Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On the Road with Diane and Susan

The cast:
Susan Gilmont (SSD Chair)
Diane Bolen (SSD Continuing Education Chair)
Me (Jey Wann, SSD past-past Chair)

The mission:
Present information about SSD, and support staff certification, to the Eastern Oregon Library Association (EOLA) at La Grande Public Library; give a book mending workshop at La Grande Public Library.

Our story:
Distance is the theme of this trip. Diane and I both work in Salem, where libraries (and people, for that matter) are fairly thick on the ground. Susan works in Newport, which isn't as urban, but is still close to the populous Willamette Valley.

The first hour or so of our trip, on I5 and 205, was your typical, busy freeway drive. But once we turned east, distances stretched out. It was farther between cars on the road, farther between towns, and the view was dominated by the magnificant Columbia River Gorge. Since Diane was doing the driving, I'd brought a book and my mp3 player to keep from getting bored. Not necessary; we talked pretty much non-stop. Our topics of conversation ranged from library issues to pets, family issues, and where we'd like to go if we could go anywhere, any time.

We arrived at our motel in La Grande around dusk. After dinner, I retired to my room, where I worked on tweaking my presentation for the next day.

No road trip is complete without getting lost at least once. Although the library was only supposed to be a 4-minute drive from our motel, we ended up traveling 3 miles before we found it. Now Diane and Susan know never to ask me to navigate. I think I was reading the directions backwards.

We were initially a bit disappointed at the fairly low turn out at the meeting. Again, distances, plus staffing demands, had probably kept some from attending. However, the smaller group made for more informal presentation, and more discussion. I hope my case for encouraging support staff to become involved in OLA was taken to heart. There was genuine interest, but perhaps a little skepticism, in Susan's excellent presentation about support staff certification. As Susan says, skepticism is natural now, when the program hasn't started yet, and no one knows what benefits (besides learning) support staff may gain from being certified.

After lunch, I took off my SSD hat, put on my state documents hat, and visited the Pierce Library at Eastern Oregon University. I'd never visited EOU before. Although the campus is easy walking distance from downtown La Grande, its hilltop location emphasizes eastern Oregon's wide-open landscape. The document staff at EOU can be proud of their well managed and easily accessibly state and federal documents collection.

After walking back from the university (and being disciplined enough to avoid an excellent bakery), I watched Diane's book mending workshop. Again, attendance was low, but everyone participated actively, Diane did a great job, and there were lots of books to be repaired!

Distance is relative. Many of the folks we talked to were surprised that we weren't driving straight back to Salem after the book mending workshop was over. After all, they said, they drive those kinds of distances at the end of the day all the time. We'd decided to stay the night in Hermiston, despite the local opinion that it's "just down the road".

The weather in La Grande had been cloudy most of the afternoon. As we drove down the notorious Cabbage Hill, though, the view to the west was full of bright sun, illuminating the vast, rolling landscape, and emphasizing distance.

For me, the trip was a great experience. I've know Susan and Diane for years, but definitely had the opportunity to get to know them better. (Diane's got great stories about motorcycle vacations, and Susan is the only person I know who can come up with a poetic Tudor quotation about kidney stones). I'd hoped to be able to meet for east-side support staff, but the opportunity to talk informally with librarians about SSD and OLA was rewarding. Under Susan's leadership, SSD will explore providing remote networking and continuing education opportunities.

I accepted the position of chair of SSD was a little reluctance two years ago, worrying that the fact that we were "recycling" officers meant that we were losing momentum. Since then, SSD has moved ahead. There are new people with new ideas (including this blog)on the Exec Committee, and SSD continues to support library support staff. We're all working together to make Oregon libraries better, and I'm proud to have been part of the journey.

1 comment:

  1. Great job of describing the trip, Jey. I do think we did some good -- reiterating that SSD members and services are willing to travel to help. Oregon is a *big* state, and there have to be ways for us to reach out to others, no matter where they are.

    Members' ideas on ways we can do this are very welcome.

    Susan Gilmont
    Guin Library, Hatfield Marine Science Ctr, Newport