Session Notes: Libraries Transform, Big Ideas, PEW Research, Libraries Are Education Institutions, Hospitality and Elevator Speeches at PLA! | Compendium

This is part of a series of Session Notes from grantees who have received Professional Development grants. Each grantee will share their professional development experience and include tips and other resources from the workshop or class.  Grantees had their choice of an article for the Compendium, a webinar or a podcast.  This project was made possible by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Janet Eldred, Director, Hollidaysburg Area Public Library

Janet Eldred, Director, Hollidaysburg Area Public Library


Submitted by Janet Eldred, Director
Hollidaysburg Public Library
Eldred attended the
2016 Public Library Association, Denver, Colorado in April:

The conference opened with Anderson Cooper talking with PLA’s Brendan Dowling about his new book, written with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt: The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son Talk About Life, Love and Loss. The Library has since received the book (just this week) and it promises to be a favorite with memoir fans.

One of the features of this year’s PLA, the Mobile App, made it extra easy to keep track of the schedule and personal agenda. Something to consider for “our” next PaLA conference!

The vender area was huge, featuring many giveaways, including, of course, books, only a few of which I could take because of airplane luggage restrictions.

And, dedicated to job providers and job seekers, a Career Center gave advice on resumes and interviews.

I attended at least four training sessions every day; my favorites are as follows.

Transform You Library: Join ALA’s New Public Awareness Campaign, Libraries Transform
The campaign website is . Go to the website and share your “transform” stories. For example, all three of my sons love to read; they gained an appreciation of reading at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library! Share your favorite “because” statement; explain how your library is transforming your community, for example: “because more than ¼ of US households don’t have Internet Access.”

Big Ideas Session with Verna Myers
Every day opened with great, Big Ideas, but my favorite was with Verna Myers, author if Moving Diversity Forward: How to Move from Well-Meaning to Well-Doing and What if I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People. Her humorous and meaningful presentation hit home when she talked about a study that demonstrates that most people when asked to choose the most competent people from among pictures of people of different races, ages, gender, and size will choose according to stereotypes. Short, over-weight females over age 50 were viewed as less competent than tall, thin, young men. Quite short, stout, female, and (much) over 50, I can relate! We all need to be aware of our own biases and actively set them aside to create a more just world.

Extraordinarily Engaged: How Three Libraries are Transforming Their Communities
Representatives from Columbus (Wis.) Public Library, Red Hook Public Library (N.Y.) and Spokane (Wash.) County Library District shared their experiences with planning from and “external” rather than “internal” focus. What matters most to the people we serve? How can the Library help the community meet their needs? How can the Library be a “community change agent?” Librarians are encouraged to take the library to the community: to family nights at the school, to community fairs, and to local cafés. See and www.ala.LTC/resources

Libraries = Education: Reclaiming Our Purpose for the 21st Century
Reclaim our place as leading community educators; public libraries preceded public schools as the original educators in our country. Libraries are not just educational support institutions; libraries ARE education. The language we use is important. Which would you rather eat? A prune or a dried plum? Instead of using the word “program” say “class.” Consider referring to your library staff as educators. “Self-directed education,” “research,” and “instructive educational experiences” instead of “browsing,” “reference,” and “programs.” Find a different term for “story time”; it trivializes what your children’s librarian is doing. Consider instead “year-round, preschool classes.” Your children’s librarian is teaching the foundations of reading! Make sure the language you use affirms that. Students of all ages come to the library; not patrons (“patrons” implies that they are donating to the library, justifying private over public funding.) Refer to your instructor and research specialists (instead of reference assistants;) customer service specialists (instead of front-desk staff.) Libraries deliver high-quality education for all. Language changes may take up to two years, with overlap of current language with new during the transition, but necessary to transform our image to the educators that we are.

From Reading to Learning: New Pew Research on Libraries
This session reviewed new research ( survey of 2,700 people of various backgrounds) from the Pew Research Center on “where, how, and why people pursue professional and personal learning and the role technology plays.” Among the findings: socio-economic status shapes the pursuit of life-long learning, and, ¾ of people see libraries as doing a good job with helping in the pursuit of lifelong learning. Those in lower-income groups, though less likely to pursue learning than are those in higher-income groups, are more likely to have visited their library and are more likely to trust the library (than are those in higher-income groups.) Those in lower-income groups see the library as there for them though their use has actually dropped (insignificantly) since 2012. People in higher-income groups have more opportunities to gain learning at places other than libraries. Another finding—about ½ of Americans are not “tech-ready” for technology provided education. Libraries have a place in improving this “readiness.”

Hospitality: The Essential Ingredient
Pam Sandian Smith (Director, Anythink Libraries) and Ben Hecht (Mercantile Restaurant manager) discuss creating environments where “customers” have exceptional experiences, including happiness and connection with others. “Hospitality” conveys emotion, an intent to take care of a person that “customer service” does not. Often we don’t recognize the positive, nonverbal communication of “hospitality” until we’ve left the establishment and then realize how well and easily we were welcomed and served. How do we provide hospitality: hire happy people and then support them in becoming great!

What’s Your Elevator Speech? The Message Matters
This session taught techniques utilized by political action committees in crafting a positive “elevator speech.” Instead of just giving numbers and statistics, which we are apt to do, share impact stories of how our libraries are changing lives. Poll our communities; see what they need and want and then strive to provide it. Shape our message to our communities. Taylor your message to your audience; depending on the audience in 27 words and 9 seconds, share 3 key points. Get your message out in short, “tweetable” and press-quotable statements. Practice what you will say in any given situation and in response to any particular challenge. To the library user, start with “as you know” to the nonuser, “ as you can imagine.