Friday, November 6, 2009

Recharging one's professional soul

I haven't been to an ALA conference since Anaheim 2008 and was going through major Conference Withdrawal, so I decided it was high time I attended my state conference - it's been quite a few years since my last one. The California Library Association held its conference in Pasadena last weekend, and although it was of course very slim compared to ALA, there were plenty of thought-provoking programs.

The best thing about conferences is that I never know what nuggets of inspiration I'll take away from them. During a program on San Diego Public Library's online homework services, that system's collaboration with local schools spurred me to fill my notepad with thoughts on how my own system could improve our outreach and partnership with schools. A program on effective training programs brought home the fact that our system, as a whole, has no training program or budget - is there anything I can do to bring about some needed improvement in this area? A program on El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros, and especially how it is celebrated in California, made me realize what a perfect match this would be for Los Angeles libraries. And two programs on self-evaluation and assessment reinforced my belief in the urgent need to build evaluation (probably in the form of outcome measurements) into every program and service we offer.

The last program I attended was called 21 Ideas for 21st Century Libraries, offered by a husband-and-wife consulting team. Kim Bolan Cullin, as a trained librarian, understands both the traditions and needs of libraries and their communities and from there makes inspiring leaps into what libraries could and should become. Some ideas are obvious, some are happening now, and some are deliciously full of potential. In her blog The Indie Librarian, Kim presents these ideas and more. I particularly like idea #3 - "multi-functional, zoned children's spaces" and #16 - "the demise of big service desks." And #12 - "people policies" which favors putting the customer first rather than arbitrarily making rules that focus on the word NO - is long overdue.
I won't be attending ALA midwinter (I'm not on a committee, darn it!), but PLA's conference in March 2010 should be amazing, and I'll be there with an open and eager mind.

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