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Monday, May 5, 2014

OLA 2014 Conference review and the future of SSD

Susan Gilmont, a Library Technician III at the Guin Library Hatfield Marine Science Center, writes about her experiences and inspirations at the recent OLA conference the SSD took part in:

I was fortunate to be able to attend the first day of the 2014 Oregon Library Association conference, "The Inside Out Library." It was a great experience, and really recharged me. The OLA Support Staff Division had 6 sessions at the conference, 4 of which were made on Thursday. As the SSD Continuing Education Committee chair, my job was to find presenters, propose sessions, keep presenters informed, help them with conference minutiae, and introduce them when necessary.

The keynote address was made by two New Jersey librarians, Norma Blake and Kathy Schak-Greene, and was called "The Innies and Outies of Libraries." "Outies" advocated for libraries and reached out to local officials and organizations. "Innies" worked to advance their libraries on the inside through marketing, merchandising and partnerships. Perhaps the most intriguing concept of the talk was the idea of public library design "SWAT" teams that offer expertise to help libraries become more welcoming spaces through redesign and reorganization. Often a simple coat of paint and de-cluttering made a huge difference. "Weed aggressively. Clarify purpose and create zones." This was all very interesting in light of the Guin Library's recent remodel.

I wouldn't have dreamed of missing "Oral History and Libraries: a Perfect Fit." Three librarians from Lake Oswego Public Library led off with a description of their current oral history project, "In Their Own Words II." This project picks up at the point where a Bicentennial project in 1976 left off. They gave "how-tos," including hardware and software recommendations and pointers to good resources. They noted the importance of volunteer training and the need to get it right the first time, since many older people interviewed may not be around for a second take. The presentation was topped off by Mike Dicianna, a PSU student worker in SCARC, who talked about OSU's sesquicentennial oral history project and played a passionate and moving clip from the president of the OSU student body in the 1941-1942 school year. It was a knock-out clip, and really showed the importance of hearing people in their own voices.  This was an inspiring session. For more information, see NW Central. SSD sponsored this session.

Although I'm not a librarian, I do care about libraries, and "Building an Effective Library Advocacy Network" was another great session. Although some of it reiterated the themes of the keynote address, Peter Leonard from Cedar Mill Library, Vailley Oelhke from Multnomah County Libraries and Buzzy Nielsen from Mount Hood County Library District drew on their own experiences to forge and sustain vital networks of library supporters. It was wonderful to sit back and see all the earnest note-taking going on and listen to the excellent questions. I know we did some good there. SSD and PLD sponsored this session.

The last session I attended was "The Inside-Out Organization," a look at OLA itself, hosted by past chairs. The goal there was to get potential OLA volunteers. I had a different goal -- I was looking for clues for revitalizing SSD. We weren't able to have a conference this year because nobody volunteered to chair the Conference Committee. Last year, the SSD Board put on the conference, again because of a lack of volunteers. SSD needs new energy, a new generation of involved members, and a new generation of supportive library directors. There is no doubt that the Great Recession has hurt all volunteer organizations, and things may improve as the economy slowly rebounds. But what shape will SSD be in by then? All I can say is what I have learned: service is its own reward.

My spirits were improved by the SSD business meeting, when three of us executive committee members met with four members. One of them came forward and said she was interested in getting involved. Another was one of our scholarship recipients, who was able to attend the conference because of support provided by SSD. It made me feel better. I don’t know if it is the networking with old friends, or a general charge from the good energy in the air, but I really do feel more optimistic about the future.

All in all, this was an excellent experience.

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