Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Report on the 17th annual conference of the Oregon Library Association’s Support Staff Division
July 15, 2011 – The Oregon Garden
By Susan Gilmont

I just got back from the 17th annual “Gateways” conference of the OLA Support Staff Division. It was a wonderful experience. You couldn’t have a better setting than The Oregon Garden, and our attendees were quite pleased by the venue.

One of the great things about support staff is that we have long memories. We don’t forget who helped us along the way. Thus, the conference began with a tribute to retiring State Librarian Jim Scheppke to thank him for his consistent support of support staff. Two of our past chairs, Donetta Sheffold and Jey Wann, as well as Susan Bacina, our current Chair, saluted Jim. Susan gave Jim an orchid and a loud, vulgar, gaudy trophy inscribed, “Thanks, Coach!”

The keynote address was one of the best I’ve ever heard.
Abigail Elder, from Tualatin Public Library and OLA Vice-President, used the garden as a metaphor for growth in three critical areas: growing ourselves, growing our community, and growing our advocates. One of her points was to “bloom where you’re planted,” to take responsibility for the joy you find in your job and to share that joy with each other. The phrase stuck – all conference long, I heard people say that they would “bloom where I’m planted.”

Other points from the keynote: Building a community involves becoming a partner with your community. What can your library do to help local initiatives? How can your library be seen as part of the solution? She gave some humble examples – volunteering at the local Senior Center, and getting known for her computer expertise, then being able to recommend the library as a resource for elders learning computers far more effectively than if she had just made a presentation to the Center. We can all build bridges. Her bridges included a sit-down breakfast with oatmeal and a variety of toppings for city officials and a book club for middle managers. To grow community, consider the role, be present and find quiet ways to help.

First Session: How to Get the Training You Need: Professional Development Options for Oregon Support Staff

MaryKay Dahlgreen from the State Library pointed out the big issues for support staff: time, money and distance. She asked us to think about doing a personal development plan – where we want to go and how we think we can get there. I have a handout of weblinks she included for people looking for learning resources.

Bill Kelm of Willamette University talked about his experiences getting a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Washington. Before entering any distance program, he recommended asking people already in the program about the degree of support faculty are prepared to offer online students. Bill suggested that online students look for ways to tie in what they are doing at work to class assignments. He also noted that he was able to transition from support staff to librarian at Willamette – not every institution refuses to hire staff that get the MLS into professional positions.

Sylvia Bowers of Baker County Library District talked about her experiences taking classes in the Library Support Staff Certification Program. She has taken “Foundations of Library Services” and “Reference” so far. Sylvia has really enjoyed her classes, has learned a lot and has moved up from half-time to full-time work while in the program. She is endearingly frank about her motivation, and mentions that many of her colleagues are older, and she would like to position herself for a better job as people retire. Sylvia is a compelling advocate for the certification program.

Second session - Marketing Your Library: Strategies for the 21st Century

Nikki Williams of Lewis and Clark talked about her library’s marketing team. They developed an in-house content management system to give a consistent look and “feel” to promotional materials. Today, they work with the University’s design dept. to improve signage. Nikki’s pointers include, “Something is better than nothing.” Even if your first attempts are not the best, the odds are that they are better than what went before. They have a lot of giveaways to promote library events – no question that free food is the best incentive. Other past giveaways: temporary tattoos, stickers, buttons, pencils. She recommends photographing patrons and student workers in promotional materials – “Students love to see themselves.” One example: photograph students with signs they made themselves. Use screensavers as marketing tools. Today, they use I-stock, an online image collection, to help with signage. Their most popular event? Watzek Rocks! a rock concert in the library. It has become what the library is known for on campus. The library is still developing its Facebook page. Current categories are Library Events, Library Services, the Library Collection, and creative posts highlighting patrons.

Arlene Keller and Jeremy Graybill from Multnomah County talked about how to make your Facebook page “awesome.” Why Facebook? While most of us are aware of the critical role Facebook has played and is playing in the Arab Spring, some of us (I speak for myself) might not have realized that there are over 750 million people on Facebook. Up to 50 million people have joined in the last 2 months. 250 million people access Facebook through mobile devices. The average Facebook user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. Who wouldn’t want their library to be one of those 80?

How can you make your Facebook page engaging and fun? Define your goals from the start. Pick staff who will work on the project. Use appropriate content. Experiment with campaigns. Have a clear picture of your goals and of your patrons. Build buzz, make it fun, set expectations and follow through to meet them. Post once a day or several times a week. Monitor for comments and questions, and engage with your patrons. See what your patrons are discussing. Watch for and delete spam. 20 minutes a day on the Facebook page is a minimum. Note: Twitter is a good way to see what patrons are discussing, and you can engage with patrons in that space. Choose your voice. It should be informal, friendly, conversational but professional, probably a bit more relaxed than traditional media and publications. Keep it consistent.

There is a lot of volume in social media – you get a huge return on the investment of your time and energy – more than from ads or print. The Multnomah County Library community is self-moderating and generally positive.

Last Session - A Day in the Life

I love hearing about the vast range of work done by library support staff. Jeremy Skinner (a librarian) from /Archives and Special Collections at Lewis and Clark won my heart by talking about archival material rather than about his job. He presented on his library’s collection relating to the Lewis and Clark Expedition and gave a fascinating look at rare materials and some of the earliest perceptions of the Far West.

Melissa Madenski, the Adult Literacy Coordinator at Multnomah County talked about her fascinating job. She teaches a life skills and literacy class. “The person who has the most barriers shares barriers with me.” In other words, she has found points of commonality in her life present in the lives of her neediest patrons: everybody needs good daycare, for example.

Alicia Merrill and Shelly Blakely from Deschutes County Library are in the Resource/Materials department. They supervise 60 volunteers in materials handling and do backup ILL. What a job! Their biggest successes are “Adopt a Row,” which allows volunteer shelvers to take ownership of specific areas, and a volunteer mentoring program in which more experienced library volunteers help newcomers.

As always, the people are the great reward. I really enjoyed chatting with folks from all kinds of libraries all across Oregon. It was marvelous.

No comments:

Post a Comment