By Steve Devine-Jelinski, Moose Lake Public Library

What does a librarian do on a long drive to a library conference?  Listen to an audio book of course!  So, that’s what I did.  Knowing that I was going to be hearing William Kent Krueger speak at the conference, I put in Ordinary Grace and spent the next four hours listening to the book and enjoying the scenery of Northwestern Minnesota.  This weekend was filled with a lot of firsts for me.  It was the first time that I’ve ever been out of Minnesota anywhere to the West, my first time at ARSL, and the first time I’ve ever walked away from a conference with so many new ideas that it is almost to the point of being overwhelming!


Generally, in my opinion, keynotes at conferences are not the highlights of the conference.  The ARSL Conference however had some phenomenal keynotes.  There were quotes and ideas that I could take away from each speaker.  Jodee Bock said that if you’re not moving forward trying to improve (whatever it is your doing) then all your doing is dying in mediocrity.  I learned librarian pick-up lines from Will Weaver.  I was told that William Kent Kruger was “paid a shitload of money” to write his follow up book to Ordinary Grace and it was supposed to be done a year ago, but he completely started over because he didn’t like the “feel” of it.  It was interesting being able to hear some of the stories from the speakers and learn from them how they got interested in books and reading, and then how they translated that into a career.


Of course, the meat of the ARSL Conference is the breakout sessions.  The first session I went to was “Top Tips for Patron Technology Training” because of the recent grants we’ve gotten for technology projects.  To be honest, I didn’t learn a whole lot from this, but I was able to discuss with others some of the things that I have learned so far and was able to pass that on to those who weren’t doing what we are.   I chose “3D Printing Programs…” for the next session because we recently received a 3D printer thorough a grant and hoped to hear more on training others.  I was able to pick a few things out of the class that was beneficial in terms of long term thinking, maintenance, and program sustainability.


“Being a 21st Century Librarian” was full of great resources to show patrons how to “self-train” themselves in technology.  The speaker showed several sites that are available that can teach the most very basic technology skills to anyone, especially when staff time and ability is at a premium.  I will be able to get a lot of use from the resources that derived from this session.  I really enjoyed the session from Crystal Schimpf on “Digital Storytelling at Your Library” which showed us ways to make promotion videos about your library for various types of campaigns.  She showed and gave examples of successful videos that we can us for reference.


I also went to sessions on safety as well as conflict.  I learned about de-escalation techniques and general safety from a Fargo Police Officer.  I will be able to bring that back and share with my staff.  Jamie LaRue from ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, and his partner ran through conflict scenarios with patrons and how to handle them.  They also gave tips and advice for conflict among staff as well as supervisor/subordinate discipline.  Extremely valuable information to use in our careers.


I found myself on the ride home Saturday, extremely grateful to ALS for the opportunity to attend this conference.  My hope is that I get to attend next year in Utah.  I am lucky to have found this great conference so early into my career as I was able to meet librarians from all over the country that are in some of the same situations that we are in, as well as being able to share some of our recent successes.  I went to eat dinner with some ladies from Iowa, New York, and Florida who I feel like can be career long friends.  We’ve already began emailing each other.  This is probably the best conference I’ve attended, and for a national conference, that says a lot. Thank you again to ALS for providing the scholarship to attend ARSL!