Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to Chair a Conference in 100 Difficult steps, part one

I bet you thought I was going to say something like, "How to chair a conference in 10 easy steps", didn't you? Alas, it ain't easy, and it takes a lot more than 10 steps.
Chairing the 16th Gateways Conference for the Support Staff Division was a tremendous experience. Yeah, yeah, I know, people always say that, but it really was - tremendous, occasionally awful, stressful, gratifying, exhausting, fun; I can tell you how it feels when over 80 hungry, sleepy people find out they are not going to be fed the hot breakfast they were promised because the conference center "forgot" to arrange for it! For about 5 minutes there I teetered between throwing up and bursting into tears. But I had an empty stomach, so nothing to throw up, and had sweated out every drop of moisture, so no tears were forthcoming. I suppose that was a good thing. Everyone was looking to me to do something and I realized that I was not alone: I had a past conference chair beside me who stepped up to help, and I had a radio! All I had to do was turn it on, push in a button and say "Al, where's our breakfast?" Unfortunately, although Al came at a run, he had no solution to offer, having no breakfast crew available and not enough time to cook a breakfast even if he had. We eventually got some food, cold and meager as it was. But nobody starved. I found myself in an odd mood of fatalism - and I just rode it along on autopilot. Many wonderful people worked together to make the day an ultimate success, and after all, as someone said, once started the conference just takes on a life of its own and will not be stopped. It did, it wasn't, and hopefully most attendees got what they wanted from it and left satisfied. My mantra became, to quote Keynote Speaker Maureen "Mo" Cole, "It's not about you," or rather me.
More to come.....

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding Your Voice

In late June, I came down with an obnoxious summer cold. After a couple of days, I completely lost of my voice, and couldn't speak above a whisper for the better part of 5 days. For a motor-mouth like me, this was a big deal. It was tolerable at home (although the cat wasn't convinced I was really one of his people). It was weirder at work: I couldn't change my voice mail greeting, had to answer the phone whispering "This Jey. I have laryngitis", and couldn't take part in informal over-the-cube-wall chats. But it was worst going out in public. I avoided to going shopping, even to the grocery store, and used self-check-out so I wouldn't have to try to talk.

In other words, it was an isolating experience, and made me feel conspicuous and uncomfortable. It gave me more empathy with those who, for reasons of disability, language, etc., have barriers to communication in their everyday lives - especially when those barriers aren't going to go away like my laryngitis did.

It also made me think about the importance of finding and using your voice, whatever it is. It may be speaking, writing, singing, painting, cooking, or gardening. It may be acting as the enthusiastic leader or the energetic follower. It may be speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves, or bringing up the difficult topics when no one else will.

And it may be acting as the positive person who brings encouragement and hope during tough times.

We all have opportunities to find and use our voice in our libraries and our personal lives. We're lucky to work in a field that values diverse voices.

I'm looking forward to seeing many of you and hearing your voices at the SSD conference next week!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SSD breaks ground on Youtube!

Greetings fellow support staff. Please take 1-1/2 minutes out you schedule and click on the attached video link. It just might be the best investment of your time you make today!

Feel free to contact me if you have questions, comments or interest at

Thank you,
Cathy Zgraggen
Deschutes Public Library