Linking Libraries: Association for Rural & Small Libraries Gather in Springfield

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Jennifer Peterson was thrilled to represent the WebJunction team at the annual Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) conference, held September 13-15, in Springfield, Illinois. This year’s record-breaking attendance is a testament to the value of the conference and the community it builds. Over 750 library staff from rural and small libraries, representing 49 states, descended on the Land of Lincoln and showed Springfield what ARSL is all about!

The conference provided 40 informative and engaging breakout sessions, selected from 120 submissions, yummy meals filled with fellowship and networking, exhibitors sharing services, and success stories of libraries in action. There were also wonderful keynote speakers, including best-selling author, Elizabeth Berg and a livestream with Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Dr. Hayden shared that she was glad to be joining her “library peeps,” and talked about opportunities for rural and small libraries to host Library of Congress programs via livestream, with traveling exhibits, and in collecting oral histories from local veterans. And Abe Lincoln himself spoke at the conference and graciously posed in many a photo!

We were especially excited to learn about this year’s winners of the Library Journal Best Small Library Award, sponsored by Baker & Taylor, announced on September 14. The winner and finalists all have a connection to the work we’re doing at WebJunction, and we’re pleased to be able to showcase the outstanding impact they are having on their communities.

Madison County Public Libraries (MCPL) in North Carolina received the top award, Best Small Library in America. Director Melanie Morgan, and her team from the Hot Springs Library branch, were selected in 2017 to participate in the WebJunction Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces project, which led 15 small and rural public libraries from across the country to reimagine and reconfigure their libraries into smart spaces. The IMLS-funded project was implemented with support from ARSL, and the project resources are available for free, including a self-paced learning experience which will guide you through the process of rethinking and reconfiguring physical space to make room for active learning and working with your community to create new services and programs. Explore stories and videos, along with the course, via the project page. You can learn more about the MCPL Hot Springs project in a short video and transformation story (pdf).

Image: Directors from Best Small Libraries 2018

Pictured: From L to R, Betsy Kennedy, Melanie Morgan and Abbie Zeltzer

Betsy Kennedy, director of Cazenovia Public Library in New York, one of two award finalists, was recognized for her library’s work serving the needs of families through early and adult literacy projects, and their collaboration with the local food pantry. The library was featured in a 2015 WebJunction webinar, Family Literacy at a Food Pantry, and you can view the recording and related resources to learn more about their great work.

And Abbie Zeltzer, director of award finalist, Patagonia Public Library in Arizona, has been a part of the WebJunction community since her library’s participation in the Rural Library Sustainability Program, and is now part of the Internet Archive’s Community Webs project, helping to empower public libraries to create community history web archives. WebJunction is part of the program team supporting the Community Webs cohort of 26 public libraries.

You can learn more about the Best Small Library in America winner and finalists in the on-demand recording of a Library Journal Webcast, The Making of the Best Small Library in America.

Conference presentations will be shared on the ARSL website in the coming weeks, and you can check out the slides and learner guide for Jennifer’s session, Learning on the Go-Go-Go! on WebJunction. For more conference highlights, explore the #ARSL2018 hashtag on Twitter and Facebook, and mark your calendars for next year’s conference, to be held in Burlington, Vermont, September 4-7, 2019.