By Elizabeth Ann Watson
Duplin County Library Director
Kenansville, North Carolina
I was honored to receive one of the scholarships offered by the State Library of North Carolina to attend the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, in September. I went with a thankful attitude and a determination to make the most of the opportunity. It was a very positive and energizing experience.
As part of receiving the scholarship, I wrote a post to the listserv each day. I wrote about a session I attended on community impact planning, which is another way to say strategic planning. Strategic planning is no longer boring because we get to dream bigger dreams for our libraries. These dreams can have an impact beyond the walls of our library and change how the community looks and what it feels like to live or visit there. It doesn’t get more powerful and motivating than that! I also attended a session on how to advocate for your library, and I wrote a message to the listserv outlining my four-point plan to convince my county commissioners to join an e-book consortium. The strategies outlined in that plan are based directly on information I received in one of the ARSL sessions.
I learned that it’s all about the community. One of the themes of the conference was that libraries should be embedded in the community. Libraries need to assess the needs of the community they serve and focus on meeting those needs. One speaker told me, “You are not just a library director; you are community leader who happens to be a library director.” I heard lots of examples of public libraries partnering with organizations and businesses in their communities.
When I returned from the conference to my library in Kenansville, North Carolina, I felt inspired to raise the bar on my own and my library’s involvement in the community. I spoke with Kurt Kremer, the owner of the Olde Drug Store Café, a small local business in town, and asked him if he might be willing to offer a “show your library card” discount. Mr. Kremer decided to offer the following weekly special
Come and have lunch with us, show your library card and your iced tea is FREE.
(This offer is valid between Oct. 15 – 19 )
I advertised this promotion heavily. Especially effective was sending out an e-mail to all county employees. This was a simple idea and did not cost the library anything other than the time and effort to advertise it, but it generated a lot of business for the Olde Drug Store Café, raised awareness of the library, and encouraged people to register for library cards. The idea was so popular that Mr. Kremer decided to continue the offer for a second week. That is my success story.
If you would like to know more about the Association for Rural & Small Libraries and this conference, please visit the website at http://arsl.info. The conference programs and handouts are available at http://arsl.info/category/handouts/.
Elizabeth was able to attend the Association for Rural & Small Libraries with a scholarship from IMLS through the State Library of North Carolina.