Gaming in the library; soft skills webinar announced

On Friday, Nov. 8, the Indiana State Library held a small gaming demonstration for library employees. The event was designed to help librarians and library employees begin to explore the use of board games in a library setting; especially the games’ ability to help promote the development of soft skills. It was held in conjunction with the American Library Association’s International Games Week. In the future, we hope to bring this type of discussion to library communities as a training opportunity.

In 2007, two librarians whom I consider pioneers in the use of games in libraries, Jenny Levine and Scott Nicholson, had the idea to attempt to set a world’s record for the number of people playing the same game at the same time at libraries. This day became National Games Day and libraries around the United States were encouraged to hold events to promote and play games and, if possible, help set this record. Five years later it was re-branded International Games Day and five years after that, on the tenth anniversary, it was expanded and re-branded again to International Games Week. For a full history, check out their website.

As I wrote about in my last blog entry, “Fun and games or secret career-building tool?,” games of all types can help the players learn and practice skills that are coveted by many employers. The participants at this event got a chance to discover and discuss these concepts and the consensus was to bring this discussion to the larger Indiana librarian community. Join me on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 10 a.m. for a webinar on this topic: “Engagement with soft skills – using board games at the library to engage patrons and improve career readiness.” Please see our calendar for this event and for other training opportunities.

This post was written by George Bergstrom, Southwest regional coordinator, Professional Development Office, Indiana State Library.

Paws among the stacks

Libraries and animals have had a longstanding connection for centuries. According to Wikipedia:

“The relationship between cats and libraries is centuries old. Monastic records from the Middle Ages indicate cats were kept in medieval monasteries in order to control rats that might otherwise eat valuable manuscripts.”

While we generally don’t have rat control problems in modern day libraries, animals and libraries still have a symbiotic relationship. Dewey Readmore Books was the library cat at the Spencer Public Library in Iowa who had a book written about him titled “Dewey the Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.” Anyone who has attended a library conference has likely brought home a bag with the likeness of cats Baker and Taylor.


Baker and Taylor

One modern adaptation for animals and libraries is “Read to the Dogs” programs. Animals are long regarded to be stress relievers, so it’s no surprise that many libraries have added therapy dog programs to their offerings. When kids sit down to read their favorite story to one of these gentle therapy dogs, they don’t realize that they are learning and improving their reading skills in the process. The dogs don’t care if they make a mistake and don’t correct you if you miss a word. Read to the Dogs programs are a fun and secretly-educational activity.

When I was head of the children’s department at the Crown Point Community Library, the Power Paws Read to the Dogs group would visit. It was heartening to see the excitement on the children’s faces when they saw their favorite canine in the library. Some would sit by their favorite dog and read stories, while others would go from dog to dog. There were even some children there who just wanted to pet the dogs. No matter what reason they were there, the animals didn’t care. The dogs were happy to get the attention. I watched the kids and the dogs for several years before getting my Yorkie, Gigi, trained and certified as a therapy dog. We achieved our Canine Good Citizen certification in 2013 and we became members of the Power Paws Read to the Dogs group. We have since relocated and are in the process of joining the Love on a Leash, Heartland Chapter therapy group. Gigi actually barks in excitement when she realizes that we are heading to our local libraries because she gets to hang out with the young patrons. She truly loves it!

Gigi earned her Canine Good Citizen certification

An informal survey conducted in 2018 confirmed that library workers love animals – 90 percent own at least one pet. Survey says that cats and dogs are the most popular but cats are a whisker more popular than dogs by 1 percentage point, doggone it! I am definitely a part of the library worker group that loves animals! Growing up on a farm in southern Indiana, I was surrounded by all kinds of animals: cows, pigs, sheep, goats, ponies, a mule, dogs, cats, chickens, geese, rabbits, noisy guinea fowls, fish, a chameleon, hamsters and a hermit crab. Very idyllic for an animal lover. In 2014, I became the Northeast regional coordinator for the Indiana State Library. Part of my job is to visit the 60 libraries in my region. I have been pleasantly surprised by how many libraries have animal programs. Even more amazing is the amount of libraries that have animals that live in them.

I surveyed a few of the libraries to see what part animals play in their library world.

Libraries with animal programs
Heather Siler from the Swayzee Public Library says that the local Love on a Leash group comes monthly during the school year. Children of all ages come to read to these trained and certified therapy dogs. She says, “Everyone’s mood is brightened by the dogs. Kids are lining up to read to them!” The only downside seems to be, “vacuuming the next day from all of the petting.” The library ends its summer reading program with a visit from Mark’s Ark. He brings in about eight different reptiles, insects, mammals and amphibians; talks to the kids about them; and allows the kids to touch them.

Mark’s Ark program at the Swayzee Public Library

Barbara Dixon, director of The Barton Rees Pogue Memorial Library, says that they’ve had many animal visitors over the years. “We don’t have any animals that live here, but have had many visitors over the years: dogs, cats and assorted other critters when we have had people bring them in for various programs. We had a library program with several animals from the Art in Motion pet store that went over very well. We also have a patron who had a very elderly dog that would stop in once in a while.” She notes a definite bonus is that “animals are great stress relievers.”

Animals that live in the library
Animals with either fur or fins have been living at the Marion Public Library since the 1980s. Mary Eckerle, director, said that the children’s librarian started the trend. “Kids love them. Adults seem to like them, also.” She’s found that there are a few downsides to having animals at the library. “Mess, allergies, dealing with deaths and explaining them. Possible biting incidents.” They also enjoy visits from the Love on a Leash Heartland Chapter group and Silly Safaris.

Love on a Leash group for Read to the Dogs program

Arlene the guinea pig

I was blown away when I first visited the Carnegie Public Library of Steuben County; not only by the beautiful building, but by all of the animals who visit and live there. It’s an animal lover’s paradise. Birds, frogs, a rabbit and a hedgehog, as well as staff members’ dogs, can be found in the library. Cats even stop by periodically from the local shelter. According to Director Sonja Dintaman, their menagerie “started with fish, then grew from there. Pets are stress relievers for everyone. The kids love them. There is some extra work for staff, but no complaints from patrons.” Just so you know how important animals are to their community, Dintaman related an unfortunate incident that occurred once. “A kid broke into the library and stole our hedgehog. It was front-page news locally and she was returned in a couple days. She sadly passed away later, but a patron donated another one.”

Shelter cat making itself at home

Pickles the hedgehog

Miss Bookster the rabbit

Karen and Rags are working hard today! Rags is our special worker in charge of security. Children love this gentle pup when they come in for story time.

I’ve found that, concerning animals, most librarians have huge hearts. Last year the staff at the Noble County Public Library rescued a kitten who was in crisis. Director Sandy Petrie recounts the story of Mr. Kitty. “We found him in a storm drain by our staff door when he was about 6 weeks old. He was in 3 inches of water and covered in fleas. The staff took him in, cared for him, fell in love and he is here to stay. We keep him in the staff area due to potential allergies of our patrons. He is a huge morale boost for staff. It is very hard to be upset with a cuddly kitty purring at your desk. And he has a huge personality.” According to Petrie, “some of the kids know he is here and come up to the staff door windows to try and play with him. He plays with them under the door frames.” The library recently adopted another kitten, named “CC,” short for carbon copy, since the little one looks exactly like Mr. Kitty.

Mr. Kitty

Carbon Copy

The Huntington City-Township Public Library has some not-so-cuddly animals, but loveable nonetheless. They have Russian and Greek Tortoises named Ace, Zed and Bob. According to director Rebecca Lemons, “Staff were asking for cats and birds and fish, but I wanted something that was easy to maintain and not too messy. I am not sure why they decided they wanted an animal, but we moved ahead with it. The patrons are absolutely in love with our tortoises. Of course, the kids love them, but we have so many adults who are invested as well. We have one gentleman who regularly checks on them and makes sure they are doing okay. It is a great learning opportunity for the kids to be able to see them as well. Our staff has really taken to them as well and several have taken on the added responsibility of keeping them fed and clean. I think that it gives them a little bit more ownership in what is happening in the library. It also makes a great start to the day when you can stop and say good morning to ‘the boys’ and see what they are up to. Food is a bit of a pain, as we have to buy and prep fresh vegetables for them every day. We have a system worked out to prep once a week and our Friends group pays for the food. Keeping their house clean is also a little bit of an added duty, but it isn’t too bad. I think the only drawback for patrons is that they want to play with them but they can’t due to the salmonella risk and the fact that tortoises get anxious with too much activity. We always say that we had no idea how much personality a tortoise could have but they really do. You can tell when they are grumpy or happy or sleepy and watching them eat is the most adorable thing ever. The best story I have is that when we first got Ace we would take him outside every other day or so to run around in the grass. He quickly figured out that I took the cover off of the tank when it was time to go outside. Before long he was climbing his decorative tree and trying to push the screen off the tank. Yes, a tortoise can climb a tree and yes, I have pictures of it.”

Tortoise in a library

While I was waiting to set up a virtual reality kit training at the Bristol Public Library – I hadn’t visited for a for a couple of years – I spied something unusual on the wing chair across from the circulation desk. It was a beautiful grey cat! I learned from the director, Carol Anderson, that the library adopted her from the local shelter. Anderson said that the cat, aptly named Page Turner, has been an absolute hit with the community. Community members go out of their way to stop by the library just to see how Page is doing. Page has also inspired young artists to draw her likeness and crown her queen of the library!

Page Turner

She has also made the newspapers, both local and national!

Along with Page, they have a bearded dragon named Shakesbeard who resides on a desk near the children’s area.

Shakesbeard, the bearded dragon

Last, but not least, is Arlo the Gecko, that lives in the Children and Youth Services Department at the service desk at the Carmel Clay Public Library. Director Bob Swaynay says, “Our library had other smaller animals before Arlo; hamsters and guinea pigs. We switched to a gecko because it has a longer lifespan. The kids love Arlo! He is a regular spotlight attraction. There is some extra maintenance of the animal’s health and environment and costs associated with staff time and materials, but it’s well worth it.”


Animals are definitely a lot of work, with the continual feeding, cleaning and grooming. I think that the benefits far outweigh the extra work that comes with animal ownership. Animals are conducive to building relationships between staff and patrons of all ages. As I was taking a picture of Arlo the Gecko at the Carmel Clay Public Library, an older gentleman came up to me. He told me that he always stops by to check on Arlo and then proceeded to talk about wanting to help with the upcoming library book sale. Children have a natural affinity toward animals. According to Carol Anderson at the Bristol Public Library, she has seen kids coming to the library multiple times during the week to check on Page and Shakesbeard! I’m sure those kids have begged their parents to take them to the library to visit the animals. So, whether a library offers animal programs, or if animals have taken up residence in a library, the library will become a must visit destination in your community.

This post was written by Northeast Regional Coordinator Paula Newcom, Professional Development Office.

“Are Dogs the new library cat?”
Baker and Taylor cats
“Cat Named Page Turner now roams Bristol Public Library”
“Dogs and Pigs and Birds, Oh My!”
“Helping Hands (Uh, Paws)”
Love on a Leash
Power Paws Read to the Dogs
Mark’s Ark
Silly Safaris 


Indiana Library Leadership Academy participants put skills to use

The 2018-19 Indiana Library Leadership Academy has wrapped up and class members are doing some pretty amazing things in libraries throughout Indiana.

Alisa Burch, Harrison County Public Library director, set up the library’s first ever pop-up library at the Friends of the Harrison County’s “Youth Chicken BBQ Fundraiser.” The pop-up library included a canopy, sign, tables, hot spot, laptop and card scanner so they could issue library cards and register children and adults for the 2019 Summer Reading Program. As teams played exhibition games and got their pictures taken, the library issued 15 new library cards and renewed five others. While registering children and adults for the upcoming summer reading program, they also gave away donated books and promoted programs and services with people of all ages.

Nathan Watson, director of operations at the Bedford Public Library, created Elevate, a program that teaches employability soft skills to all sophomores at Bedford North Lawrence High School in an effort to help fulfill part of the Graduation Pathways requirement. Elevate is a six-session program that uses project-based learning to define, explore and master soft skills through the art of interviewing applicants for a local job. The interviews happened during the sixth session and the Hoosier Hills Credit Union sent a representative who explained that the credit union wanted to hire a teller and that the class was going to “hire” that person.

Watson also partnered with the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. The JAG students were tasked with acting like real job applicants and exhibiting certain soft skills during the interview. The Elevate student had to submit who they hired, what soft skills were displayed and the importance of the skills.

Watson’s program will continue and become a part of a new class titled Preparation for College and Careers which will fulfill a graduation requirement under the new Indiana Department of Education Graduation Pathways.

The Indiana Library Leadership Academy teaches librarians the leadership skills they need to thrive and flourish in their library careers. Planning for the next Indiana Library Leadership Academy to be held in summer 2020 is now underway.

This blog post was written by Kara Cleveland, Professional Development Office supervisor at the Indiana State Library.

The Difference is You conference is back! Registration begins May 13th.

Support staff from all over the state of Indiana, it’s time to begin looking for the initials DIY; not “do it yourself,” but the Difference is You. This year’s theme is “We are Community!” The conference will be held on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019 at the historic Indiana State Library. Registration opens Monday, May 13, 2019 at 8 a.m. As you know, this is a full day of learning and networking specifically geared toward library support staff, but everyone is welcome.

This year comes with a bit of a twist: you can preregister for your sessions. There will also be an early-bird registration rate of $25 until Aug. 1, 2019. After that date, the rate increases by $5. Registration closes on Aug. 16, 2019. Please be on the lookout for information on the DIY website, Listservs and social media. We look forward to seeing returning participants as well as new attendees. Remember, the Difference is You!

This blog post was written by Kimberly Brown-Harden, northwest regional coordinator, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Kim.

On-demand webinar recordings available

Did you know the Indiana State Library has over 130 archived webinars that you can access at any time? Earn LEUs on your own time, in the comfort of your own library! Archived training videos cover a wide range of topics including: admin/management, collection management, director training, facilities/security, genealogy, intellectual freedom, leadership, marketing, populations, programming, reference/research, staff development, trends, youth services and TLEUs. There’s something for everyone!

How do you document your LEUs? Any time you watch an Indiana State Library archived webinar recording, or any online event produced by an organization on the list of pre-approved training providers, your library’s designee in an administrative or human resources roll can create and award LEU certificates in-house. Certificates generated in-house may be formatted any way you choose, as long as they contain the following elements:

  • Participant’s name
  • Event/workshop provider’s name
  • Event/workshop name, date and number of LEUs obtained
  • Proctor/supervisor’s written name, professional title and signature – in the case of a library director, the HR manager or the president of the board of trustees should sign the certificate

LEUs are awarded hour-for-hour for eligible sessions lasting longer than 30 minutes. LEUs round up to two after 90 minutes. LEUs round up to three after 2.5 hours and so forth.

If you have any questions about archived webinar recordings, contact your regional coordinator!

Archived webinars
Pre-approved training providers
Regional coordinator

This blog post was written by Courtney Brown, Southeast regional coordinator from the Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office. For more information, email Courtney.

Fun and games or secret career-building tool?

When an employee starts a new job, the amount of information that they must digest, learn and assimilate into their professional practices can be overwhelming. Learning all of the new employer’s policies and procedures, the flow of the new job, all of your co-workers’ names and a myriad of other details can seem overwhelming. Dealing with this information overload takes skills that are often times called soft skills; for example, communications, critical thinking, leadership, problem solving and teamwork to name just a few. The Society for Human Resource Management, and human resource managers themselves, often rank a lack of these soft skills as a deficiency in their new hires.1

It should therefore come as little surprise that academia has been struggling for the last few years to find ways to teach these soft skills.

Board games can be a great sneaky way to help with fostering these skills. In many modern games, especially Euro-games, the players must take in information, process it and make decisions based on the rules of the game and the information about the game at that moment. Players also must talk to each other, sometimes even working together to beat the game as a team, and often solve problems that the game presents to them. Whether players know each other or are strangers, the social interactions that are created can help those players improve their social skills. In some parts of the world they are even being used to help with loneliness and mental health problems.2 Games are now even being used as a replacement for golf in corporate America.3

Whether it’s students in a class picking up on the concepts of conflict management while playing a collective game like Pandemic or children practicing scope and sequence by playing a game like Leo Goes to the Barber, board games can help all of our patrons with the skills that many employers are desperately seeking, thus preparing them for the future. If you are an academic librarian who would like to learn more about how to implement these ideas in an instructional session or an outreach event; a public librarian who has already been using games and would like additional advice or one who is unsure of where to start; or a school librarian looking for ideas for an after school program I am here to assist you! Please feel free to send me you thoughts, ideas or questions.

This post was written by George Bergstrom, Southwest regional coordinator, Professional Development Office, Indiana State Library.

INLLA participant Erin Cataldi strives to improve teen engagement

Every two years, the Indiana State Library hosts the Indiana Library Leadership Academy program for up-and-coming librarians in the field. Librarians across the state, and from a variety of library backgrounds, apply to attend INLLA. Each librarian is chosen based on the responses and project proposals submitted with their application. The participants selected, along with their coaches, spend four days learning about the qualities of leadership and, specifically, how those leadership qualities translate to the library profession. During the most recent INLLA, facilitator and author Cathy Hakala-Ausperk, of Libraries Thrive Consulting, contributed her expertise by sharing aspects of her library experience and talking about what it takes to be a leader.

Beginning with the four-day retreat, INLLA is a two-year commitment culminating in the completion of the projects that the participants designed to improve, enhance or strengthen some aspect of their library or community.

Pictured are Erin Cataldi, Stacey Kern and Raenell Smith at the Kwame Alexander author event held at Clark Pleasant Middle School.

INLLA participant Erin Cataldi, teen and adult reference librarian at the Clark Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library, wanted to increase teen engagement in her library. She realized that reaching teenagers in a mostly residential community can be hard and that there aren’t a lot of spaces for them to congregate and hang out. She wanted to improve the teen “space” in the library to become more inviting and to be used by its intended audience – teens.

One of Erin’s innovative programs: a Harry Potter escape room at Clark Pleasant branch.

Erin wanted to begin this process by offering more innovative programming to get the teens used to coming in to the library. She also wanted to revamp the teen space to make it more appealing to teens. Her approach was to work with local businesses and organizations to offer ongoing passive programs at all times in the teen space. She also decided that working more closely with the local schools to promote the library would be a good way to let teens know that the library is a safe place to meet up, hang out, study and create.

Currently, Erin doesn’t have control over the teen space due to the size of the existing building, but a recent announcement conveyed that by 2020 the library should be breaking ground to build a bigger branch. The proposed plan includes a generous teen area for materials and activities. So, the future is bright!

Erin Cataldi and Annie Sullivan at the Whiteland Community High School author event.

By volunteering to help out at school events, such as an author visit by Annie Sullivan, Erin continued to solidify her already established relationships with the local middle and high schools, which gives the students a closer connection to the library.

Monthly makerspace at Clark Pleasant Middle School.

Additionally, Erin operates a monthly makerspace at Clark Pleasant Middle School and regularly drops off program brochures, library card applications and posters to the schools around the county. She is also launching a teen advisory board this month in order to gather input into programming ideas for teens. She also attended a young adult round table to talk about best practices for teen programming and to get ideas to supplement what she is doing at their branch.

Erin is an example of a library leader who is having an impact on her library and on her community. This process began with INLLA and the project that she created to increase teen engagement in her area. With the idea of increasing teen engagement, Erin has developed a closer relationship with the schools by volunteering at their events and making more school visits. Teens at the Clark Pleasant Branch of the Johnson County Public Library are lucky to have Erin on their side and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

This blog post was written by Kara Cleveland, Professional Development Office supervisor at the Indiana State Library.

From the desk of the children’s consultant

If you stopped by my cubicle in the Professional Development Office of the Indiana State Library, you might notice a number of items on my desk related to upcoming trainings and projects relevant to youth services. You’d see:

  • Materials for my Collaborative Summer Library Program trainings and roundtables, which began on Dec. 3, 2018 and will continue through Feb. 1, 2019. By the way, for those of you who cannot attend an in-person workshop, don’t forget the webinar on Jan. 9, 2019. See the full list of dates and locations, along with the description, on ISL’s calendar of events

  • The outline for two-day long YALSA “Teen Services with Impact” training sessions for teen librarians. These sessions are slated to take place on March 26, 2019 at the Brown County Public Library and March 27, 2019 at Kokomo Public Library.  While the locations may require travel time for many librarians, these otherwise free workshops will be an amazing opportunity for teen librarians in Indiana to gather and discuss the future of teen services while gaining valuable training from an instructor who works for the Young Adult Library Services Association. These trainings are still in the process of being finalized; more details should be announced in early 2019. Until then, be sure to mark your calendars.

  • A press release announcing the Indiana State Library’s acceptance into the NASA @ My Library program’s Cohort 2. Along with 13 other state library agencies, ISL will receive resources, training and support, which we will use to assist public libraries in increasing and enhancing their STEM learning opportunities. We will also be given kits for circulation among public libraries; details on these kits and how to borrow them will be forthcoming. Read more about the NASA @ My Library program here.
  • A travel request to attend the National Learning Institute in Philadelphia in February. The Indiana State Library, along with the Indiana State Museum, Terre Haute Children’s Museum and Early Learning Indiana, was accepted to be a State Leader for the Franklin Institute’s Leap into Science program Cohort 2. Together, representatives from those four organizations, with me representing ISL, will be trained at the institute to offer train-the-trainer sessions to Indiana librarians, museum workers, early childhood programmers and other out-of-school time educators periodically over the next three years. These sessions will discuss how to integrate open-ended science activities with children’s books during programs designed for children ages three to 10 and their families. More details on how this will roll out in Indiana will be announced in spring or summer 2019. Read more about Leap into Science here.  
  • A map of the seven 2019 Every Child Ready to Read training locations – these locations were announced last month. The trainings will take place in March, April, May, August and October and are great for those new to doing story time, and for those looking for a refresher. You can register for them via ISL’s calendar of events.   

There is definitely a lot going on, and I look forward to sharing these trainings and projects with you in 2019!

This blog post was written by Beth Yates, children’s consultant for the Indiana State Library.


Reading is healthy: Introducing the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Reading Club

Book clubs and reading groups are staples of library outreach and literacy efforts. In these groups, people gather to discuss Oprah’s picks or the New York Times’ best-sellers in an effort to socially engage with literature and current events.

To help grow health-related literacy, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s NNLM All of Us Community Engagement Network has announced the launch of the NNLM Reading Club. The goal is to support libraries’ health literacy efforts and address local communities’ health information needs by celebrating important National Health Observances through the fun and intimacy of a book club.

Screen cap from

Screen cap from

The NNLM Reading Club offers a selection of three different book titles along with corresponding free, ready-to-use materials designed to help promote and facilitate a book club discussion on a health issue or topic. It’s easy to download the discussion materials and direct patrons to the library’s book holdings. However, the NNLM is offering an added benefit.

Beginning Nov. 1, 2018, participating NNLM libraries are making the quarterly reading club picks available in a free, handy and portable book club kit. This program-in-a-box format includes eight copies of each of the following items: the selected book, discussion guide, flier, NIH MedlinePlus Magazine, NIH All of Us Research Program brochure and additional materials in support of the selected health topic. All of these materials are tucked inside a handy library book bag and shipped to the requesting library.

Any U.S. library that is an organizational member of the National Network of Libraries of Medicine is eligible to apply and to receive one NNLM Reading Club book kit from Nov. 1, 2018 through April 30, 2019. The good news is membership to the NNLM is free.  Due to the limited supply of federally-sponsored NNLM Reading Club book kits, libraries that support outreach to vulnerable populations receive priority status.

Click here to browse the November selections and download the ready-to-use materials or to order an NNLM Book Club kit from a participating region.

This post was submitted by Professional Development Office Supervisor Kara Cleveland.

Association for Rural and Small Libraries Annual Conference recap

“You don’t have to be big to think big.”

“Create bolder goals.”

“Do most things well instead of all things mediocre.”

“Size is relative, not potential.”

“Focus on the things to be grateful for.”

“Small is not the same as less; look at what we do have!”

These quotes are a few of my favorites that I heard at the Association for Rural and Small Libraries Annual Conference, themed “Linking Libraries in the Lincoln,” that took place in Springfield, Illinois on Sept. 12-15, 2018. I have to say, this was one of the best national library conferences I have ever attended! The mission of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries is to provide “resources and support that empower those in small and rural libraries to deliver excellent service for their communities.” It’s also “a network of persons throughout the country dedicated to the positive growth and development of libraries.”

I had heard so many great things about the ARSL group. For years on the Indiana library Listservs I would see posts from Julie Elmore praising this group and how valuable it is for small and rural libraries. I finally got to see if for myself, as I joined ARSL earlier this year. On the ARSL Listserv you could tell that people were so psyched about the conference and the chance to meet new and old friends. The excitement was palpable! There are libraries out there that only have one staff person, which is why this group is so important. It can be very lonely working by yourself, but having the support and guidance of this group is priceless.

This year’s annual conference was originally capped at 500 people, but due to an overwhelming response, which saw the conference sell out in three weeks, an additional 250 attendees were accommodated! The conference committee, chaired by Elmore, director of the Oakland City Columbia Township Public Library in Oakland City, Indiana, did an amazing job finding overflow hotel space, rearranging layouts and wading through numerous wait lists.

Forty-nine of the 50 states were represented at this conference. In the picture, you see 26 librarians from Indiana alone, though many other Hoosier librarians didn’t make the picture. We had many opportunities to network with dine-arounds, trivia night and special tours of the Illinois State Library. I met some very cool librarians from states all over the country, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. I met a lovely lady who said that the conference was a like a vacation for her because she’s the mother of seven kids!

There were so many presentations I wanted to see and despite a few being repeated, I ran out of time. The presentations were extremely practical and ran the gamut of what libraries are doing: library of things, coding, strategic planning, marketing and storytimes. Programming ideas included “Adulting 101” and an “Escape Room @ the Library.” Small and rural libraries are used to wearing many hats, so they know how to do it all and the awesome presentations reflected that fact.

Along with the presentations, we had excellent keynote speakers. President Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by historical presenter Kevin Wood, brought history to life with some of his recollections and insights. Author and Illinois native Elizabeth Berg stressed that “no place ever felt quite like home, except a library.” Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden joined us via live stream and talked about ways that the Library of Congress can truly be the library of the United States. Part of their strategic plan is to do more outreach and open up resources. Dr. Hayden said one way that libraries can take advantage of this is to live stream Library of Congress programs at their own libraries.

“Linking Libraries in the Lincoln” was a resounding success! There was such an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie among attendees who shared successes, encouraged each other and learned new things from passionate professionals. I definitely recommend attending this conference; you won’t be sorry you went. So be sure to mark your calendars for 2019. There is already a countdown clock for the next ARSL conference  on Sept. 4-7, 2019 in Burlington, Vermont. ARSL 2020 will be back in the Midwest – YEAH!

This post was written by Northeast Regional Coordinator Paula Newcom, Professional Development Office.