Small Libraries, Big Community

Jennifer Peterson /

Over 300 attendees were logged in during most of yesterday’s day-long online conference, Big Talk from Small Libraries. We are all fortunate that the 17 speakers made time to share how they have placed their libraries solidly at the center of their rural communities. From programming to outreach, services to advocacy, these innovative libraries are addressing the health, education, and well being of those they serve, forging unique partnerships and bringing lasting impact. Thank you so much to organizers and hosts, Michael Sauers, Laura Johnson, and Christa Burns of the Nebraska Library Commission and to co-sponsors IMLS and the Association for Rural & Small Libraries, who shared a nice introduction at the beginning of the conference.

Seven 50-minute sessions and a bonus lightning round with 5 additional mini presentations filled the day and saturated our minds. Many of the communities look the same and share the same challenges, but all provide distinct solutions to address ever-changing community needs. Thank you to all the producers and presenters for a fantastice online conference!

Session archives and handouts are now available on the Big Talk from Small Libraries website, and here is a short summary of all the presentations have to offer.

I’m Gonna Make You Famous: Raising Awareness and Building Community on a Three-Inch Screen

Bob Barringer of the Schultz-Holmes Memorial Library in Blissfield, Michigan introduced us to the Blissfield Reads series of videos which they post in conjunction with their Facebook marketing and outreach efforts. The first video, Blissfield Reads The Raven doubled the number of people who liked the library’s Facebook page within just 48 hours. Bob shared a step-by-step demonstration of the planning, recording, editing and marketing process for these videos which can cost little or nothing but time to produce.

A Community Working Together

Natalie Bazan of the Hopkins District Library in Michigan has, along with staff and strong community collaborators at schools, clubs, organizations and businesses, transformed the library from a fading building with old books and shushing librarians to a place full of life. A great example of a library at the center of its community.

Making the Most of Facebook and Blogging: How to Use Social Media Effectively in a Small Library

Two South Dakota libraries are using social media tools to effectively market the library and engage with their communities. Pam Wilson (Dorothee Pike Memorial Library) shared in detail the strategy her library is using to promote materials and services on their library's Facebook page. And Miranda Brumbaugh (Platte Public Library) detailed her library's strategy for the Platte Public Library Blog.

Reaching New Readers Through Writing

Amy K. Marshall, made famous by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation video about the Craig Public Library in Alaska, shared how to start a writers group at your library. "Let the community know your library is a cradle of creativity!" She shared details on a number of free resources they've used to support their community's writers groups.

NaNoWriMo and Student Publishing (for kids)
Write or die
I Write Like
Book Doctors

Manor Ink: Library-based, Youth-led News

Peggy Johansen of the Livingston Manor Free Library in New York shared the inspirational story of the founding of  Manor Ink, the library-based, youth-led newspaper, in print and online in February of 2012. The newspaper provides teens with employment skills while giving the community a local news source. Check out their Facebook page and this story from the Hudson Valley Magazine shared by the Community Reporting Alliance who supported the launch.

Yoga @ The Library

Rossella Tesch from the Chadron Public Library in Nebraska has been teaching yoga at her library since 2004! They've seen boosts in patron visits and there are attendees who have later become library volunteers.

Kitchen Creations at the Library

Lee Schauer from the Rock Springs Public Library in Wisconsin shared her library's twist on Makerspaces through the burgeoning Kitchen Creations program. Their food-based program has inspired the community to think about food in a whole new way. And thanks to the conference attendee who uncovered their Music Creation Station project!

A Destination Library on a Dime

Wendy Brunnemann and Libbi Sykora have implemented some innovative space planning at the tiny but powerful Wall Public Library in South Dakota. Upon clearing bookshelves, they discovered a fireplace, windows and even a back door and have created it anew as an open, welcoming community destination.

Oldies Night @ the Library

Bob Jones from the Milton-Freewater Public Library in Oregon has turned Oldies Night @ the Library into a community institution. And he can provide you with all the knowledge you need to start your own library's program.

Circulating Electronics: The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

Karen Lemke and Elizabeth von Tauffkirchen of the Pine River Library in Colorado, have been circulating laptops, eReaders, and mp3 players since 2008, and as a result have a wealth of knowledge to share about providing such a service.

Programming on a Shoestring Budget

David Mixdorf and Odessa Meyer from the South Sioux City Public Library in Nebraska provide around 1,500 programs a year with a programming budget of $3,000. And in just  three years program participation has increased from 2000 participants to 9000 participants. From Computer Classes to Storytimes, they do it all!

Small Information Campaign Gets Big Numbers at the Polls

Melissa Gardner and Katrina Arnold, from the Broadview Public Library District in Illinois shared how their library led a comprehensive informational campaign to get a bond measure passed  last year, for $4.1 million to renovate and expand their current library. [Note that this session was cut short when the Nebraska State Network crashed, but organizers will reschedule this session in the near future.]

Again, all the session archives and handouts are available on the Big Talk from Small Libraries website, and the organizers announced today that they will be doing it again next year!