Several Linn County Library directors attended the 2019 Kansas Library Association Conference held in Overland Park last week. We attended sessions that provided information about how to help our library guests be “Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.” One of those sessions was provided by Janet Reynolds of the La Cygne Library. She shared how they built a “lunch and learn” program for their over-50 population. Averaging 25-30 seniors per week who attend a meal, they also learned about cooking, art, houseplant care and computer safety. Over the past year, they served over 3,600 meals in their community.

As a Friends of Kansas Libraries board member, my participation focused on encouraging interested attendees to form Friends organizations. The collaboration of people and businesses in a community can help libraries provide services like those mentioned above and many others. Our annual FoKL luncheon featured the newest Kansas Poet Laureate, Huascar Medina. In a short conversation with this young author, we discussed the importance of young students writing their thoughts and feelings, rather than bottling them inside.

Emporia State University’s senior, Camille Abdel-Jawad, provided a poster session titled “Using Creative Writing to Serve Teens with Multi-faceted Identities.” She used a guided activity that utilizes a fill-in-the-blank template “I am from …” It allows poets and non-poets alike to express themselves creatively and think deeply about different facets of growing up and how where we’re from as part of who we are. One of her objectives was to engage students and foster new connections with those who may have similar experiences or develop empathy with those who have different experiences.

In addition to the many breakout sessions provided attendees, we also had time to network with librarians from across the state. We shared stories of ways we collaborate with those in our community to provide service to our populations and ways we can improve those services. These conferences are an ideal way to gain a great deal of information in a condensed period of time. Afterwards, we can strive to put it to use in our own libraries and to help make our communities “healthy, wealthy & wise.”