Rural library staff members from across the nation will meet in Sacramento for Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) conference

The Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) will hold its annual conference in Sacramento on September 19-21, 2008. A learning and networking opportunity for staff from the nation’s smaller libraries, the conference will allow attendees to interact with other library staff and conference speakers, and to get practical ideas to implement in their libraries.

Last year, the California State Library (CSL) provided scholarships for 22 rural California library staff to attend the 2007 ARSL conference in Columbus, Ohio, where the conference has been held for many years. In their overwhelmingly positive responses, many scholarship recipients continue to report that the knowledge, ideas and/or contacts they gained in Columbus in 2007 greatly benefits library service in their rural communities. The CSL will give many more the chance to attend this year.

Wanting to make the conference accessible to as many rural and small library staff and trustees as possible, the ARSL Board of Directors decided to move the conference to a different state each year. Due in part to the 2007 California scholarship recipients’ enthusiasm for the event, State Librarian of California Susan Hildreth wholeheartedly agreed to welcoming the conference in 2008, and California is now the first stop in the ARSL conference’s new rotation. The 2009 conference will be held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the 2010 conference in Denver, Colorado.

California scholarship recipients help build Sacramento ARSL events, create scholarship strategy

The California scholarship recipients who attended last year’s conference in Ohio are serving on an advisory and local arrangements committee for the Sacramento conference, and have planned some wonderful activities to welcome attendees to California. Before-the-conference activities are:

  • Sight-seeing tour of Capay Valley in Yolo County with a stop at the Esparto Branch Library: Capay Valley is a good example of an agricultural farming community “the way California used to be.”  This beautiful valley remains very rural with canyons, draws, and rangeland rising from the valley floor, and has abundant wildlife. More information about the area is on the Capay Valley Vision website.
  • Dine-Around Dinners: For those who arrive in Sacramento the night before the conference, these dinners provide opportunities to make new friends, try a new restaurant, and see a little of California’s capital.  The Dine-Around restaurant choices are included on the ARSL conference on the registration form at Registrants can choose from one of four stellar eateries, and join fellow conference goers in groups of 8-11 for dinner on Thursday.  Transportation will be provided to the restaurants from the Radisson, and will return participants to the hotel after dinner.  

Activities immediately after the conference are:

  • Wine tasting event in Clarksburg with a stop at the Clarksburg branch library on Sunday afternoon, September 21, 2008 – Relax and be treated to an elegant wine tasting event in Clarksburg (only 18 miles from Sacramento), with the proceeds benefiting the Friends of the Library. In a beautiful outdoor setting, enjoy live music and bid on silent auction items as you sample varieties of wine, cheese, and lots of locally grown food. In addition, a tour of the Clarksburg branch library has been arranged. More information about the area is available on the Clarksburg Wine Growers Association website.

The local arrangements committee suggested that the CSL offer some full scholarships, and some additional “partial” scholarships, to rural California libraries this year. This effective strategy gives library directors the opportunity to use scholarship funds strategically with local resources to get more people to the conference by carpooling, sharing hotel rooms, and/or using local and/or Friends group funds to pay for all or part of an attendee’s costs. CSL conference planners expect over 100 Californians to attend the conference as a result of this creative scholarship strategy!

2008 ARSL conference line-up

Conference speakers include:

  • George Needham, Vice President, OCLC Member Services and Joan Frye Williams, Library & Technology Consultant Futureproofing Your Library
  • Jessamyn West, community technology librarian in rural Vermont Tiny Libraries, Tiny Tech
  • Bill Harmer, Head of Adult Services, Chelsea District Library, Library Journal’s Best Small Library Award Winner Serving Seniors: Giving Them What They Want and Rebecca Miller, Library Journal What it Takes to Be an Award Winner
  • Susan Hildreth, State Librarian of California and past Public Library Association president
  • Nadia Gordon, author of the Sunny McCoskey Napa Valley mystery series Sex, Wine, and Air Conditioning: The Seductive Power of the Local Library
  • Bette Dillehay, Director, Mathews Memorial Library Library as Community Center: Engaging Local Government Managers as Library Partners

The fall workshops include strategies for improving customer service, improving the library collection, using Web 2.0 tools, making library programming exciting, low budget self- service options, services for patrons who are off the grid, and online marketing techniques. Workshops will be repeated twice during the conference to allow participants to get to as many of their choices as possible.

The all-conference reception will be held on Saturday evening at the California State Library, where participants will be treated to wine and hors d`oeuvres, as well as the unveiling of an exhibit from the California State Library collection commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1909 establishment of county libraries in California created by Curator of Special Collections Gary Kurutz.

More information about ARSL and the conference is available at



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