Libraries as Learning Places: Reflections from ABQLA’s 78th Annual Conference

11 May

Less than a week had gone by since returning home to Montreal from the LWB Guatemala Trip and I already was already back into the swing of Montreal libraryland. This past weekend was the 78th annual ABQLA Conference on the theme of “Libraries as Learning Places”. I was especially excited about this conference because many of the presentations related to issues of great importance to library directors such as marketing and communications that I felt were not covered in library school classes.

The first keynote speaker was Lori Reed, a librarian trainer from North Carolina. She addressed the hard financial situation faced by many libraries and encouraged participants to promote their libraries as educational institutions in order to highlight to users and policy-makers the importance of libraries within a community. Unfortunately I had to miss the talk of another keynote speaker Mitch Joel’s. However from what I heard, it sounded like it was very similar to talks I’ve heard at Web 2.You, where Web 2.0 technologies are promoted as promotional tools to strengthen the users’ experience with their library.

I did enjoy the talk by Pam MacKellar, the Accidental Librarian, who emphasized the importance of perspective when facing difficult situations. I felt that her talk was extremely relevant to me as a soon-to-be library director. She spoke about the damage caused when people only focus on obstacles instead of seeing potential opportunities. Although a lot of what she said was common sense (negativity breeds negativity), it was nonetheless important to hear this reiterated especially since I will soon be responsible for tough situations that will require that I maintain my most positive attitude.

The last keynote speaker and without a doubt the most entertaining of the conference was Paul Huschilt. Anyone who has not seen Paul Huschilt at a conference does not know what it is like to laugh non-stop for an hour. Tying in perfectly with Pam’s presentation on the importance of positive thinking, Paul Huschilt demonstrated the “Seven Humour Habits for Workplace Wellness” and had everyone laughing out loud. Yours truly even got to participate as a volunteer during his talk which was a lot of fun. Although Paul Huschilt really had nothing to do with libraries, I applaud the conference organizers for inviting such an entertaining speaker who reminded us all how therapeutic laughter can be.

The most interesting regular session that I attended was by Tanya Abramovitch, the Library Director of the Cote-St-Luc Public Library, who discussed “Library University” an initiative that offers courses on a variety of topics including Readers’ Advisory 101, Delivering Sweetheart Service, Searching for Movies workshop, etc. These courses mostly taught by staff are offered during work hours for other staff to develop their expertise in various subject areas. Allowing staff to take classes on subjects outside of their departmental responsibilities encourages the understanding of the library’s “big picture” which helps to better motivate them in their work. It was extremely obvious by Tanya Abramovitch’s enthusiasm the positive impact of this staff development initiative on the Cote-St-Luc library. Her enthusiasm was extremely contagious and everyone left this session motivated to better develop their own knowledge and skill sets in order to provide the best possible service to users.

My absolute favourite moment of the conference was during lunch on the Saturday when the convenor was attempting to get the attention of the crowd. In order to quiet down the half of the conference-goers who were still chatting away, the other half of the group spontaneously shushed them. It was the most delightfully hilarious sight to see such a large group of librarians shushing in unison. I could not help laughing out loud and this was even before Paul Huschilt took the stage!

This was a truly a wonderful conference. Thank you again to all the organizers and the speakers.

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One Response to “Libraries as Learning Places: Reflections from ABQLA’s 78th Annual Conference”

  1. Tanya Abramovitch May 14, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    Thank you very much for your comments regarding my talk last Saturday. I appreciate it. I hear you are soon to be a library director – congratulations and good luck. It’s very rewarding.

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