Sunday night, George Needham (of OCLC and "It's All Good" fame) gave the keynote speech, as well as starting us off Monday morning with a recap and some discussion suggestions. Much of what he talked about was familiar to me as a regular It's All Good reader, but it's different when you can listen to an engaging, charismatic speaker. George related the findings of OCLC's Perception of Libraries study with all institutions and started us off with 4 questions:
- How can I tell if my institution is providing superior performance?
- What is our distinctive impact?
- What is our enduring value?
- How can our institutions enable transformation?
We broke off into discussion groups after breakfast. Our morning groups were segregated by institutional type, so my groups consisted of libraries, mostly public. Having spent all my work career in academic libraries, it was interesting to have a discussion about these issues that are certainly relevant to ALL libraries, but hearing different backgrounds, outcomes, etc. Some of the answers we came up with for question 3, for example, reflected ideas that I certainly would not have come up with. In particular, we thought that the enduring values of libraries include being the memory of our communities, promoting Democratic values (which I don't think we do enough of, but that's for another post), providing lifelong education and entertainment, and that the library has the ability to make changes in order to meet the needs of its constituency. We got hung up a bit on how we can make transformation - something we could all agree on was the promotion of library as a destination, that people come to libraries for a certain experience and ambiance.
Just before lunch we had 2 speakers to get us all geared up for the afternoon discussion group. Karen Smith, Deputy Director at the Arizona Department of Water Resources, gave an overview about the state of water in Arizona as the state nears its Centennial in 2012. Marisa Ramirez, the Digital Repository Coordinator for the Arizona State Library, talked about the Arizona Memory Project, which just officially launched at this event.
For our afternoon breakout session, we divided up by geographical location, so I ended up in the East Valley group. This was particularly interesting since our group comprised of libraries, museums, private historians, and archivists. To be honest, while I am deeply interested in Arizona's water situation (and indeed, other environmental issues - don't get me started on air quality here), I hadn't considered what kind of impact I could make in community awareness as a librarian. We discussed consolidating our holdings on the history of water management in Arizona, promoting water conservation awareness in schools and libraries, having exhibits on extinct civilizations in the Salt River Valley as well as other topics. It was really pretty exhilarating to collaborate with so many different institutions.
Finally, we all came back together as a group to talk about the State's Centennial. Again, not something I'd been aware of, but I can see the potential for using the celebration to make some lasting impact. We ended with chocolate and conversation.
Overall, it was a very positive experience. I met a lot of really nice, interesting, passionate people. I participated in thought-provoking discussion. I ate some yummy free food. On a final side note, I did introduce myself to George Needham, who is the first blogger I've met in person. That was kind of exciting - I think I'm a library blog fan!
Update: George has posted a brief summary of the convocation at It's All Good.