Last week I had the pleasure of attending the West Virginia Library Association's annual fall conference in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. While the rainy and cold weather was uncooperative, it was still a great conference full of energy, ideas, and, of course, some wonderful librarians from all over the state.
Many librarians are concerned about the future of libraries. And it's no wonder since the printed word has gone through a huge loss, with many magazines and newspapers closing shop. So it was refreshing and fun to listen to Peggy Cadigan of the New Jersey State Library talk about the future of libraries. She talked about how libraries will have to be innovative and creative to survive and maintain loyal patrons. What I liked about Ms. Cadigan's presentation was that she compared her home state of New Jersey to West Virginia. New Jersey has the most diverse population in the US, while WV has the least diverse. (She had the sources to back up her facts, as well. Good librarian.) Ms. Cadigan is a member of the Association of Professional Futurists, which has intrigued me no end. Futurists are not about predicting the future, they are about anticipating changes. I like that too. Ms. Cadigan also gave out prizes based on answering trivia questions during her presentation which was charming and fun all at the same time. (The prizes were boxes of salt water taffy from the New Jersey shore.)
How To Get a Levy Passed
Later in the day I went to a talk by Brian Raitz of the Parkersburg and Wood County Library, and Erica Reed about how to Get Your Excess Levy Passed. An excess levy is a request for more funds from tax payers that is decided on by an election. In Randolph County, WV, our previous county superintendent was able to get a levy passed for the first time in decades. How did Dr. Phares get a levy passed? He held meetings at many schools in our county and answered every question about where the money would go and how it would be used. Dr. Phares is a natural politician who campaigned for the extra funds and was successful. Our Randolph County libraries receive $10,000 every year for the five years that the levy is enacted. Our levy expires in two more years and I am thinking about the future of our libraries. That $10k represents almost one-third of our operating budget. What will we do when that money runs out?
Mr. Raitz talked about the behind-the-scenes campaigning that is necessary to educate voters and cultivate library supporters. As librarians, we are limited by ethics and the law about how we campaign for our libraries. We are not allowed to ask people to vote for an excess library while we are in the library. We may not use library funds to promote the levy or legislation. We are not allowed to directly ask our politicians to vote for legislation that increases our funding. Librarians are allowed to talk about the benefits of libraries. We may talk about innovative programs that we are using to engage, empower, and educate our library patrons. If your library has a Friends of the Library organization, they may print and distribute signs and flyers. Nonprofit Friends of the Library groups may solicit politicians to vote on legislation to benefit libraries. The bottom line of this presentation was that librarians and avid library patrons need to toot their own horns about the power of libraries to change lives for the better.
There were a couple of events that I missed that night that included a "Banned Books, Bordeaux and Beer", sponsored by the Intellectual Freedom Roundtable of the WVLA, and a movie and a pub crawl through historic Shepherdstown. (I had to go to class that night online...sigh.)
Data and Communication
The next day I went to a presentation by Dr. Majed Khader, director of the Morrow Library at Marshall University in Huntington, WV, entitled "Data On Demand: Federal Government Information at Your Fingertips." Sadly, because of the government shutdown many of the census bureau sites that he was going to use for his presentation had been shuttered as well. However, he had planned ahead and had some great references handouts for us courtesy of the United States Census Bureau. So, why is it important for librarians to have access to census data? The data can be used to write a grant, to inform our legislators, and to get a better picture of the makeup of our communities.
I also attended a presentation by West Virginia Library Commission Secretary Karen Goff, who spoke about "Communicating With Your Elected Officials". Even though we are librarians (not professional lobbyists) it is important to have a few details about what makes your library special ready to talk to your state and national representatives. When your representative says, "We love your little library", be sure to tell them how many children's programs you had last year. Or how much money you raised at a particular fundraiser. Or your annual attendance number. Make sure that your elected officials have real facts about the awesomeness of your library. ('Cause your library is Awesome!)
Later in the day, I had the honor of making my own presentation on "Developing Alternative Revenue Streams For Your Library." I had about 20 attendees who listened to me talk about how I sell books on Amazon to profit the Pioneer Memorial Public Library. I also talked about how you can create a blog, like the one you are reading, and monetize it through Google AdSense. It's really easy, free, kind of fun, and it's a great way to keep interested library patrons informed about goings on at your library. I also talked about joining Amazon Associates and writing book reviews on the blog with links to Amazon to buy the books, audio CDs, or e-books. I also included plugs for selling books via Better World Books, and for encouraging patrons to use Kroger cards to send money back to your library every time they shop. My goal is to use the Internet to bring in money to my library in every creative and clever way possible, as alternatives to bake sales, cake walks, and other typical fundraisers.
Later, we had a Library Director's Roundtable where I got to meet library directors from all over the state.
The Evening Buffet
That evening, we had a pleasant buffet dinner and listened to Dr. Sam K. Hastings of the University of South Carolina's School of Library and Information Science talk about the importance of professional, degreed librarianship in West Virginia. Dr. Hastings generously offered to match dollars with anyone who wanted to enroll in the University's distance education degree program. Entertaining and inspiring, Dr. Hastings made a lasting impression on many librarians that evening. I was also honored with a cash scholarship from the WVLA in acknowledgement of my enrollment in the Master's of Information Science program through the University of Tennessee. I am truly grateful for this scholarship. Even though I have my tuition paid for via the ITRL2 scholarship, I still have fees each semester and textbooks to buy. Several other library students were honored as well, and I am so proud of all of us who are working and going to school to pursue professional librarianship. Thank you, WVLA!
I left the West Virginia Library Association's fall conference with batteries charged and lots of ideas swimming in my head, some of which were showing off with colorful swim caps and doing synchronized swimming, but that is just my unusual imagination. I am looking forward to the next WVLA event, the Spring Fling in 2014. Will I see you there?