New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

2015 Dewey Fellows Reflect on their Experiences

Jennifer Little Kegler, Librarian, Drake Memorial Library

As a Dewey 2015 Fellow I would like to thank the ASLS section and NYLA for sponsoring my recent trip to the annual NYLA conference.  I was honored to receive this award, and it helped make my trip more affordable and thus more enjoyable.  As an academic librarian in the SUNY system we have many choices for conferences, and with low travel budgets it is often difficult to choose what to attend.  Attending NYLA in Lake Placid was a great experience, as I was able not only to attend programs related to my work as an academic librarian but also as a friend of the library.  I have not attended NYLA yearly, and I truly felt that this conference’s programming was one of the best years.  I especially enjoyed meeting academic and special librarians and found the ASLS programs very engaging and informative.  With the connections made there, I hope to work more on embedding librarian services in classes and promoting scholarly communications.  I learned how several other librarians are using creative means to embed themselves in classes, such as one librarian who travels with the students on their field experience at Cranberry Lake.  As a presenter for publishing from an academic viewpoint, I also gained practical tips from a public librarian who has published many book reviews and other articles.

I would like to encourage more academic and special librarians to join NYLA.  Participation seems low compared to the involvement I experienced in two other state library associations over the course of my career. I appreciate the work that NYLA has done to advocate for libraries, and I believe all librarians need to support that work.  As a newly active member of my local library’s Friends group (plus the newly formed Friends for my academic library), I also sought out the new Friends’ section and attended sessions on fundraising for libraries.  I gained several new ideas that I was able to summarize and provide for my two local Friends groups.  I felt such camaraderie with librarians of from all libraries (including the fun scholarship game night), which helped rekindle my passion for my career in librarianship.  The NYLA Annual Conference was a highlight for my year and I am very grateful for the assistance I received as the ASLS 2015 Dewey Fellow.

Photo - Susan PolosSusan Polos, Mt. Kisco Elementary School

This fall I was honored to attend the 2015 NYLA Conference as a Dewey Fellow. The theme of the conference was “Explore. Learn. Grow,” and the opportunities to embrace and experience that theme were plentiful. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Melvil Dewey’s founding of NYLA, the conference was held in Lake Placid. It was fun and a little bit heady to march into the opening session behind a huge balloon Olympic torch with other school librarian section members of NYLA as all sections gathered and the games began!

Our keynote speaker was David Lankes. I’ve heard Lankes speak before, and I am a huge fan. Lankes inspires and challenges us all to rethink old paradigms. His slide show reminded us of how far we’ve come since Dewey founded NYLA while providing a vision for the future. This set just the right tone for the programs and session to follow. New York’s library professionals honor all that has come before but we are ready to break new ground in librarianship.

A definite highlight was being asked, along with middle school school librarian Sue Kowalski, to share a five-minute presentation about how school libraries have responded to the Regents Advisory Council’s Vision 2020. We followed Maria Muhlbauer, a high school librarian. Together we showcased many best practices K-12 in our schools and were part of a broader systems’ “smackdown” facilitated by Claudia Depkin and Sara Kelly Johns on behalf of the RAC.
Another highlight was the program led by John Brock of NYSED, who outlined the action steps resulting from the 2014 NYSED/NYLA School Libraries Summit. John has led the charge to keep moving forward. We were able to clearly see the progress we have made toward our goals and assume responsibility for the work that is continuing. We were also able to have a productive dialogue about how library schools and public schools in light of changes we’ve seen since the Summit.

The School Library Section membership meeting was meaningful as the gavel was passed and a wonderful storyteller shared tales of the Adironacks. This was the final session and a fitting one as our section gathered to share thanks to our outgoing president Jill Leinung and our departing vice-president of conferences, MaryAnn Karre.
The 2015 NYLA Conference was memorable in and of itself, but knowing I was there as a Dewey Fellow made it even more special. I wore my yellow ribbon with great pride and enormous gratitude. I am thankful to all who made it possible. I will always cherish especially that I was a Dewey fellow in the year of Dewey, in Lake Placid, the place where NYLA began.

Photo - Terry RabideauTerry Rabideau, Librarian II, White Plains Public Library

Attending the NYLA Annual Conference is always a chance to gain exciting ideas for new and innovative library programs and be inspired by amazing authors. This year, I came to the Annual Conference with yet another, perhaps even bigger purpose… With an impending major renovation of our adult services area at White Plains, I was seeking answers to questions of what overall services libraries today should be offering. Upon reflection, all three of these areas came to fruition for me.

I began looking for program ideas. I attended Chrissie Morrison’s (formerly at East Greenbush Public Library) Continuing Education Workshop, Volunteens 101. I came away with many practical ideas for improving our teen volunteer program at White Plains Public Library (WPPL) in areas of recruitment, training and management. Cathy Brenner’s (Bethlehem Public Library) workshop, Outreach to Schools and Community Groups, reaffirmed in my mind the importance of extending the work of my library beyond its physical walls. She helped me realize that outreach can be done without a lot of additional effort by taking what we already do in the library (and do well), and going  outside with it. Cathy Henderson’s (Greece Public Library) workshop, Minecraft Literacy for Parents and Grandparents, gave me an idea for a totally new and different program to bring back to my library to try out.

Hearing authors speak is where I gain inspiration during the conference. At the Youth Services Section Membership Meeting on the first day of the conference, YA author Jennifer Donnelly, whose best known work is Northern Light, offered a strong warning to her listeners: “Do not ignore the ghosts.” Keep their stories alive so that “wrongs can be righted.” This notion offers clarity as to why she writes about the things that she does. It further points to the importance of the reader searching for and considering the messages that authors seek to convey in their writings.

Relative to that third and bigger purpose for my attendance at the conference, that of understanding library services, I heard a clear and consistent theme. It dealt with our communities and what they are asking of libraries and came from several speakers.

Dr. R. David Lankes, Professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University School of Information Studies and Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse, advised that libraries, (and of course, librarians,) need to create their own future by working in these areas:

  1. Learning – Education must be effective and affordable in schools, colleges and libraries. With this said, we cannot wait to be asked to work together. It is our responsibility to talk to each other;
  2. Privacy and Security – Libraries must spearhead this;
  3. Instilling Values – Libraries should provide the best reading for the largest number at the least cost.

Lankes’ closing remarks highlighted the importance of communities as he suggested that our motto should be to “improve society through knowledge one community at a time.” We should not be asking people, “How can I help you?” Instead, we should be asking, “What are you passionate about?”

Justin Hoenke, Library Director of the Benson Memorial Library, Titusville, PA and formerly Teen Librarian at Chattanooga Public Library, echoed the importance of community. He stated that the “community defines innovation.” He went on to say that library should listen to the community, interpret, and “make awesome things happen.”

Kimberly Bolan Cullen and Rob Cullen, of Kimberly Bolan and Associates, LLC, offered some practical suggestions for how the physical spaces of libraries can meet the needs of their communities. These included maintaining active and quiet spaces in the sizes needed; getting electrical power to library users throughout the building; offering comfortable, productive furniture; and making collections easy to browse.

Finally, the message that rang through loud and clear at the Inaugural Celebration Awards Ceremony summed up the community theme in a single statement: “The heart of the library is the community.” It’s that simple!

As I returned to White Plains the following weekend, I realized how important it was to have attended this event. It had offered me new ideas I could implement immediately, inspiration for why our work is so important, and a redirection in the focus libraries should adopt in terms of the services they offer. All of these outcomes are so critical to ensure we continue to move forward and carry on with the library work that we love. I thank the New York Library Association, including the Youth Services Section, for selecting me as a Dewey Fellow and the White Plains Public Library administration for encouraging me to attend the conference. The overwhelming support allowed me to take advantage of this valuable opportunity.