This past week, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the wonderful Association for Rural and Small Libraries conference. The committee members who developed the conference live across the country and all have jobs in rural and small libraries. The conference sessions included a range of diverse topics, and I selected those I hoped could best be utilized at our library. The first concerned “Serving Hidden Patrons” and focused on serving people in the community who are unable to visit the library. This is also known as outreach, and we currently do this on a limited basis by visiting preK classes and a local daycare, but hope to expand services to include others.

“Libraries and the 2020 Census: Ensuring rural residents get counted” is a topic that’s being promoted to large and small libraries throughout the nation. As the time to conduct it draws near, small libraries hope to learn more about how they can help their communities can obtain their fair share of funding for schools, health centers, roads, housing assistance and other vital programs.

At the session “Reframing issues in your library and community” speakers encouraged librarians to reframe problems into opportunities for positive change. As we walked from session to session, we had the opportunity to engage with vendors to obtain information about their services. Our luncheon featured popular children’s book cartoonist and author Sandra Boynton. Some of her books are available at our library. Meals also gave us the chance to meet and talk with librarians from across the country and share ideas.

Friday’s sessions included “Feeding America: Gardens, Seed Exchanges, Summer Meals are More!” We were encouraged to collaborate with organizations in our area to: distribute food at the library; teach and support gardening and healthy eating; and support food programs. We also learned to access resources of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Additional topics followed on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. An important meeting I attended was in preparation to hold next year’s conference in Kansas. Previous conference attendance has grown to 750 attendees from Alaska to Arkansas, and Vermont to Washington state. Preparation has begun to promote “S.O.A.R. Sharing Our Amazing Resources” in Wichita Sept. 30-Oct. 3. Committee members were asked to share our strengths and interests, and will be contacted to learn how they can be engaged with planning and implementing the 2020 conference.

All was not work for the large number of librarians at this conference. We were treated to the beauty of the surrounding landscape of Vermont, which sits on the banks of Lake Champlain, and is home to the University of Vermont. Though the leaves had barely begun to change color, the air was at times crisp and breezy and there were opportunities to walk. It was a wonderful visit to a beautiful state and a refresh for many of us who serve our public. The opportunity was so appreciated!