Small is Beautiful
The last few weeks have given me a chance to celebrate and network with librarians working in small libraries at two special events that reminded me again of my abiding respect and enthusiasm for those working in libraries serving small communities.
In September, I was one of the teaching facilitators for an intensive three day Wisconsin Youth Services Leadership Institute. Twenty-five library staffers involved with youth work, almost all from small libraries, were selected from over sixty applicants.
At the beginning, many felt that they didn't deserve to be called librarians because they lacked a master's degree. Over the course of the three days, through workshops on history, advocacy, leadership and more; through many individual and group conversations and expressions of mutual support for each other; and through some eye-opening goal setting, all the participants claimed their title as librarians and leaders doing great things for their communities in libraries.
Then I attended the recent Association of Rural and Small Libraries conference. I had long heard that this was one of the best library conferences out there and I can't disagree. Fifty-nine break-out session presentations; five major speakers at meals throughout the 2.5 day conference; and plenty of support for everyone to network and talk together during breaks, dine-arounds and receptions. The organizers made sure everyone felt welcomed.
I heard over and over people talking about colleagues they met from all over the country with similar situations (both triumphs and tears) and how great it was to touch base and connect. The focus on issues and concerns specific to the those working in small libraries had alot of meat for people from larger libraries and I found myself tugged between many great sessions scheduled opposite each other (eight programs per time slot!!).
Perhaps my favorite part was how many presenters were from small libraries sharing their expertise. It was great to hear new voices and ideas and perspectives and worth the price of admission. When I go to conferences, I love to hear from people working in many different library situations and my favorite panels are those that are made up of voices from multiple libraries of various sizes and regions.
As a longtime freelance storyteller in my state, I had the opportunity to go to many, very small libraries over the years. Each time I learned some new cool idea, some tip or trick, an arrangement of collections or services that was, well, completely brilliant. The creative librarians at many of these libraries became my role models, my go-to inspiration and pals.
Their work was echoed again in these two conferences and reinforces one of my deep and abiding beliefs. We are all librarians - regardless of education, all community advocates, all dedicated altruists who believe in the power of reading to change lives and that librarians from medium and large libraries have a TON to learn from our colleagues in small libraries.
Small is beautiful!