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2021 ARSL Conference Virtual Programs

Virtual & In-Person
Virtual Only
Spark Talks

Unless a session is labeled as a livestreamed event, all virtual programs will be available for on-demand viewing for the duration of the conference. All attendees (in-person and virtual-only) will have access to these on-demand sessions through the Whova conference app.

Livestreamed Sessions

Thursday, October 21 | 11:00 AM–12:00 PM
If You Build it, Will They Come? Makerspaces Work in Small, Rural Libraries
Nebraska’s Library Commission led thirty-five small, rural libraries through a process that exposed their staff and communities to a makerspace through the Library Innovation Studios: Transforming Rural Communities Project. Makerspace equipment was installed, library staff and volunteers were trained, and soon the community was engaged in “Making.” The host libraries gained knowledge and skills and used the local interest generated to develop their own makerspaces. The panel will share their experiences related to gaining community support, drawing on new volunteers, integrating makerspace activities, and avoiding pitfalls. Although libraries across the country may not have access to a temporary makerspace, they can access templates and policies developed through the program to guide them through the process. If similar maker machines and kits are acquired, their trainers and makers can access the online training videos and learning modules.

JoAnn McManus, Library Innovations Studio Project Manager, Nebraska Library Commission, NE
Sara Lee, Library Director, Central City Public Library, NE
Jessica Chamberlain, Library Director, Norfolk Public Library, NE

Thursday, October 21 | 2:00-3:00 PM
Being-the-Boss Burnout

Being in charge can be rewarding, but it does come with challenges. The demands of the library world have become more complicated in the pandemic, and responding to patron needs in the new normal can be overwhelming. Whether you manage a library of two or twenty, self-care and honest self-evaluation are tools to create a happier workspace for yourself, your staff, and your patrons. This interactive session will provide tools for self-care, proactive management, and battling being-the-boss burnout.

Lisa Cheever, Library Director, Blackstone Public Library, MA

Friday, October 22 | 11:00 AM–12:00 PM
Promoting Your Library’s Collection: A Plan for Small but Mighty Libraries

If the idea of promoting your library’s collection seems overwhelming, this session is for you! Learn how to combine your two greatest assets (your staff and your materials) to drive circulation numbers, re-engage your community, and prove your library’s value. In this interactive session, you’ll get a step-by-step plan to make the promotion of your books and materials manageable, successful, and fun. You’ll learn which tactics are the most productive, how to put social media and email to work to reach readers, how to promote your collection to people without reliable internet access, and how to measure the results of your promotions to learn new information about your community and make future promotions even more successful.

Angela Hursh, Senior Engagement Consultant, NoveList, MA

Friday, October 22 | 2:00-3:00 PM
Beginner's Guide to Being in Charge
Moving into a new leadership role can be overwhelming and intimidating. This presentation will go over some dos and don’ts to help new leaders feel more confident and become more effective in their current and future roles. Participants will learn some common mistakes new leaders make (and how to avoid them), how to conquer feelings of doubt or imposter syndrome, and practical leadership techniques. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of creating a support network, investing in personal and professional development, and recognizing the value, knowledge, and skillset new leaders bring to their organizations.

Suzanne Macaulay, Deputy Director, Pioneer Library System, NY

Saturday, October 23, 8:30–9:45 am PT
Misinformation Escape Room
In this workshop you will test your wits in a misinformation escape room! How quickly can you solve puzzles involving manipulated media, social media bots, deepfakes and other forms of deception? This escape room was created in partnership with public libraries to fill a need for alternative types of programming to address misinformation. After playing the escape room, we will have a group discussion about the experience, our goals in creating this game, and opportunities for game-based learning to complement other forms of information literacy programming.

Chris Coward, Senior Principal Research Scientist, at the University of Washington Information School; Co-Founder of the Center for an Informed Public

On-Demand Virtual Sessions (also presented in-person)

Reading Diversely: The Importance of Incorporating EDI in Readers’ Advisory Practices
Do you suggest books to library patrons, create book displays, offer form-based readers’ advisory, or otherwise provide direct and indirect readers’ advisory at your library?  Providing a diverse array of selections to choose from offers people the opportunity to see both themselves and others in their reading lives by providing mirrors, windows, and sliding doors. Join us as we break down exactly what reading diversely means, offer concrete tips and tools for ensuring that your recommendations provide an authentic perspective, and provide suggestions for incorporating EDI principles into your library’s readers’ advisory mission.

Halle Eisenman, Content Development Manager, NoveList, MA
Yaika Sabat, Readers’ Advisory Librarian, NoveList, MA

Statistics That Tell a Story: How to Make Data-Informed Decisions that Positively Impact Your Library & Community
If you work in a library, you collect statistics… statistics that are accumulated into all kinds of reports that supposedly "tell the story" of your library. But do they really? What if we could gather, analyze, and use this existing data for decision making, strategic planning, demonstrating impact, and supporting marginalized and underserved communities—to tell the REAL story of our libraries? This session will reveal some practical tools and strategies that you can utilize today to get you started on the path to evidence-based practice, gleaned from the Research Institute for Public Libraries held virtually last December.

Jackie A. Mills, Library Director, Mt. Angel Public Library, OR

Crisis Leadership: Moving from Reactive Survival to Proactive Planning
As we prepare for the “next normal,” library leaders can hit the reset button and pivot from reactive survival to proactive planning through clear strategy and intention. Two library directors from small and rural libraries will share how they’ve influenced organizational change using the Five Cs of Crisis Leadership: compassion, courage, commitment, candor, and communication. This framework allows for nimble planning with formal and informal avenues for gaining fluid community and staff input while offering an empathetic approach to change fatigue and its effects on culture and motivation. Not a cookie-cutter approach to planning, the process can be catered to redefine purpose and priorities within organizational capacity to emerge even stronger and more relevant to the needs of our unique communities.

Krista Riggs, Library Director, Madera County Library, CA
Connie Urquhart, Library Director, Camas Public Library, WA
Cindi Place, Library Director, Bellaire Public Library, MI

Mental Health & Libraries
Nearly one in five adults and one in six youth in the U.S. live with a mental illness in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. While libraries cherish our privilege to serve all, we often struggle in responding to our patrons experiencing mental health disorders. Learn to provide the best response to people having a mental health crisis, including advice on how to improve workplace policies and procedures from a librarian who is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor. This session will increase your knowledge of mental illness, equip you with techniques for effective communication and de-escalation, and provide concrete examples in developing or enhancing positive workplace policies and procedures surrounding mental health.

Taylor Atkinson, Executive Director, Union County Library System, SC

Bridges to Your Community: Tools for the Good Life
Find out how this panel of small and rural librarians from across the country used a set of tools created by other small rural librarians to enhance the good life in their communities, and how you can too! The tools are based on findings from the Rural Library and Social Wellbeing research project. It found that little libraries have a big impact on the good life in ways that are beautifully unique to small rural libraries. In honoring the community’s strengths, potential, and wisdom the library can facilitate the good life.

Hope Decker, Director, Wayland Free Library, NY
Patricia Smith, Director, Robert W. Rowe Public Library, IL

Supporting Social Ties Among Older Adults During COVID-19 & Thereafter
In many small towns, the public library is a vital social center for older adults. How have libraries been keeping older adults connected to each other and to the library during COVID-19? This session presents the results of the Social Connectedness, Older Adults, and Public Libraries Survey, completed by a random sample of 332 small and rural public libraries in April 2021. Participants will also have the opportunity to brainstorm amongst themselves on how they can leverage community partnerships to better support the social wellbeing of their aging populations.

Noah Lenstra, PhD, Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science, University of North Carolina Greensboro, NC
Patrick Bodily, Library Manager, Independence Public Library, OR
Taylor Atkinson, Executive Director, Union County Library, SC
Jane Napier Ramos, Director, Sherburne Memorial Library, VT

Rethinking Summer Reading: Experiences vs. Numbers
Reading is not a competitive sport. However, every year we approached Summer Reading as if the person with the most tracked pages, minutes, or books somehow “won” over other readers. Did more people read as a result? Did we engage new readers? Did we alienate slow readers? Our library decided to try a new approach by prioritizing reading experiences over numbers. Join us for a step-by-step guide on how the program was conducted, complete with statistics. Find out if this new approach succeeded or if we have to go back to the drawing (reading) board for 2022.

Shauna Quick, Implementation Manager, Brandon Township Public Library, MI
Paige Greer, Public Services Library Associate, Brandon Township Public Library, MI

Big Services from Small Libraries
Our library system epitomizes the phrase “doing more with less.” Fourteen full-time staff members provide services to approximately 90,000 residents over a rural five-county service area. We’re always seeking to implement new and inventive library programming and services, and in this session we’ll share some of our exciting services, programming and revenue opportunities for rural libraries. We’ll discuss our Digital Inclusion program, which provided hotspots for check-out and allowed us to outfit a delivery van to create a digital bookmobile. We will also share how to create and execute inventive programming opportunities by capitalizing on staff and volunteer skills. Lastly, we will share unique revenue opportunities for libraries, such as steps to becoming a passport acceptance facility.

Gail Oehler, Executive Director, Southern Oklahoma Library System, OK
Alyson Haynes Blankenship, Branch/Outreach Coordinator, Southern Oklahoma Library System, OK

Free for All! An Overview of Free Resources for Digital Outreach
In this session, we will explore some free online alternatives to often-pricey online library outreach software, including using free Google programs to create digital book displays and online reading programs and other easy-to-use freeware for making digital content like graphics and videos. Attendees will also receive access to examples and templates to practice their skills and make content tailored to their own needs.

Jessica Rodrigues, Head of Youth Services, Steger-South Chicago Heights Public Library, IL
Laura Munoz, Head of Patron Services, Steger-South Chicago Heights Public Library, IL

On-Demand Virtual Sessions (only online)


Terrific Tweens! Bringing Inclusive STEAM Learning Experiences to Our Favorite Age Group
Working with tweens is both a challenge and a joy. They are changing physically, cognitively, and emotionally, and while they have a deep desire for autonomy, they still display kid-like behavior and like to play! Libraries can tap into these unique qualities by providing a safe place for tweens to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math concepts. Try resources from the STAR Library Network (STAR Net), ALA, and the Emmy award-winning SciGirls PBS Kids television show. Hear how rural libraries can engage tweens in meaningful STEAM experiences through interactive activities, diverse STEAM role models, and intentional strategies that create inclusive learning spaces for girls and Latinx communities.


Claire Ratcliffe Adams, Education Coordinator II, Space Science Institute, CO


Framing the Future: Advancing Strategic Planning for Small & Rural Libraries
Framing the Future is an action-oriented approach to provide training in strategic planning to state library representatives across six states, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and coordinated by the Montana State Library and Library Strategies. Learn more about this two-year process, which includes workshops on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and planning, followed by a two-day intensive training institute.

Alayne Hopkins, Director of Programs & Services, Library Strategies, MN
Tracy Cook, Lead Consulting and Learning Librarian, Montana State University, MT

Beyond Younger Volunteers: What Rural Friends Groups Need to Thrive
How can a state library association help Friends volunteers in their growth and development? What challenges are unique to groups that support rural and small libraries? The Friends of Libraries Section (FLS), a division of the New York Library Association, developed a survey for community volunteers and library staff to inventory these needs so FLS could develop a plan to better assist these organizations for long-term success. Learn how the survey results will continue to create a network to connect and inspire Friends groups to support the library community across the state. By the end of the session, you’ll be able to better assist Friends organizations in identifying best practices for membership-building and engagement, financial stability, and leadership development.

Lisa C. Wemett, Coordinator for Professional Development and Past President, Friends of Libraries Section/New York Library Association, NY
Erica Freudenberger, Outreach and Engagement Consultant, Southern Adirondack Library System, NY

Rural Library Network: Accelerating 3rd Grade Reading Outcomes Through a Rural Library Fellowship
Do you live in rural America and are you looking to connect with other rural librarians? Partners for Education at Berea College established a cradle-to-career Rural Library Network that provides practitioners the opportunity to grow knowledge through webinars and a series of professional development opportunities in core principles of place-based work. The network launches a Rural Library Fellowship in July 2021 to engage librarians in a twelve-month series of capacity-building and learning experiences on how libraries can foster an ecosystem in their community to ensure all 3rd graders are reading at grade level. The fellowship focuses on our Rural Library Anchor Framework and is funded in part by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Save the Children. Engage in an interactive discussion about the Rural Library Anchor Framework, and learn how you can catalyze population-level change.

Regina R. Washington, DrPH, Director,  Rural Impact Network, Partners for Education at Berea College, KY
Wendy D. Johnson, MLIS, Program Manager,  Rural Impact Network, Partners for Education at Berea College, KY

Health Literacy Possibilities @ Your Library
Are you looking for ways to engage your community around health and digital literacy? The All of Us Research Program is a historic effort seeking one million or more people living in the United States to accelerate research and improve health. NNLM and All of Us are working together to support health and digital literacy initiatives at public libraries. Participants will learn about free resources from the National Library of Medicine as well as funding and programming opportunities for small and rural libraries.

Michael Balkenhol, Engagement Coordinator, NNLM All of Us Community Engagement Center
Brittany Thomas, Associate Director, NNLM All of Us Community Engagement Center

A Beginner's Guide to Implementing Telehealth in Rural Libraries
The COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for improving equitable access for those living in rural and underserved areas of the United States. Using public libraries to expand telehealth access has been widely discussed, but only minimally implemented. In this session, we will discuss two projects that independently and collectively are working to enhance healthcare access via public libraries. First, hear about a recent research study evaluating rural librarians’ perceptions of the benefits and barriers to telemedicine visits in the library. Then learn about the the current deployment of a telehealth and device loaning initiative that integrates into existing public library infrastructure. They will describe their collaboration aimed at documenting implementation of the Delaware Library program in the research literature so that it may be informative to others in the field.

Pamela DeGuzman, Associate Professor, University of Virginia School of Nursing, VA
Sety Abooali, Undergraduate Student, University of Virginia, VA
Nick Martin, Telehealth Coordinator and Emerging Technology Consultant, Delaware Libraries​, DE

How to S.T.R.E.A.M.-line Your Programming
Get strategies for streamlining your programs to cover the subjects of Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math in interesting and budget-friendly ways. You may have struggled to feature programs about one or many of these subjects, and we are here to share our strategies and successes in hosting repeatable and inclusive programming in every field. Leave with strategies to develop community partnerships and involve diversity, equity, and inclusion in your event planning and execution.

Jasmine Mendoza, Library Technician - Youth Services, Humboldt County Library, NV
Jayme Wells, Library Technician - Youth Services, Humboldt County Library, NV

Spark Talks

First-Hand Insight on Rural Libraries in Africa
As a young lady born and raised in the rural part of Zimbabwe, l want to share my exciting journey of renovating libraries of primary schools in the rural, poverty-stricken parts of my country. I’ll unpack the successes, challenges, benefits.

Sithabisiwe Ndlovu, Director, She4Her Initiatives, Zimbabwe

Systemic Inclusion
The library’s ultimate purpose is access to information, but systemic inequities must be addressed directly in order to address equitable access for all. Librarians are in direct contact with their communities and are often tuned in to the barriers that people face daily. Let’s take this opportunity to create momentum around the core issues affecting our communities. This Spark Talk will touch on identifying and selecting materials, lobbying on behalf of readers, and understanding "non-traditional" literature that contributes to a diverse and relevant collection.

Cicely T. Douglas, Director, South Sioux City Public Library, NE

Finding & Using County Health Data to Inform Programming, Collections & Services
What are common health concerns in your county? Do people have opportunities to exercise, receive preventative care, and access healthy food? Resources for locating health data on your community will be presented, leaving you with fodder for generating ideas for programming, collections, and services to offer at your library.

Emily Hamstra, Outreach and Access Coordinator, Network of the National Library of Medicine, Region 5, WA

Google Ad Grants for Small Libraries
With more emphasis being placed on a library's online materials, it makes sense to let the public know about those materials  – with online advertising. Google offers non-profits $10,000 per month in free advertising credit through their Ad Grants program. Most public libraries qualify. In this talk, we explain what Google Ad Grants does, how to apply, and the results libraries can expect.

Bill Mott, Head of Client Care, Koios LLC, MA
Peter Velikonja, Head of Research, Koios LLC, MA

Ignite a Spark & Build Up STEAM!
Are you responsible for STEAM programming in your library? Do you often find yourself searching for fun, easy ways to engage younger patrons in STEAM? Join us for tips, tricks, and some fun ideas as we take a look at “spark sheets.” Ready-to-use instructions introduce basic concepts, then walk the reader through hands-on activities to reinforce those concepts. Spark sheets can be found on the Washoe County Library System website and are available for anyone to use. Learn how to create your own spark sheets while exploring ours!

Toni McLaughlin, Librarian, Washoe County Library System, NV

Reading & Rolling Summer Book Delivery Program
Reading & Rolling is a summer book delivery program, now in its eighteenth year, that is a partnership between four elementary schools and a public library. The School Library Media Coordinators recruit students who can't get to the library over the summer. Volunteers deliver ten books every two weeks to the registered students so that they have the opportunity to read over the summer. After the summer the schools receive an amount per student registered so that books for their libraries can be purchased and a book plate with the student's name is put inside. Leave inspired to start a similar program at your library!

Monica Caruso, County Librarian, Watauga County Public Library, NC
Judith Winecoff, You Services Manager, Watauga County Public Library, NC