CALS Takes Chicago

The American Library Association Annual Convention took place in Chicago June 22-27. Eleven CALS staff members were able to attend this year, from a variety of departments across the system including communications, human resources, branch management, youth services, and community resources.

The conference brought in 15,000 library workers and students for this multi-day convention. The opening ceremony (and many of the sessions throughout the duration) touched on the current hot button topic that many libraries (including ours) are facing – book bans and the laws surrounding them. During the opening ceremony, where Judy Blume spoke, the challenge of Act 372 was brought up, with Little Rock and Fayetteville getting a shout out for the efforts to help challenge this unconstitutional law.

Sessions covered a range of topics from creating a library where everyone belongs to memory care to how to expand your library of things. Each attendee from CALS was able to choose which sessions they attended to help them best with their particular roles. Chloe, a Community Resource Navigator, was able to also go tour the Harold-Washington branch of the Chicago Public Library and talk to staff there about the resources they use and how they partner with other organizations.

But not everyone from CALS who attended ALA was there just to attend sessions. Leah Patterson, Rock It! Lab Coordinator, was there to present. She was invited to speak about the RIL in the session titled “Presenting on Libraries as Spokes in an Entrepreneurial ‘Hub’: Lessons From the SBA Community Navigator Grant.” Of six libraries that were part of the SBA Community Navigator Grant, three presented during this panel.

“In one library system, the funds were used in large part to purchase technology in the form of laptops and other equipment. Another library system used the funds to create podcasting and other audio/visual spaces for their patrons. I shared how we used the funds to support the creation and management of our Business Incubator program,” Leah said.
Even during this panel, the challenge of patron privacy became a topic of interest. “The challenges we collectively commented on revolved around the robust data capturing and reporting that’s necessary with this level of federally funded grant money. All of the presenters agreed that there was a learning curve in understanding the amount of data on each participant necessary and the reporting requirements. This brought up questions about patron privacy and how much information libraries can and should be able to say is necessary in order to receive services. Some people felt like there should be no barriers, however the SBA will only give credit for patrons that are correctly entered into their database system.”

Another group attended ALA for a different reason; Tameka Lee and Kelli Marks represented the Communications Department where they picked up two awards from the PR Xchange. During this smaller session, they were able to talk with other libraries and learn about the efforts to market the services that libraries offer and the challenges each library faces. They were able to see other award winning marketing efforts and were invited to give a virtual presentation at a later date about one of the winning pieces. You can read the full press release about the awards here.

Carol Coffey, CALS Strategic Data Manager, participated in ALA’s Chapter Leaders Forum, which is for members who hold a leadership role in a state chapter of ALA. Carol is the president of ArLA, our state’s chapter. We have a representative on ALA Council, which is the policy-making and governing body of ALA. The forum lasted all day and was an opportunity to make connections with and get to know leaders from other state chapters as well as discuss common issues and share ideas to improve chapter governance and management. There were more than 30 states represented.

Conference attendance like this provides opportunities to reinvigorate the staff, to network with others that you might have otherwise not had the opportunity to meet, and to learn about new programs, services, and authors.