vision for Summer in CA meeting, the CALTAC luncheon, the CA Young Reader Medal/Beatty banquet), plus I was a panel speaker for the program "Reaching out with your SRP: CLA's Outreach and Outcome-based Summer Reading Initiative."

Good stuff!  Can't wait for ALA Midwinter...

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