Kristi Chadwick’s reflections on her ARSL Conference experience

This was my first experience attending the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) Annual Conference. While the group had been on my radar for a while, especially when I was first hired in the role of Advisor for Small Libraries, I had not explored its possibilities until now. The first draw I found was the preconference program from the PLA Planning Academy, led by Stephanie Gerding. This all-day session was a dive into strategic planning for smaller libraries, including design thinking and one-page plans for advocacy. I look forward to bringing a lot of this into my Spring 2018 Strategic Planning workshops.

I was enthused by the number of librarians who explained how this conference is the best they ever attended. It is not overwhelming, with 2017 being a “record attendance” of around 540 people. Everyone who presented had real experience working as a rural library, many standalone, and even their systems and networks are widespread and working on limited resources, as many libraries can do. Among some of the sessions I attended were “Nitty Gritty Policy Manual,” “Bursting at the Seams: Extraordinary Service in Limited Space,” and “Small Libraries Create Smart Spaces.” Descriptions of these sessions are on the ARSL 2017 Conference webpage: http://arsl.info/2017-conference-schedule-as-of-72617/

All in all, I would definitely recommend this conference to smaller libraries or larger libraries that have self-autonomy in branches. Personal experiences and networking is a wonderful part of this conference, which may not be as workable in some of the larger conferences. ARSL is planning to have their 2019 conference in Burlington, VT. I would encourage our MA libraries to both submit programming and attend, even if only for a day. It is worth it!

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