Conference Home

2024 ARSL In-Person Programs

The 2024 ARSL Conference Planning Committee is still working to finalize the program schedule. In the meantime, please find a preview of some of our accepted in-person programs below. Check back soon for more programs and the official program schedule!

All in-person attendees will also have access to the virtual, pre-recorded conference sessions. View our currently accepted virtual programs here.

2024 ARSL programs include, but aren't limited to:

In-Person Sessions

How to Weather the Turbulence of a Video Auditor

First amendment audits continue to occur in libraries, and they can be unsettling and stressful for staff and patrons. What can you do to prepare for the next auditor’s visit, and what strategies can you use when they have the camera in your face? What is within scope of such audits, and which key policies and supporting language should you have in place? Join us for a panel discussion where library staff and a representative from the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom will highlight case studies and share best practice for dealing with auditors.

Shobha Oza, Director, Engagement and Client Experience, Pickering Public Library
Deborah Caldwell-Stone
, Director, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation
Julianne Rist
, Director of Public Services, Jefferson County Public Library

Marc 210 to 300:  Intermediate Cataloging... Fast

If you know more than the basics of cataloging and want to stop wasting time updating and fixing the errors in the catalog, this presentation is for you. Leverage your time and energy by advancing your cataloging skills. Start by diagnosing what is wrong with your catalog, deciding which of your local cataloging quirks to keep and which to ditch. Learn how to improve your catalog using regular expressions and authority work, how to fix your control fields, and how to quickly catalog media and serials. Save time by automating your cataloging with global updates. Don’t worry if you aren’t a professional cataloger—using tools and shortcuts will make cataloging a lot easier and quicker.

Casandra Norin, Library Director, Seward County Community College Library

Digital Equity Resources for Small Libraries

Nationwide, libraries are promoting broadband adoption, offering digital literacy programs, engaging in digital equity partnerships, and conducting outreach to un- and underserved households. Small and rural libraries in underrepresented and underconnected communities are on the front lines of addressing the digital divide on a daily basis. Join a panel discussion to engage with digital equity policy and funding opportunities, available digital equity resources, practical programming solutions, and advocacy information to partner and lead digital equity initiatives in your community. Panelists will discuss Digital Equity Act funding opportunities, DigitalLearn, and other available resources, and promising practices from small and rural contexts for a variety of digital skills-building needs.

Megan Janicki, Deputy Director, Strategic Initiatives, American Library Association
Mary-Clare Bietila
, Program Manager, PLA, American Library Association
Tyler Hahn
, Director, Cherokee Public Library
Hannah Buckland
, Digital Equity Program Lead, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

Small Libraries Take the Lead in Open Data

In our data-driven world, libraries can play a key role in their communities by collecting and publishing local open data—data that is openly accessible and usable by anyone—and educating constituents in its use. The benefits of open data include greater government transparency, increased civic engagement, and the ability for organizations and individuals to make better decisions. Find out how one small “yes” led to a national project to enable small libraries to become open data publishers. Get an in-depth introduction to a new, free Open Data Toolkit that can help you join the open data movement.

Jennifer Ashby, Director, Asotin County Library (WA)
Mary Neuman
, Assistant Director/Youth Services Librarian, retired Asotin County Library (WA)

Libraries & Climate Change: Pathways to Respond & Engage Communities

As the frequency and intensity of climate-related extreme weather events continues to grow, communities across the country grapple with how to prepare for the inevitable next event and how to become more resilient. Libraries are a key community partner in providing information, education, and assistance. Join us to hear how some libraries are responding to this universal community challenge. Presenters will demonstrate what library engagement can look like through a short activity. Attendees will leave with resources to adapt for local needs and ideas on how to connect with partners engaged in this work.

Kara Reiman, Youth Services Specialist, Maine State Library

Navigating Partnerships, Community Engagement & Your Library Through Kindness & Without Losing Your Mind

As Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind.” But kindness doesn’t begin and end with your patrons, staff, or community. It extends and encompasses you, too! Join us as we explore ways to work through the joys and difficulties of working in a rural library. A short stop at your neighborhood grocery store can come with a host of questions from folks who know you and need resources or information. How do we, literally, walk through life helping our communities without losing ourselves? This session will explore boundaries, offer centering exercises, and give you tools to walk that line between doing the job you love and loving yourself.

Amanda Doherty, Director, Mt. Pulaski Public Library
Lisa Thompson
, Assistant Director, Jessie Peterman Memorial Library

Creating Gender-Inclusive Spaces: A Guide for Library Staff

This presentation provides an introductory look at gender and gender identity, with an emphasis on translating knowledge and awareness into actionable best practices in a library setting. Attendees can expect to come away with a better grasp of basic concepts around gender, gender identity, and pronouns, as well as why it is a vital topic in our society today. Tips for best practices are intended to give attendees concrete actions they can implement in order to better serve patrons and colleagues across the spectrum of gender identities. This presentation includes a Q&A and a handout.

Heath Umbreit, Adult Services Librarian, Morrill Memorial Library

Diary of a Memory Cafe

A memory café is a social gathering for people with dementia and their care partners. While it is not a support group, a memory café can be very supportive for this population in need. Chances are, your small/rural community would benefit from a memory café at your library, and it would give you an opportunity to collaborate with social workers and others who work with this population. What do libraries offer that are beneficial to memory cafés? In this session, I will share how ours got started and where we are now. We'll talk about partnerships, costs, pitfalls, supplies, activities, expectations and realities, and the importance of tangerines.

Drea Douglas, Learning Coordinator, North Bend Public Library (OR)

Choose Your Own Adventure: Intellectual Freedom Edition

Attendees will collaboratively navigate their way through multi-step, intellectual freedom-related scenarios, the outcome of which is contingent upon their choices at various points, akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure (™) story, including collaborative analysis by presenters and attendees as to why some decisions are better than others when considering their work in light of core values of librarianship. Play through the Dilemma of the Disapproving Dino Doctor and the Farce of the First Amendment Audit Influence to experience and examine a spectrum of potential responses to challenges. Consider policy creation through the lenses of access and inclusion to all as well as diversity of viewpoint to best support frontline and public-facing staff fielding intellectual freedom questions.

Sam Helmick, Community & Access Services Coordinator, Iowa City Public Library
Jennie Garner,
Library Director, North Liberty Library

Ask a Lawyer

How can I respond to a patron claim that a book is obscene or “harmful to minors”? What can I do when law enforcement shows up with a warrant? How can I prepare and respond to challenges and disruptions in the library? While this session won’t be offering legal advice, this is your opportunity to ask questions on legal topics of concern to libraries and library workers and learn when you need to consult an attorney. Staff from the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom will examine the legal issues surrounding daily practice, materials reconsiderations, and more.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation
Additional Presenters, TBA

Censorship in a Culture War: Libraries Caught in the Middle

Historic numbers of book challenges, political interference, and educational gag orders continue to rise and threaten intellectual freedom across the nation. Titles representing the voices and lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals made up 47% of those targeted in censorship attempts. This nationally representative panel highlights case studies and offers best practices for addressing challenges in your own libraries and communities. Gain insights on public messaging, training, policies, and resources to ready yourself.

Drew Wichterman,Director, Pickaway County Library
Mara Strickler
, Director, Pella Public Library
Sherry Scheline
, Director, Donnelly Public Library District (ID)

(r)Evolutionary Staffing: How Individuals, Institutions & Communities Benefit from Shared Library Staff

Struggling with feeling like your staff are in and out through a revolving door? Having trouble recruiting quality candidates to part-time positions? Do you worry that you're duplicating efforts with the library up the road? This session will offer a (r)evolutionary take on how to solve each of these challenges: shared staff positions! Sharing staff has benefits for three interested parties. Individual employees, participating institutions, and local communities each have a lot to gain through cooperation. We’ll share practical advice about what to consider and highlight success stories from the field including, time permitting, those from session attendees.

Joy Worland, Consultant for Continuing Education and Small and Rural Libraries, Vermont Department of Libraries
Samantha Bouwers
, Consultant for Continuing Education, State Library of Iowa

Strategic Planning for Every Library: A Collaborative Approach

Strategic planning is essential for all public libraries, but small and underfunded libraries face critical barriers to conducting a robust planning process. Limited time, staff, and expertise make in-house planning difficult, but hefty consultant fees are beyond many library budgets. In Connecticut, seven small public libraries successfully tackled this problem by conducting a strategic planning process together as a cohort. Learn about the benefits of a strategic plan for a small or mid-sized library, identify the next steps to starting your own strategic planning cohort, and leave with a of map possible partners in your own region.

Ellen Paul, Executive Director, Connecticut Library Consortium
Kim McNally
, Library Director, New Canaan Library (formerly Berlin Peck Library)
Maureen Sullivan
, Library Consultant

Cardholder Signup Policies: Access in Practice

In 2023, Brooklyn Public Library launched a project to collect and understand the range of cardholder signup policies in public libraries nationwide. Responses from online surveys, in-person focus groups, and stakeholder interviews created the only known nationwide sampling of library access practices and rationale. Along with peer practitioners in small and rural libraries, we will present an analysis of the findings and discuss ways that libraries can ensure their own cardholder signup practices reflect our core values of access and intellectual freedom. Attendees will leave with an actionable plan for revisiting their own library’s cardholder signup policies and procedures.

Amy Mikel, Director, Customer Experience, Brooklyn Public Library
Additional Presenters, TBA

HR for Small & Rural Libraries Presented by Sara & Sarah

Hear tips for successful personnel management for rural and small libraries based on our experience and expertise. Sara Koehn is an experienced, award-winning human resources professional who unexpectedly became a library director in 2020, and Sarah Vantrease has a background in front-lines library service, public administration, and management. We will look at common HR issues for public libraries (especially rural & small libraries) and talk about strategies to make working at the library great for everyone!

Sarah Vantrease, Public Services Division Manager, Sonoma County Library
Sara Koehn,
Library Director, Haskell Township Library

Library Policies:  What You Need & Why

The need for library policies is well known. However, sometimes the library director and board don’t realize they need a policy until it’s past due. Join this Preconference Workshop for a look at the essential policies a small library should adopt. Using examples from our years of public service and library consulting, we will share circumstances that caused library directors and boards to spring into action to approve policies abruptly and after they were needed. In this high-energy, interactive session, attendees will share their situations and determine when and whether new policy is necessary.

Patty Collins, Library Consultant, Central Kansas Library System
Gail Santy
, Library Consultant

Evolve & Resolve: Survival Tips for the New Library Director

Are you a newly appointed library director in need of support and information? Your first "directorship" can be the most educational, the most interesting, and the most terrifying job you ever have. In this session, participants will learn crucial skills to surviving in their new role, as well as discovering techniques for managing day-to-day tasks, library management dos and don’ts, and practical takeaways.

Judy Calhoun, Regional Director, Southeast Arkansas Regional Library

(r)Evolutionizing the Interview: Tips for Improving the Interview Process for Volunteers, Staff, Board Members & You!

Have you ever experienced an interview where everyone was at ease and understood the process? That's the goal of this manager and consultant duo! We've participated in a combined 29 interviews and continuously improve the process to become kinder and more effective for the applicants and ourselves. Learn key methods to improve your interview process for positions paid and unpaid alike. Practice with these techniques will be included, plus an opportunity to share your ideas!

Katherine Adelberg, Continuing Education and Consulting Manager, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
Christina Taylor
, Library Management Consultant, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Doing Less With Less: The Case for Scaling Services to Your Budget

Library staff have a hard time saying no to their communities, and the thought of ending programs or services can be terrifying when usage stats rule. In this session, I'll detail the merits of doing an excellent job with the funds allocated but no more and, in turn, making the case to the community that more funds equals more services. Scaling back can also be a morale builder for staff, decreasing burnout and turnover.

Mandy Walters, Director, Pend Oreille County Library District

Take Your Child to the Library Day: Family-Centric Advocacy

Take Your Child to the Library Day started as a grassroots celebration in Connecticut; now it’s a lively, bustling day for participating libraries throughout North America. Learn how this family-centric, customizable celebration can work as an advocacy and marketing opportunity for your library, regardless of staffing levels or programming budgets. Discover specific tips for creative publicity, increasing your library’s community presence, working with community partners, serving the underserved, and welcoming new families.

Amanda Stern, Events and Special Projects Manager, Connecticut Library Consortium
Caitlin Augusta
, Head of Children’s Services, Stratford Library

Revolutionizing Small & Rural Libraries Through Dynamic Fundraising

Explore innovative, scalable fundraising activities that rural libraries can adopt. Learn about successful strategies to help you develop your fundraising plan and the importance of network for peer-to-peer sharing and collective impact initiatives. Hear from the Library Support Network and a library director with over a decade of success in transforming library services and fundraising in rural areas, who will bring you a wealth of knowledge in community engagement, strategic and sustainable fundraising, and network building.

Dianne Connery, Development Director, Pottsboro Area Public Library
Jonna Ward
, Founder, Library Support Network

OK, Now Make It Fun: How Cats Took Over WPL

The Worcester Public Library (WPL) made international waves with March Meowness, but what was it about this program that resonated with so many? When fee forgiveness was proposed, we wanted to make sure that it reached the people in our community who would benefit. A payment of cat pictures was sure to get people talking! This program will give you some suggestions on how to come up with unique ideas that you can use at your own library, and a strategy to pivot and take advantage of positive momentum, all while taking into account budget and staffing limitations.

Linnea Sheldon, Community Relations & Communications Manager, Worcester Public Library

Farm to Library: Growing a Partnership with Your Local Farm Bureau

Every state and nearly every county has a Farm Bureau. What you may not know about your local Farm Bureau is they are an incredible partnership waiting to happen. You will leave this session with examples of extremely successful and low-cost programs our small rural library has done with our local farm bureau, including a petting zoo and annual trivia nights for adults. You will also leave with materials to take home to more easily implement what you learn, such as activities from our programs and examples of Ag Trivia questions.

Calla Jarvie, Library Director, Rock County Community Library (MN)

Municipal Planning and Community Development: Getting Inside the Room Where it Happens

Does it sometimes feel like bigger communities around you are getting all the investment while yours is left behind? Are you looking for new ways to understand your community, grow your reach, and open up new funding avenues? Getting connected with local community planning and development is for you. In this session you will learn about why it’s important to collaborate and engage with municipal planning and how it can impact the outreach, advocacy, marketing, funding, and decision-maker interest in your library. Takeaways will include potential funding avenues, grant-writing data, and tips for how to engage with your community in new and exciting ways from a library director who also happens to be the chair of her county planning commission.

Jessica Hilburn, Executive Director & System Administrator, Benson Memorial Library / Crawford County Federated Library System

Community Outreach: Four Things That Get You There

Join members of the ARSL Advocacy Committee as we break down the four things that get you to community outreach: building board relationships, going out into the community, planning programs and services with your partners in mind, and building on your successes for advocacy. This interactive, hands-on session will provide you with assistance and support in making your own plans work, expertise in things that do and don't bring success, a chance to be inspired by others, and the opportunity to share your questions and success stories.

Amy Stone, Library Director, Bridgton Public Library
Additional Presenters, TBA

Unlocking Potential: How the Center for the Book Network Can Benefit Small & Rural Libraries

Join us for an informative session on how your library can benefit from the resources and connections offered by the Library of Congress–affiliated Center for the Book in your state. Representatives from different state Centers for the Book will share real-life examples of how they collaborate with libraries to better serve their communities.

Karolina Zapal, Program Manager, Massachusetts Center for the Book
Kate Lentz
, Director, Rhode Island Center for the Book
Richmond Kinney
, Minnesota Center for the Book

Bridging the Gap – Serving Beyond the Walls

Everyday, countless community members are served within the walls of public libraries. However, have you ever wondered how many people are not served within those walls? Gain insight into the world of outreach and strategies to better serve those who are currently in the gap. Learn how you can help bridge the gap and go far beyond the walls of the physical library to serve community members by eliminating barriers. We will examine the many aspects of what library outreach outside of library walls looks like. Learn how to implement outreach strategies for your library organization, regardless of size or budget.

Jenn Koetz, President, Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services (WI)
Sam Woolhiser
, Vice President, Association of Bookmobile & Outreach Services

Strategies for Establishing Collaborative Bonds Between Public Libraries & Public Schools: Igniting Partnerships

Learn how our small, rural library has created a strong, successful relationship with our public school district. Discover the importance of creating successful and lasting relationships between public libraries and public schools that are mutually beneficial to both. Hear ideas of how to start the relationship, maintain it, and collaborate for programming and resource sharing. Participants will also be given opportunities to share about their successes and/or failures and troubleshoot ways to strengthen relationships.

Kristin Smith, Director, Scottdale Public Library (PA)

Funding, Sustainability & the Future of Public Libraries

Have you wondered how funders choose their priorities? This is your opportunity to learn more about grantmakers and help inform them of your needs. Public library funders are exploring the best ways to support public libraries as they continue to transform their communities. This panel will bring together grantmakers from the Mellon Foundation, IMLS, Mass Humanities, and others as they discuss their current support for rural and small public libraries and consider funding strategies for the future. Perspectives from national and regional funders with varying grantmaking approaches will be shared with ample time for audience Q&A.

Patricia Hswe, Program Director, Public Knowledge Program, Mellon Foundation
Jill Connors-Joyner
, Senior Program Officer, IMLS
Katherine Stevens
, Director of Grants and Programs, Mass Humanities

Alliances, Ambassadors, Friends & Well-Wishers

Join us for a dynamic discussion on how to build effective coalitions to support library advocacy efforts. This session will delve into the nuts and bolts of identifying potential allies, fostering collaborations, and maintaining robust partnerships across diverse groups. Participants will walk away with practical tips for engaging stakeholders, crafting shared goals, and leveraging collective strength to ensure libraries remain vital resources in their communities. This interactive session is ideal for library professionals seeking to amplify their advocacy through strategic partnerships.

Ashley Stewart, Campaign Strategist, EveryLibrary

We're Bringing That BLE (Big Library Energy)

Just because we’re little, doesn’t mean we can’t do BIG library things. A collective of very small Illinois libraries are finding ways to channel that Big Library Energy. By pooling a variety of resources and starting a brainstorming session that never stops, our group of libraries is evolving in ways we didn’t think were possible and giving our communities opportunities we only used to dream about. Learn how we created partnerships with and beyond the library community, overcame obstacles, navigated funding, and accomplished BIG things together.

Kimber Martin, Director of Library Services, North Pike District Library (IL)
Angela Custer
, Library Director, Carrolton Public Library (IL)
Tiffany Holland
, Library Consultant, West Central Child Care Connection (IL)

Leading with Emotional Intelligence: All the Feels

Despite historic precedent and the negative connotations of feelings in a workplace setting, being a leader does not have to mean checking your feelings at the door. We all come to work as whole human beings, and developing your emotional intelligence is vital to strong leadership. Empathetic leaders are often the most successful and attract and retain happy staff…but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Learn about the emotional leadership style, take a quiz to assess your emotional intelligence, and discover how bringing all the feelings to work can benefit you, your library workers, your board, and your organization.

AnnaLee Dragon, Executive Director, New York Library Association

Spanish for Library Staff: Two States, Two Programs for Language Learning

South Carolina and Colorado State Libraries invite library staff to participate in Spanish language learning communities where they practice vocabulary, explore cultural competence, and learn best practices to more equitably serve Spanish speakers. This session will include program overviews, information about getting to know your community’s Spanish-speaking populations, and ideas for informed outreach and relationship-building with your Latinx community. Presenters will share their curricula and learning materials with participants.

Cristy Moran, Adult Library Services Senior Consultant, Colorado State Library
Caroline Smith
, Facilities and Access Consultant, South Carolina State Library

Fill Your Brain Full of Books: Using LibraryReads & Publisher Resources

Feeling overwhelmed when it comes to the hottest new reads for adults? Did you know many publishers have marketing teams devoted to libraries? This program will offer tips and resources to help you stay on top of current titles and trends. In this lively hour-long session, you'll learn how to read a book in five minutes (really!), how to get the most out of book reviews, and how to use the free assets from LibraryReads for collection development. We'll also feature information on how to get free advance reader copies, and the contact information to library marketing professionals you can connect with to learn more about forthcoming titles of interest. We’ll even highlight a few key titles bound to get your patrons excited!

Rebecca Vnuk, Executive Director, LibraryReads
Annie Mazes
, Associate Director, Library Marketing, Hachette Book Group
Susan Maguire
, Senior Editor, Collection Management & Library Outreach, Booklist Publications

Readers' Advisory Training: Where to Begin?

Do you struggle with helping patrons find their next great read? Do you have staff who need to do readers' advisory but don't have experience in it? Come learn about LibraryReads and how this organization can help you with low/no-cost training opportunities specifically for staff working with adult leisure readers.

Rebecca Vnuk, Executive Director, LibraryReads
Anna Mickelsen
, Adult Information Services Supervisor, Springfield City Library (MA)
Alene Moroni
, Head of Technical Services, Forbes Library Northampton (MA)

Small Towns, Big(foot) Legends: Using Local Lore to Inspire Programming

Does your small town have a local myth or legend? Is something lurking in the woods? Is there a particularly haunted house? Use it for programming! Attendees will be encouraged to delve into their towns hyper-local history to mine for interesting speakers, programs, and events. Attendees will also learn how to frame programs as having broader context to outside patrons, how to put together a cohesive panel of speakers, and what kind of questions to ask their speakers. If it's the talk of the town, there is a good chance the library is a great place to gather people to talk about it.

Mandy Babirad, Assistant Director/Children's Librarian, Kinderhook Memorial Library (NY)

Dungeons, Dragons & More: Community Engagement & RPG's at Your Library

Tabletop role-playing games (TTRPG) have exploded in popularity in the last decade—but role-playing games are not just Dungeons & Dragons. There are a wide variety of TTRPG and TTRPG-adjacent games that you can use in your library and community. In this program we will be discussing TTRPG as a whole, including D&D, and how to integrate them into your programing and outreach, with specific focus on how to run these games at and through your library.

Stephen Allen, Reference Librarian/Computer Technican, Brewster Ladies Library (MA)

Exploring Local History with the Library of Congress

This session will introduce participants to the digital collections of the Library of Congress with a focus on using these collections with local history projects. I will show a number of different collections including the Chronicling America Historic Newspapers, Sanborn and Panoramic Maps, the Historic American Building Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscape Survey, and some of the many photograph collections that are part of the Library of Congress. I will also present tips and short cuts that will help users navigate our website.

Danna Bell, Educational Resource Specialist, Library of Congress

Environmental Health at Your Library with Resources from NLM & NNLM

Environmental health is everywhere, and addressing these issues can feel overwhelming. Where can you find resources to support your community and their unique concerns? In this session, attendees will learn about free resources from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) including professional development, resource guides, funding, and a live demonstration of environmental health topics on MedlinePlus. Additionally, attendees will hear from NNLM partner, the Blue Marble Librarians, a network of Massachusetts library workers committed to climate change resilience and community building, on programs they have implemented in their libraries.

Sarah Levin-Lederer, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Network of the National Library of Medicine Region 7 (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont)

Using Community-Based Film to Address Misinformation & Social Division

This panel discussion will provide an overview of a community film program that was developed to support patrons in rural communities to engage with the topics of misinformation and community division. Misinformation is often a difficult topic to discuss because it is so politicized and divides communities. This program was developed to offer a fun and creative approach for making conversations about misinformation a little easier within rural communities. We will share learnings from programs run in Texas and Washington. Participants will leave with sample facilitation and best practice guides that they can use to design their own programs.

Judith M Bergeron, Library Director, Smithville Public Library (TX)
Jason Young
, Senior Research Scientist, Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington
Zac Murphy
, Doctoral Student, Technology & Social Change Group University of Washington
Jennifer B. Ashby
, Director, Asotin County Library (WA)
Cindy Altick Aden (she/her)
, Information School, University of Washington
Chris Jowaisas, Technology & Social Change (TASCHA) Group Information School, University of Washington

Creating Your First Black History Month Program

Do you need to create a Black History Month (BHM) Program for your library but have never done it before? Are you afraid you might not get it right? This session is for you! Our research shows that small and rural libraries are least likely to conduct Black History Month programming. In this workshop, you will learn origin of Black History Month and the steps to plan your first program, then participate in a discussion of the challenges and strategies of creating BHM programming in small and rural libraries. By attending the session, you can sign up to receive the Black History Month Programming Toolkit to create a program for February 2026.

Deborah Robinson, Director, Black History Month Programming in Public Libraries, University of Michigan

Storytimes: Go from Good to Amazing!

Ready to take your storytimes and storytelling to the next level? Learn (and practice!) the difference between reading a book and sharing a story. Choose books and plan how you share them to enthrall children and encourage participation. We will practice using our voice, body language, music, movement, illustrations, and text (seven easy ways!) to captivate your audience, encourage participation, manage behavior, build parent-child connections, and more. (Yes, you can do all this with how you tell stories!) We will practice with books and touch on how to apply these techniques to flannelboards, cutting and drawing stories, puppet tales, movement, music, and everything else you do during storytime. Become an amazing storyteller!

Suzanne Davis, Youth Services Librarian, East Bonner County Library (ID)

Coding in the Stacks: How to Run the Youth Coding League at Your Library

Are you curious about ways to implement more STEAM programming at your library? Want to begin but don’t have the bandwidth to create an entire program from scratch? Come learn how the Independence Public Library worked with community partners to be the first public library to coach a team in the Youth Coding League—a complete learning program built for schools and community organizations that introduces 5th–8th graders to computer science and coding. Listen to lessons learned, successes seen, and pitfalls to avoid! Attendees will walk away with the next steps needed to participate in this in-house STEM opportunity.

Patrick Bodily, Library Director, Independence Public Library (OR)
Stacy Dohogne Lane,
Director, Youth Coding League; Kate Schwarzler Executive, Director, Indy Idea Hub

Stuck in the Middle with Tweens

Tweens—children between the ages of eight and twelve—are too old for storytime and too young for YA programming. The age group encompasses a wide range of interests and reading levels. How can we engage these young patrons without breaking the bank or having a breakdown? I have successfully developed two programs for tweens that have consistent attendance and positive feedback from kids and parents: a book club and a creative writing club. This presentation will discuss the overall structure of the programs and go into detail about specific themes like Myth-conceptions and Cook the Book, successful activities such as Paint Chip Poetry, and tips for success (spoiler: it’s all about snacks.)

Kirsten Huscusson, Library Assistant I, Macon County Public Library (NC)
Angela Walker
, YS Children's Supervisor. Macon County Public Library

Advancing Creative Aging: Serving Seniors Through the Arts

By 2030, older adults (55+) will be the dominant demographic group in the United States and libraries are adapting to meet their needs for meaningful engagement. Public library systems in Missouri and Wyoming partnered through an IMLS initiative to expand arts education programs that improve the lives of older adults (55+). Participants will learn how creative aging programs implemented at their libraries can help improve older adults’ health and wellness, bringing a revived sense of self and purpose to their lives.

Merideth Johnson, Adult Services Consultant, Missouri State Library
Brian Greene
, Library Development Manager, Wyoming State Library
Julie Kline,
Director of Education & Training, LIfetime Arts Inc.
Robin Westphal
, State Librarian, Missouri State Library

E-Government Services in the Library

As more government offices close and move services online, patrons (particularly in low-income or rural areas) are coming to the library for help finding, completing, and submitting forms and applications for government services, aid, and benefits. After this session, attendees will be able to create easy to use pathfinder tools for patrons to use and access these services, will evaluate their policies and facilities to ensure they are able to meet these needs fairly, and will have a high-level understanding of what role libraries can play in connecting these services to their populations.

Jessica Rodrigues, Head of Information Services, Steger-South Chicago Heights Public Library (IL)

U.S. Passport Services at Your Library

Becoming a Passport Acceptance Facility can diversify your patron base while creating cost neutral programming and staffing opportunities. Watch patrons come for a passport and leave with a newfound appreciation for their library. Increase access for ESOL applicants, new citizens, first time travelers and more through this impactful service. Join Meredith Fletcher, experienced Passport Program Manager, and a special guest from the National Passport Center as they present an overview of what you need to start accepting passports, and how easy and flexible continuing the program is.

Meredith Fletcher, Customer Service Manager, Pickerington Public Library (OH) National Passport Center, U.S. Department of State and the National Passport Center

My Town Leaders Want to Ban Books!  What Do I Do Now?

What happens when local or county leaders and elected officials side with those demanding censorship of library materials, resources, and programs? How can library staff form relationships and work with local authorities who are not supporting the library, while safely, and properly, continuing to serve their community? Hear from ALA staff, library trustees, and member leaders who work with those who are facing this type of challenge every day. Attendees will learn strategies for effective messaging, where to seek help, and how to be an advocate. This session is a collaboration between the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and United for Libraries.

Joyce McIntosh, Assistant Program Director, Freedom to Read Foundation
Lori Fisher
, State Librarian, Maine State Library
Shawnda Hines
, Deputy Director of Communications, ALA Public Policy and Advocacy Office
Chris Chanyasulkit
, Library Trustee and Member Leader, United for Libraries

In-Person Pop-Ups and Spark Talks

Library Safety for Supporting Community Resiliency

In 2023, our library revised an outdated “Standards of Behavior” policy—a punitive and even discriminatory list of rules for library users—to create a new “Safe Library Use Policy” that focuses on maintaining safe, welcoming library spaces for all, including minors, vulnerable adults, and staff, too! In this quick talk, I’ll describe how we’ve used a trauma-informed approach and our racial equity lens to craft the written policy and support its real-life implementation. By protecting the rights and safety of library users and staff, we carry out a key library goal of supporting community resiliency.

Sarah Vantrease, Public Services Division Manager, Sonoma County Library(CA)

Embedded Librarianship = Community Outreach Mindset

Embedded librarianship is based on the idea that library workers can meet the needs of their community by being in the community. Library service is about connecting people with the resources they need. This Spark Talk is a roadmap that shows you how to get started, or how to build upon what you already do, to develop a community outreach mindset and increase connections with your community. Small, rural, and solo library workers have unique challenges that we'll address with some tips and tricks that work. We've included quick guides, easy-to-follow how-tos, and realistic things to try with a very light lift.

Amy Stone, Library Director, Bridgton Public Library (ME)
Sarah Vantrease
, Public Services Division Manager, Sonoma County Library (CA)

Ditching 1000 Books: A New Initiative

Read for 20 is an innovative new reading program designed by the Ritter Public Library in Vermilion, Ohio, to push back against the intimidation factor of 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. Launched June 2024 and targeted at children birth-18, this yearlong reading program is designed to parallel the Science of Reading initiative in Ohio and gamify the experience for children and their grownups. Session attendees will learn how to implement this program including adapting the structure, incentive ideas, and where to find deals. Win incentives to kickstart a Read for 20 program and join this revolutionary new movement.

Aimee Adams (she/her), Youth Services Manager, Ritter Public Library (OH)

  "Stuffie Scavenger Hunt" For Bring Your Child to the Library Day

 Participants will learn how to create an interactive program to entice families to visit the library and find the great resources within. Help your patrons find the unique features, collections, and attractions in your library, while having fun looking for the “stuffies.” This program is inexpensive, enjoyable by adults and children and very popular. We held this event at the same time as our “Donuts with Grownups” as part of Bring Your Child to the Library Day in February. Handouts available with an example of our Stuffie Scavenger Hunt and other activities.

Sharon Beever, MSLS, Library Director, Bonney Memorial Library, Cornish (ME)

 Readers' Advisory Training: Where to Begin?

Do you struggle with helping patrons find their next great read? Do you have staff who need to do readers' advisory but don't have experience in it? Come learn about LibraryReads and how this organization can help you with low/no-cost training opportunities specifically for staff working with adult leisure readers.

Rebecca Vnuk, Executive Director, LibraryReads
Anna Mickelsen
, Adult Information Services Supervisor, Springfield City Library (MA)
Alene Moroni
, Head of Technical Services, Forbes Library Northampton (MA)

Facilitating STEAM Programming Through Creative Learning

Bring STEAM programming to your library community through the playful lens of creative learning! The Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) at MIT supports library staff confidence to offer easily adaptable and often low-tech STEAM activities developed through a co-design process with library professionals and MIT researchers. From paper circuits, to data science, to creative coding, attendees will learn about our set of facilitation resources, and different formats of support and community that encourages joy and inspires confidence.

Ada Ren-Mitchell, Learning Programs Designer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ready, Set, G-OER

Learn how public libraries use open educational resources (OER) in STEM programming, reference, collection development, and technology training. OER are free to access and redistribute so they’re great for small budgets, and they’re often portable so they’re easy to share and available without reliable Internet access. Because OER can be repurposed and modified, they can be customized to meet diverse community needs. In this session, we’ll review the results of a new research study on OER and public libraries, and you’ll leave with easy OER solutions for tech workshops, writing groups, health literacy programs, public speaking toolkits, makerspaces, and more!

Michelle Reed, Research Manager, Library Futures, NYU Law

Ready Programming to Support Health Literacy with the NNLM Reading Club

Book discussions can raise awareness of health topics, reducing stigma, building empathy, promoting health literacy, and advancing health equity. About once a month, the Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) Reading Club provides a curated list of health-themed books to facilitate conversations on health and wellness topics. Book suggestions include fiction, memoirs, graphic novels, and more. For each health topic find three titles, customizable marketing materials, and a discussion guide, available for download, as well as curated health information from the National Library of Medicine and other trustworthy resources, making it easy to host a discussion and support health conversations.

Bennie Finch; Education and Outreach Coordinator; Network of the National Library of Medicine (NNLM) Region 7 (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont)
Faith Steele
, Outreach and Education Librarian, NNLM Region 1
Darlene Kaskie
, Community Engagement Coordinator, NNLM Region 6 (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin)

 

Libraries Investigating Cold Cases: The Sleuths of Silence

 

Understand the significance of utilizing library resources in investigating historic cold cases. Learn about specific methodologies and tools available within library collections for cold case research. Explore case studies demonstrating successful outcomes achieved through collaboration between investigators and library staff or archivists. Gain insights into the ethical considerations and challenges inherent in accessing and interpreting historical materials for cold case investigations.

 

Tyler Hahn, Director, Cherokee Public Library (IA)

Take Your Child to the Library Day: Family-Centric Advocacy

Take Your Child to the Library Day started as a grassroots celebration in Connecticut; now it’s a lively, bustling day for participating libraries throughout North America. Learn how this family-centric, customizable celebration can work as an advocacy and marketing opportunity for your library, regardless of staffing levels or programming budgets. Discover specific tips for creative publicity, increasing your library’s community presence, working with community partners, serving the underserved, and welcoming new families.

Amanda Stern, Events and Special Projects Manager, Connecticut Library Consortium
Caitlin Augusta
, Head of Children’s Services, Stratford Library

Community Sustainability Using Seed Exchanges, Gardens & Community Partners

This would be a detailed description of how to create a seed exchange in your library, big or small, as well as discussing how and who to bring into your group as a helper or a partner to create a more sustainable community—this could be with the use of a community garden, but it does not have to. We will discuss possible pitfalls along the way as well as various ways of getting the physical seed library started. Attendees will be able to go back and start to create their own seed library with resources to help it “grow.”

Susan Craven, Branch Manager of Denton Library Assistant Director of Davidson County Public Library System, Davidson County Public Library (NC)

Building Lifetime Financial Well-Being Starts with Children

Developing financial well-being begins when you are young. We hear from many adults, "Why didn't they teach me this in school?" The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a suite of resources targeted to children to help them develop their financial skills. In this session we will engage in a couple of activities from CFPB's database of classroom activities. You will learn about CFPB's Money Monster story books and engage in an activity based upon one of the stories. You will come away with new ideas of activities and resources to help the children and their parents develop their financial skills.

Ken McDonnell, Financial Education Program Analyst, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau