I had the lovely opportunity to attend the Public Library Association (PLA) annual conference in Indianapolis in March 2014.  It was great to meet new folks in similar fields around the country, to connect with former colleagues and other Minnesota library friends, and to chat with vendors.  A majority of the time was spent attending the many varied sessions available.  Although I sat in a lot of sessions focused on early literacy and youth programming, my two favorite sessions were Always Be Circulating: How Public Libraries Meet Demand and Increase Use and Top Five of the Top Five: Non-Fiction.

The Always Be Circulating session was very interesting and I definitely learned a few new things about marketing to patrons.  Some of the session highlights include:

• Remember to always support readers’ advisory work!  According to a 2012 Pew Internet study asking what people actually do at libraries, people want to interact with book and with staff!
◦ Among those who were surveyed and who had visited a library or bookmobile in the past 12 months, 73% borrowed print books, 73% browsed the shelves for books or media, 54% researched topics of interest, and 50% got help from a librarian

• Make sure to promote beyond the bestseller – come up with different themed displays or think of new ways to market books (personalized reading recommendations, book lists at the library, “blind date” with a book)

• You have staff at all levels that are passionate about reading – celebrate their likes!  Front desk staff have the most patron contact – take advantage of it!   Use staff and curate a great browsing selection – remember, the Pew report says that’s what our customers want.

• Make your counts count!   Some things to think about and to possibly keep statistics on dealing with customer service:
◦ How is your AV cataloged – individually or as a set?

◦ How is eBook circulated counted and is it just eBook or all eContent?

◦ How long are your circulation periods?

◦ How often can you renew items?

◦ What is your holds ratio?  Does it change by format?

◦ How many items can your patrons check out?

◦ How many buildings are in your system/region

I’m a huge non-fiction reader, so attending Top Five of the Top Five: Non-Fiction had more of a personal interest for me, but wow!   A panel of folks shared their top five genre lists, like the top five new memoirs and the top five trends in science and nature writing.  Click on the following link to access the list:  http://shelfrenewal.booklistonline.com/2014/03/17/pla-top-5-program-slides-and-handout/.  Non-fiction is tough sometimes as folks have very specific tastes and you have to be up on the topics that are trending.  This was a great workshop to get that current information.

I love conferences like this one because I can pick up great idea for my job but I can also stay up-to-date on the other areas in library service that I don’t get to work with on a daily basis.  Again, thanks again for the wonderful opportunity!

Extra notes:

• During some down time, I had the chance to visit the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which is the largest children’s museum in the world!  I took WAY too many notes and pictures and I’m working on something to share with the library staff in the region and for the blog.  More to come!  A very worthwhile side trip!

• A majority of the PLA conference program handouts have been posted to the website.  To access those, visit http://www.placonference.org/programs/ and feel free to share with others.