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Discussion, Controversy, Resources & Networking: A Conference Experience to Treasure!

By Jan Meadows, Bookmobile Supervisor, Pikes Peak Library District.

I hope everyone made it home safely from the Great American Bookmobile and Outreach Conference which was held last week. It was, as always, an energizing experience. I enjoyed meeting many new people and connecting again with the “old timers” like me, who have attended for years. (We won’t go into how many years!) If you did not attend this year, we missed you and hope you will be there next year!

This is a conference where a wealth of information is available, at the sessions as well as from just talking to the person sitting next to you. There is also lots of fun, such as the dinner and tour at the Farber plant with the wonderful high school band playing music that made you want to dance. Thanks Farber! And OBS, Inc. hosted a hospitality suite on Wednesday evening for weary travelers. Thank you OBS! Three vendors also brought along some beautiful bookmobiles to display, always a favorite part of the conference for me.

And just for a little extra spice, we had a few friendly controversies!

At the organizational meeting of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS) the debate from the listserv continued about whether or not you should have to be a member of ABOS to access the listserv. I personally am torn between the two arguments. I know that there are people and libraries out there that probably can’t afford to join the Association. I don’t want to abandon them or leave them out of the loop for all the information available on the listserv. And, I don’t want to miss out on the contributions they can make to the listserv. On the other hand, I believe that we each should make a personal, as well as financial investment in the Association, to show commitment to, unity with and support for it. The Association can survive only if has an active and committed membership.

The ABOS full membership is $39.00 per year, which entitles a person or a library to one ABOS vote, one discounted registration fee for the ABOS conference and one username and password for full access to the listserv. The associate membership fee is $19.00 per year and entitles a library or person one username and password for full access to the listserv. In both levels of membership, the username and password may be shared within the member’s library, at the member’s discretion. Perhaps a good compromise would be lowering the associate membership to $10.00, what do you think?

Another bit of excitement at the ABOS meeting was deciding if we would like to combine our conference with the Association of Rural and Small Libraries (R&SL) Conference that meets just before the Bookmobile and Outreach Conference each year. Some people were concerned that they would no longer be able to attend because there administrations would not think it was as relevant when they see Rural and Small Libraries in the title. Others were afraid we would loose our identity. Others thought the plan to have ABOS meetings while the R&SL had their breakout sessions and vice versa would defeat the purpose, which was being able to share relevant information between the two groups.

These are all valid concerns, some easier to address than others. Staff applying to their administration to attend would need to attach a conference agenda with their application and highlight all of the relevant sessions. Then it would be clear that it did pertain to Bookmobile and Outreach staff. I think the breakout sessions should be available for everyone to attend without missing his or her own association meetings. I lurk on the R&SL listserv because many issues they discuss are common to bookmobile service and I would like to have the chance to attend their breakout sessions for the same reason. If we combine our conferences, I feel that the conference would have to be at least a full three days long in order to allow enough time to attend different sessions. The two Association meetings could be held simultaneously since no cross over would be needed for these.

In the end it was decided to have a joint conference in 2004 on a trial basis. If it works for both Associations it will continue. If it doesn’t work, each Association will return to having their own conference in 2005. Bravo! for being open minded and willing to try something new.

The title of the conference would certainly be a whopper if we kept both association names in it. Maybe using the acronyms in the title with a subtitle spelling it out would work.

The ABOS and ARSL Conference
A Joint Conference
of the
Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services
and the
Association of Rural and Small Libraries

This way both associations will keep their separate identities clear and it is apparent that we are just joining forces for a conference. What do you think?

The final session, “Manufacturers on Call” was also filled with some lively discussion about what people felt vendors should make known to buyers and what vendors needed to know from the buyer. And in the end it proved very productive for both sides, with each having a clearer understanding of what the other could or should provide. Tena Wilson from Matthews Specialty Vehicles, sent out (as promised at the session), a brainstorming list which she uses when meeting with a prospective buyer. She added the items of concern that came out during the meeting. What a great tool for everyone! Thanks, Tena! Theresa Gemmer, Outreach Coordinator at Everette Public Library, is also compiling a list to aid staff writing specifications for a new bookmobile. If you have an “If I had it to do over again, I would have” bit of advice, be sure to send it Theresa’s way at: tgemmer@ci.everett.wa.us

Every breakout session I attended was outstanding! And I am still sad that I had to miss a couple of sessions because it wasn’t possible to attend all of them. I did hear reports on the ones I didn’t attend and word was they also were excellent. Congratulations to every one who conducted a session. You are the shinning lights in our field and I for one am grateful you were willing to share your expertise with us!

BTW, for all of you who read my saga of technology in the last column, I did learn a lot from Tom Walker’s session on satellites. He has kindly agreed to do a Bookmobile Technology Session for OLOS at the ALA Annual Conference in Orlando (June 2004). Send out the word to your resident techies and plan to attend yourself. You too, can learn about such things as transponders and Hot Spots!

Last of all; don’t forget I am sitting here in Colorado Springs (with 300 days of sunshine a year!) waiting to hear from you at jmeadows@ppld.org. Until the next column, I’ll see you on the highways, the byways and the country roads!

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