There is a special conference out there just for support staff and it is called The Difference is You. This year’s theme, Your Service Matters, was chosen by the DIY subcommittee lead by the Indiana State Library’s staff member, Kim Brown-Harden. This is the second year for this event which caters specifically to Indiana library staff members who do not hold a master’s degree. Held on August 10th, at the Indianapolis Public Library’s Central Branch, it is a deal at only 25.00 per registrant. And that includes lunch! Registration is available through the Indiana Library Federation, which is partnering with the Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Committee to produce this event.
The Indiana State Library reached out to Paris Pegg, Director at the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library for her thoughts on the DIY event held in 2015.
Why did you decide to send staff to the 2015 Difference is You Staff event?
“It’s always a challenge to find staff development activities that are new, fresh, different, etc. News of the 2015 Difference is You conference came across my desk and it just seemed like a great alternative to some of the things we’ve done for staff development in the past (and the timing was right). One highly successful staff development day involved sending teams of staff to different libraries within an hour’s drive of Richmond to see how library service works outside our own doors. The Difference is You conference afforded us another opportunity to get out of our own space and see library service through others eyes. MRL staff has been very insulated in this respect and I encourage them to get out and go to conferences and workshops in other locations, but because many aren’t comfortable driving long distances or in heavy traffic, we have limited opportunities. Another consideration was the cost of the conference. We couldn’t bring someone in to conduct the quality of workshops and the variety offered for $25 per employee! Because of the low cost, we were able to charter a bus and get everyone to the conference without anyone having to worry about driving or traffic or parking.
Did you see a difference in your staff after they attended the event in 2015?
There was a renewed enthusiasm about library service; a renewed confidence in what we do at MRL; and a renewed interest in implementing new ideas. Staff are still hesitant to go outside MRL if they have to drive, but they’re more willing to explore different options and get ideas from other libraries.
How often do you send support staff to off-site conferences?
We encourage them to attend at least once a year for the district conference. Opportunities for support staff seem to be somewhat limited, but as with the district conference, we will encourage support staff to attend the Difference is You conference and do our best to make travel available. I’m not aware of other off-site conferences that would be appropriate for support staff to attend.
Would you encourage other libraries to participate in the Difference is You staff event in 2016?
Absolutely! I will say it is geared toward support staff in a way I’ve not seen with other conferences. So many conferences offer “professional” development that tends to be geared more toward degreed librarians and administrators. This conference is unique in that support staff are encouraged in their roles in the library, they are recognized for their service, and they come away with a better understanding of how “professional” applies to them, as well.
If you have questions about Difference is You: Your Service Matters, please reach out to Kim Brown-Harden, at the Indiana State Library: firstname.lastname@example.org.