ILA Best Practices

Archive for the ‘CONFERENCES’ Category

I want to know some of your best practices in community engagement. Following up on Hilary’s last post, share what has inspired you, but also share what you have done to inspire others outside the library field. When was the last time you changed a library stereotype? Do you participate in the community outside your role as librarian? My library is in a very small community, so I am involved in just about everything, from being secretary of the business association to playing in the pool league. Everywhere I go I am conscious of how I am portraying librarianship, because the town is small enough that a lot of people know who I am. For me, it is important to represent the library no matter what I’m doing. I try to market the library to the people that may have never met a librarian before. The owner of the gym now knows that he can learn computer skills for free at the library, the guy playing pool at the bar knows he can order geometry books through interlibrary loan to improve his bank shots, and the kids watching the homecoming parade know that librarians don’t just sit behind a desk. (Sometimes they dress up like princesses).


I’m curious about how librarians in larger communities get involved. Our field always talks about how to get the non-users into the library, but what are you doing to show them what the library can do for them personally? One of the sessions at ILA talked about conducting phone interviews or surveys of non-users to find out why they don’t come to the library. That is a great idea, of course, but to borrow a phrase from Dawn Mushill, we should be “library ambassadors” all the time. Get out there and tell people what they’re missing by not coming to the library. Write an article for the newspaper, tell your yoga class about the new book club, and make sure your waitress knows she can bring her kids to story time. Stop expecting new patrons to come to you. Go find them!

Rylie Carter
Hinckley Public Library District


Last month I attended the second incarnation of the Chicagoland Library Unconference, aptly named Chicagoland Library Unconference #2, at the RAILS Wheeling Building. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I hadn’t attended the first (un)conference, and the notion of describing something that is what it is not was intriguing, but also a bit Magritte-esque.

The day began with a panel discussion (innovators from other industries to inspire us) but quickly evolved into an action-packed hands-on workshop. We were divided into teams and given the task of defining a big problem facing libraries today, and devising an innovative solution.

Teams then pitched their ideas to the group at large and were peppered with tough questions from the audience. As described by the Unconference organizers, the experience was similar to an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank, as fellow attendees eagerly, and quite effectively, took on various roles (library board members, members of the public, fellow librarians, teachers, parents, corporate partners, etc.) while challenging the teams’ ideas.

In addition to leaving with some good ideas, the experience was educational in two distinct ways:

1. The ideas themselves are only part of the story. It is vital to quickly and effectively communicate and sell your idea to a diverse audience, and to be prepared for inevitable critiques.
2. The “unconference” was a great way to flip a traditional idea on its head. Instead of passively watching standard panel discussions and keynote speakers, attendees better accomplished traditional conference goals of meeting new people and learning about cutting edge ideas in our industry through active learning, participation, and content creation.

What examples have you seen of flipping a traditional idea on its head? What works, and why? What else can we take a second look at that has just “always been done that way”?

Hilary Meyer
Chicago, IL

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