ARSL Conference Report – September 26 – 28, 2013
Whew! Where to begin.  This is the second time I’ve been able to
attend this conference and both experiences were phenomenal.  I highly recommend attending.  Yes, it is a national conference and can be
far away which makes it more expensive to attend, but the opportunity to spend
2 ½ days with over 300 people who all work in small and rural libraries is
priceless and every session useful.
               I
attended six sessions, 2 author presentations, and 3 keynote addresses.  Both authors were fantastic to listen to and
I now want to find their books and read them. 
Two of the keynote addresses were incredibly valuable, one was by Lee
Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life
Project, who presented lots of statistics, and useful information for getting
library support.  Mary Beth Stenger,
winner of Library Journal’s Best Small Library Award, 2013, spoke about the
changes she has made in the three years she has been director at the smallest
West Virginia library in a community of 496. 
Her best line was ‘Be passionate about the success of the
library.’ 
               My
favorite session was actually by a Minnesota library director.  Heidi Schutt works in a small library in the
Traverse des Sioux system.  A group of
libraries got together to offer a summer family reading program.  They pulled this together in less than a year
with only three meetings, meeting for the first time last September.  The six libraries that participated each ran
their own program with some doing it alongside the regular summer reading
program and some doing it in August for just a month.  The objective of the program was to encourage
and support families to take time to read together and discuss what they’ve
read.  Each family that signed up also
received a window cling to place in their car windows that said ‘Follow our
family to the library.’ These were also very popular and they were able to get
them made by a local business for less than $.50 apiece. One library promoted
it by using “Gnorman the Gnome” as a kind of scavenger hunt.  He appeared in the window of different
businesses each week.  The goal was to
get families out and about their little towns looking for the ceramic
gnome.  It worked!  The kids loved looking for him and the
businesses loved having people notice their business.      
Some of the libraries offered
special programs, others offered ‘on-your-own-programs’ like hiding  25 small objects around the library and
having families see how many they can find, or create a family pennant or
family tree, as they don’t have the staff to be able to easily offer
programs.  The libraries all wanted the
programs offered to be gender neutral and appeal to both boys and girls as well
as to children of various ages.  One
library did a Dr. Seuss party, another held a salsa making contest.  The library had arranged with the 4-H
coordinator to do a different program, the coordinator called the day before
and said she had lots of stuff to make salsa, could they change.  She agreed and everyone had lots of fun
creating unique salsas.
To encourage families to read
together Heidi put together some book kits. 
She used picture books she already had, added a craft or other activity
instructions and a easy game with questions about the book designed to get
families talking about what they read. For the older kids, the kits were more
varied.  All had a copy of a book, some
had an activity, some a craft, a set of discussion questions and two had
several copies of the books (donated by a teacher).   I really like the idea of families sharing
and talking about what they read.
               Another
other cool idea from this presentation was a floor sized scrabble game.  They used masking tape to mark off squares,
created letters from 8.5×11 inch paper and had a competition between families.  They’d only planned to use it one day and
everyone was so excited about it, they left it up for a week. 
               The
incentives they gave to families completing the program included some good
ideas as well. The prizes were family based, everything from board games to
family swim passes, to a picnic basket filled with a family picnic.  I am definitely going to be thinking about
how to incorporate a family aspect to my summer reading program next year.
Overall, a very good experience
with great conversations, good ideas and encouragement to remember that we can
do whatever the big libraries do, we just need to adapt it to fit our size,
community and circumstances.
Thank you for letting me attend.

Diane Adams
International Falls Public Library