Thank you to the 80+ librarians who joined CLiF at the Briggs Opera House/Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction for the Rural Library Conference. The overall theme was Welcoming All Library Patrons, and as in the past, what most participants enjoy most about this conference is the opportunity for sharing ideas, discussing tough and fun topics with similar sized and staffed libraries, drawing inspiration from different types of libraries, meeting new people, and accessing ideas from those with both experience and expertise. We are pleased to make the documents produced for conference sessions available here, along with some additional notes and opportunities. Please, attendees, share ideas we missed!

We started by establishing some group agreements to establish this as a safe space for asking questions. We borrowed them from NH Listens.

The first panel on Building Family Connections covered programming for the youngest to the oldest, new collection ideas for bringing in families, and space reorganization to create comfortable multigenerational spaces. 

Paige Holman, Library Director, Hill Library, Strafford, NH, described how she used a CLiF mini grant, a portion of the CLiF Rural Library grant, to fund themed backpacks. Each backpack had fiction and nonfiction, guides, and toys or supplies to successfully complete the activity. She called upon adult groups that meet in the library for sewing and knitting to contribute to these packs. Each pack contains a list of contents for quick return check and are bar coded to the collection. She detailed other programs for youth and activities that engage families with library maintenance.

Julie Perrin, Library Director, and Andrea Connolly, Youth Services Librarian, Jaffrey Public Library, Jaffrey, NH, discussed how as a team, they rethought the library’s lay out and switched the stacks and the kids’ room for increased traffic and usage. While labor intensive, the move increased circulation across categories and allowed for innovative intergenerational programming and shared space and community. Their programming often stretches across wide age groups – such as a genre book group for kids second-twelfth grade. Kids pick a book within a genre and then book talk it at the meeting, and the activity is often cooking instead of crafts. 

Rachel Funk, Youth Services Librarian, Morristown Centennial Library, Morrisville, VT, described her outreach programs to child care centers. She has a separate collection of books and corresponding kits with toys/crafts, books, and curriculum and program ideas for teachers that circulate only to local child care centers. She runs this program in conjunction with a dedicated volunteer and calls upon her teen volunteers to help organize. She funds the program through a local Rotary grant. 

General themes from this panel and following discussion:

  • Volunteers are necessary for running programs (see next session for more volunteer information).
  • Parent/adult participation is important for staff, kids, and safety. 
  • Flexible spaces and hands-on activities help patrons of all ages. Jaffrey uses both a magnetic and chalkboard wall. The Goodwin Library, Farmington, NH, shared descriptions and images of their sensory wall
  • Outreach/communication – most librarians still find traditional means bring in the most people – posters at the dump/general store/Little Free Libraries, word of mouth, a changeable plastic sign, fliers sent home with school kids. Facebook is still reliable for events, but some libraries see higher views on Instagram. for text reminders and for community calendars were mentioned. 
  • Reading with Dogs.

The second morning panel covered creating a welcoming space with presentations on applying design thinking of creating inclusive space for visitors on the autism spectrum, privacy laws and best practices, and strengthening the relationship with the school librarian. 

Marcos Stafne, Executive Director, Montshire Museum of Science, Norwich, VT, used the Montshire’s process of understanding needs of visitors on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to discuss human-centered approach to design. He discussed the balance between inclusivity and need for identifying separate calm space and time. 

Bobbi Lee Slossar, Technology Resources Librarian, NH State Library, Concord, NH, bravely tackled privacy laws and best practices. She hit on how to make privacy laws/policies known to staff and patrons (here is an example from the Goodwin), to manage photos and video use (and video surveillance), and to keep computer use private but safe. Discussion around acceptable and legal ways to use volunteers also came up in this session.

Amy Olsen, Library Director, Lanpher Memorial Library, Hyde Park, VT, and Vermont Library Association President, shared tips for creating and strengthening relationships with the school. She faced two problems – retirement of librarian and relocation of students during school construction – and turned both into opportunities to serve a need and connect with students. She also shared a project with the school around the book Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.

Topics that came up in many conversations:

  • Desk area – do you need it? Is it a height that welcomes children and wheelchairs?
  • Using color, lighting, small spaces within space to make calmer, more orderly spaces.
  • Putting name plates in books to celebrate new babies, birthdays, volunteers – many do it, but recommended to be careful about privacy by using first names only and making sure to get parental consent.
  • Public bathrooms – how to monitor children v. adult bathrooms (and policies around), control harmful/dangerous behavior by creating policies allowing librarians to monitor time in bathroom, make resources available, reduce waste and sensory experiences (loud hand dryers, etc). 

In the afternoon, participants did two workshops: conversation with Drag Queen Story Hour’s Nikki Champagne and Vermont Department of Libraries’ Consultant for Special Populations Vin Livotti and Poetry Slams with Rajnii Eddins and Geof Hewitt

Here is the link to DQSH video (apologies for technical difficulties).

Nikki/Taylor Small works for the Pride Center of Vermont in Burlington – she referred to the Gender UnicornVT Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and helped understand and define language around gender, drag, and pronoun usage. Here is one resource for LGBTQIA books.

Geof and Rajnii lead participants in writing a poem from a prompt. Then poets read their poems out loud at the same time before he invited brave souls to slam. 

The day ended with a massive book giveaway.

Thank you to all conference attendees – we look forward to seeing you in two years! Keep up the good work!


CLiF Community Building Grant – look at it for intergenerational programming

CLiF Rural Library grant for 2020-2021

NH State Library training on Volunteer Best Practices and the new NH Volunteer Best Practices document

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