On Thursday I arrived to a beautiful warm and sunny Denver. Immediately I thought I had goofed by bringing bulky sweaters and boots, but Friday morning proved we right with 30 degree temperatures and snow flurries. ALA began for me with a BCALA continental breakfast, new board member orientation and an extremely lively board meeting which lasted well into the afternoon. In addition to serving as immediate past president for BCALA, I also co-chair with Roberta Webb, South District Chief of the Chicago Public Library, planning for the 7th National Conference of African American Librarians, which is to be held in August of 2010 in the historic city of Birmingham, Alabama. Throughout the weekend we strategized, solicited potential committee members, reviewed application forms and met with local Birmingham librarians.
On Saturday I attended the ALA Advocacy Committee for which I was appointed by ALA Past President Loriene Roy. The morning topic emphasized the need for libraries not to carelessly dismiss the consumer product safety reviews reportwhich speaks topossible lead filled children books from China and the potential impact it could have on library collections. Two new resources were introduced from the Advocacy University. Add It Up: Libraries Make the Difference in Youth Development and Education, offers research and statistics to assist advocates with making the case for libraries for youth development. The second resource, Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit, presents talking points and data to help with making the case for libraries and to generate additional support for them.
The 11th Annual Digital Libraries Symposium presented by Elsevier featured a group of panelists as well as Librarians from the audience sharing their views on the “Next Gen Librarians: Who They are & What They Want.” From the questions that surfaced from the audience, all pretty much had the same concerns. Work life balance, the need for variety, different expectations and adequate preparation for the profession were some of the traits surfacing for discussion. I actually applaud Elsevier for their attempts at partnering with the Library community, but even more because they showcased a most diverse staff.
I concluded the day by attending another ALA Advocacy committee sponsored event entitled “Building Statewide Coalitions for All Libraries in a Tough Economy.” During this session one panelist Ann Dutton Ewbank, retold the details surrounding the elimination of all teacher-librarians in the Mesa Public schools and efforts taken by the state librarians in their defense. ALA President, Jim Rettig discussed the notion that libraries home to multiple species with ever more complex relations could be compared to eco systems. This concept is to be explored further in relation to advocacy efforts and Rettig promises more to follow on this topic during his term in office.
On Sunday I decided to attend the ACRL Personnel Administrators & Staff Development Officers discussion group. This group also discussed the millennial generation workforce and explored ways to make our libraries millennial friendly. Orientation policies surfaced as the first area changed at a couple of libraries. When one respondent said they’d gone to checklist and group sessions, I knew we were on the right track. Do we need to change our environments? Most felt the answer to this was yes. Some attendees felt that the millennials get bored easily and need change, they opt to attend campus lectures and engage in frequent conversations with colleagues, therefore requiring supervisors to rethink their expectations. Telecommuting, working from home, was another topic of concern. It seemed that all in attendance have had to deal with these request. From child care reasons, to health related issues, to just having a desire to work at home, a wide range of reasons were assembled. Most represented libraries in attendance had policies that granted occasional opportunities on an informal basis and long term decisions approved only at the HR or provost level.
During a very nice lunch, EBSCO shared highlights of their new e-resource management system, ERM Essentials. They of course, believe who better than they to assist libraries with managing their collections. They plan to reduce the complexity of managing e-resources, eliminate the need to search multiple systems for information gathering, boost efficiency of tracking key tasks and all this while saving time.
The Organization Development discussion group of LAMA had the most relevant but also disheartening topic of the day, “leveraging budget-driven organizational change.” The room was filled with 30 or so librarians from all across the country faced with mandatory budget cuts, layoffs and frozen positions. Many felt this year reflects the trend expected to continue for the next three to five years. How do you keep your library focused on the important, often long-term, organizational changes during a period of economic difficulty? First and foremost is the need to have frequent and effective communication, next set priorities with those in management, get staff personally involved and responsible for and with their own future, have employee think of ways to contribute towards meeting the needs of areas not as well staffed, use statistical data to strategize ways to meet the needs of the community, the faculty, the staff, the students and don’t’ wait until the worst case happens start performing scenario planning now in advance.
I have the advocacy package and several handouts from the conference as well as the official President Obama inauguration program booklet. As always, I am happy to have conversations around any of the sessions I attended. I’m off now to visit the Blair Caldwell African Research Library here in Denver which according to their curator, holds a world wide collection of pictures taken of Obama during his journey to the White House. See you on Wednesday. -Wanda