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2019 ILF President Susie HighleyMaking the Most of Your Advocates - May 2019

I have been a trustee for the Fortville-Vernon Township Library for ten years, but I have to admit, I’ve learned more about being a board member this year than the other nine years combined. Yes, one of the big differences: I now have more time since I retired from K-12 education nearly two years ago, but there were some resources I could have been utilizing all along.

Library trustees are often very busy people, but one thing I’ve learned through participating in ILF activities, the Harwood Institute, and my own library’s strategic planning process is that we should take advantage of this “busyness.” Your board members may be some of the best-connected people in your community. Are you giving them the tools, opportunities, and encouragement to be walking-talking, confident advocates for your library? One of my favorite activities at the Harwood Community Engagement Summit in East Lansing in September was when we filled in a diagram showing our individual “spheres of influence.” Odds are, your board members collectively have connections with a majority of important organizations in your community.

On the school front, during my 16 years as an elementary and middle school teacher librarian, I had seen suggestions to form a library advisory committee, but I never did, figuring that teachers were already busy enough. I wish I had put such a group in place. I have come to see the importance of people outside the library proclaiming our value; it’s a multiplier effect. Nowhere did this hit home more than participating in our Library Legislative Day in March and observing the rest of the session. To see senators and representatives speak of hearing from constituents about the worth of their libraries really emphasized this point. In the case of schools, too often administrators have outdated ideas of what a school library is like, and need to hear from others besides us about the great learning going on there. An advisory committee could help with this. Not only do we need to tell our own story, we need to have others telling it as well!

What would you like ILF to offer for trustees? We recently had over 100 people at the ILF virtual exchange with Larry DeBoer and Tamara Ogle about property taxes, with a follow-up session scheduled for May 20. You don’t want to flood their email boxes, but do you encourage trustees to read things like these Focus newsletters? The State Library’s Wednesday Word? To use the updated resources on trustee and public policies pages of their website? Our Fortville-Vernon Township library had Hayley Trefun and Courtney Brown attend one of our board meetings and offer some training. ILF is updating the resources on our trustee page (ILTSA) as well, and invites others to become active in suggesting resources and programming for our trustees. If your library is an institutional member of ILF, your trustees are as well.

Above all, though, I need to emphasize the importance of my opportunities to meet with many of you in formal or informal situations. Whether it’s been lunch during a regional conference, conversations in the halls of the State House, sessions at RosieCon at Ben Davis, or even emails, it’s the chance to connect that often makes the difference. Please let us know how best to support you and add to your connections and their impact!

National Library Week - April 2019


Happy National Library Week! Do we ever get tired of everyone telling us how wonderful libraries are this week? I could fill up this entire column with the various posts shared by organizations, media outlets, and individuals. There have been so many, I’ve had a hard time selecting a favorite, but it might be this piece from Stephanny Smith of the Allen County Public Library. So, what about next week, when people have moved on to National Pet ID and National Coin Week? Yes, this week is important, as it reminds people to pause and consider the value of librarians, but what can we do to perpetuate the good feelings?

We should be our own best advocates, but most librarians did not choose the field for self-promotion and glory. However, there are small things all of us can do. In many cases, it is only a matter of awareness that keeps people from appreciating libraries and realizing what they offer. Fortunately, many libraries are now reaching out to the community via social media, different programming, technology offerings, and more. As an individual, do you promote the library when you have a chance? I’ve realized that I could do more to promote my local Fortville-Vernon Township Library just through my neighborhood association.

Our ILF communications committee has made license plate frames and yard signs available to us- have you seen any? As I left the regional conference last Friday, I was pleased to see a sign in the front yard of Crawfordsville Middle School; the public library, the Carnegie Museum, and the school have partnered in many ways. Feel free to share photos of these with ILF and tag them!

I am celebrating Library Week in a big way, with meetings for intellectual freedom, advocacy, and the ILF Board; the regional conference in Richmond, and rounding things off with a Future Ready Workshop in Columbus, OH. The best thing about the week: why, spending time with other librarians, of course! I sincerely hope that you feel appreciated this week—and beyond. Thanks for all that you do, and remember to tell your story!


Library Statehouse Day - March 2019

 I had the pleasure of attending ILF’s Library Legislative Day for the first time this week: what a whirlwind and worthwhile experience! Here are some of my top takeaways:

·        This event takes a huge amount of coordination. Not only were appointments and possible meetings set up for 70 ILF members, they were constantly subject to change, delays, illness, jury duty—you name it.

·        In addition to the physical logistics of the day, the preparation of information, statistics, handouts, videos and PowerPoints provided to us was very extensive. This made It possible for all of us to be as informed as possible.

·        I was very impressed by several conversations I witnessed between our members and the legislators. It is important to understand funding and the impact that changes could have, including unintended consequences. How refreshing to see meaningful, civil discourse, even among people with differing views.

·        You’ve probably heard the term “elevator speech” before. I witnessed them developing.  Our home base for the day was strategically placed between the entrances that senators and representatives use for their chambers, by busy elevators. Several times, I saw Lucinda Nord spot legislators waiting for an elevator; she then rushed over, struck up a conversation with them, and continued while traveling with them up or down, only to eventually return to our location.

·        No matter what, Tisa, Megan, and Mandy were also there to support us in any way they could.

·        The Vigo County library makerspace was a tremendous hit, and attracted many legislators and staffers to our space, especially those with children present. The green screen was particularly popular, as it transported visitors to the White House, the moon, and more!

·        The State House is a very busy place! In addition to numerous groups and individuals there to lobby, Indiana Humanities was there to announce their “One Book” for the next two years, The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson. There are additional books available to support the theme of “Inseparable.” Indiana Humanities has become a valuable collaborator for libraries and programming, and I was able to speak with several of them about their author visits, K-12 book programs, and grants.

·        Members of the advocacy committee who were present actively shared with each other what they learned from their conversations and discussed possible strategy up to the last minute. I was so impressed by their body of knowledge and reasoning!

·        Just as in during my time as a school teacher librarian, relationships matter! Some legislators were very familiar with the issues we discussed, some were not, probably in large part due to their committee assignments. It is important for us to take advantage of the advocacy resources available to us on the ILF website and to reach out to our own representatives. Members also have access to our updates from Bose, and the advocacy calls every other Monday. (Next one March 25)

·        Thanks to all who attended. It was a privilege to witness as you nobly represented the profession and the citizens of Indiana!

ALA, Connections, and Jeopardy! - February 12, 2019

Well, January was an eventful month—and I’m not talking just about the weather! In the middle of the month, I flew to Los Angeles for tapings of “Jeopardy!” and will appear on the February 13 episode. I recently returned from ALA Midwinter in Seattle. In thinking back about the past few weeks, a theme of sorts arose: the power of connections.

While in Seattle, I was able to attend the chapter leaders’ forum and AASL assemblies. I reconnected with some people, but was also able to meet and learn from many others from across the continent. At the forum, we received updates on such things as advocacy (including virtual legislative days), intellectual freedom, conference and membership successes, and partnerships with the National Network of Libraries of Medicine; they have program grants available, often awarded to public libraries. Our ALA Councilor, Beth Munk, also attended the forum, as well as meetings on the State Ecosystem Initiative, and there were town halls on the future of Midwinter (which will be modified a bit when it is held in Indianapolis in 2021). Another highlight was the Youth Media Awards, because I have more connections than ever with other readers via a variety of social networks, including Goodreads, Voxer, Twitter and Facebook. The atmosphere with everyone rooting for favorite books is incomparable!

As I prepared (?) for Jeopardy! I read a few books written about it, including Prisoner of Trebekistan, by Bob Harris. One of his main points: the power of connections and learning. Why do you suppose so many librarians have appeared on Jeopardy!? We do often search for questions as well as answers. We try to connect patrons with the information, programs, or resources that best meet their needs. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Just how did I know the answer to that? Where did that come from?” Have you ever thought back, sometimes years back, to (mentally) thanking the person who helped you learn something? There are probably patrons thanking your staff every day, whether they are physically in your library or not. Yes, library staff are some of the best connectors, and we are willing to do this for anyone!

And if you’d like to know more about being on Jeopardy!, I can tell you—later in the month. I encourage you to apply!



January 8, 2019

Welcome to 2019! As a matter of fact, our theme for the Indiana Library Federation this year is “Libraries: Where Everyone is Welcome!”

During last year’s annual and regional conferences, we had speakers on hospitality, inclusion, outreach and other actions that lead to favorable connections with our communities. Your ILF professional development committee and board have decided to expand upon this for 2019.

In 2006, I started geocaching, which involves finding hidden “containers” or places of interest using a GPS device. By 2007, a friend and I were spending enjoyable days caching throughout the state. (Yes, we’ve now found caches in every county and each page of the DeLorme map for Indiana.) Back then, we would have to plan our routes in advance, often printing out maps and individual cache pages, but there would be times that we needed more current information or got stuck. Where would we stop? The public library! We knew that we would be welcomed and receive assistance, even if we were far away from home. While geocaching can now be done with smart phone apps, those experiences really stuck with us. And, as a plus, there are now many libraries that host geocaches themselves.

At the Fortville-Vernon Township Library in Hancock County, where I am a trustee, we used to be the only place in the vicinity where visitors could enjoy free computer access, inexpensive copying, faxing, laminating, and more; your library was probably much the same. But as times have changed, so have the services we offer, but still with the special ingredient not necessarily found elsewhere: nonjudgmental staff willing to help, expecting little in return, whether you are a resident or not.

Libraries have been getting some love in the mainstream media recently, which many of us proudly share, over and over, with friends and family; hopefully, this is resonating with members of the general public as well. In addition to Susan Orlean’s book, The Library, and a recent This American Life Podcast, “The Room of Requirement;” the New York Times and other newspapers and magazines have taken note of the many resources available and the unique atmosphere a library offers. Throughout this year, we want to spotlight and share the wonderful things going on at your libraries, especially the ways that you make patrons feel welcome, included and valued.


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