by Jocelyn Baker, Duluth Public Library

The 2015 Branch Out Conference was an excellent opportunity for networking and presented attendees with a wide variety of library-related topics. Several of the presentations really resonated with me.

The Keynote Speaker for the event was Fred Carpenter, an academic advisor in the Technical Communications graduate program at Metro State University. The title of Fred’s presentation was Forward Planning for the Professional: Keeping Up, Keeping Track. Fred was fun, engaging, and encouraged everyone to pursue their goals, even if they are intimidating. She talked about building skills, and being honest with yourself about what you want out of your work life.

Fred recommends that you start by visualizing your end state, then work backwards. Do your research, and determine what needs to happen in order to reach your goal. Once you’ve determined what needs to be done, she says it’s important to establish specific milestones to obtain along the way. She emphasized that most of us have many valuable skills that are more transferable than we probably realize.

My favorite presentation of the conference was Daniel Marcou’s Providing Services To Undeserved Communities Corrections. Daniel started his presentation by asking, “What do a 19 year-old incarcerated gang member and a 93 year-old home-bound grandmother have in common?” Time and isolation were two good answers. Considering these commonalities, the goal of Hennepin County Library’s award-winning Outreach Department was to bring the experience of the library to these people-whether home-bound, in rehab, assisted living facilities, or correctional facilities.

They developed a program called Freedom Ticket, which provides support and resources for people being released from correctional facilities, in order to ease re-entry into the community. I really enjoyed watching the video that was put together for the program as well.

Another program developed by this team is Read to Me, which helps incarcerated parents stay connected with their children. Volunteers help the adults choose age appropriate books for their children, and record the parent reading the book. The books and recordings are then given to the children. They also provide books at the corrections facilities for the children to read when visiting their parents.

Daniel’s presentation gave me hope, made me sad, and truly made me feel that libraries are incredibly important for our communities! I would love to do something like this in Duluth, and look forward to hearing about more incredible library ideas at my next conference.