ARSL Logoby Carolyn Davidson Brewer, Richland Hills Public Library Director

I recently attended my first ARSL conference (Association for Rural and Small Libraries).  I had been interested in the past to attend this conference, but limited funds and time had not allowed my attendance.  Luckily for me, and other local library staff, this year the conference was held in Frisco. 

I must admit I was surprised at the low turn-out from Texas libraries, we were represented with fairly small numbers.  There were 350 total attendees, according to Steve Seale who was one of the conference coordinators.  One of my favorite offerings of this conference was meeting librarians from all over the United States who are working hard in small and rural libraries – and working very successfully.  The exchange of expertise and ideas was steady every day.   It is amazing how many services are provided by libraries across our nation, with such tough budgets and staffing levels. 

For those who have attended a NTLP conference, the set-up was very similar – just a bit larger.  The smaller library theme allowed for sessions to be very specific to needs and issues in the smaller or rural environment.  One thing for me, the newly appointed library director in Richland Hills, is that while my community is small (8,000), the library is part of the Metropac system with Fort Worth and our school district is shared over several communities;  we operate through many partnerships and our identity can feel lost.  It became very apparent that I need to define what my community needs from our library –  the Richland Hills Public Library.  I won’t say the library is in an identity crisis, but an identity rejuvenation.  As I listened to other library directors’ ideas and solutions, all strengthening their libraries, I was energized to return to my library and put ideas into action.

Some of the ideas I will implement soon:

  • QR Reader’s Advisory Codes – If you liked this author, try this author
  • Financial Literacy Programming
  • Better Business Outreach and Partnerships
  • Desk chair yoga – to handle the day to day stress! 

It is also time for RHPL to survey our community and find out what residents want and need from us, what we are missing and just as importantly, what we are doing right. 

If you get the chance to attend this conference, especially for those of you working  in very rural communities, I highly encourage you to find the money and time – and just go to the next ARSL conference!

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Original Publication Date: 
September, 2011