Catching Fireflies

Betsy Erickson, Library Director of the Ephraim Public Library in Ephraim Utah, went to the Association for Rural and Small Libraries Conference in Raleigh NC, Sept. 26-29, 2012, through a grant sponsored by the Utah State Library. This is what she wrote on the experience.

“I can remember a time, many moons ago when I was just a little girl, oh about eight or nine years old, when I could not wait for Saturday night to come and all the fireflies would come out littering the warm outdoor air with their blinking yellow glow.

‘Our family would gather in the backyard, jars in hand and search and catch these wonderful magical fireflies.  My older sister was stealthy at it where I was more like a bull in a china cabinet running left and right screeching with delight.  My parents were off to the side, with their cool glasses of lemonade chuckling at the two of us, I’m sure.

‘The best part for me was having those little bugs light up my room that night.  In preparation, I would fill the jar with twigs and leaves and just a little bit of water.  I really thought I could make them comfortable in their new fabricated home and hopefully they would live.  It never failed to make me sad waking up the next morning to see my glowing little friends at the bottom of the jar not glowing anymore.  My only solace was I knew I could do it again next week.

‘This is very similar to how I felt about this Association of Small and Rural Libraries Annual Conference.  I was required to submit a form answering some question on why our little library should be able to send someone to this event. I also had to have another person write on behalf of the library and myself, reasons we should be so honored.  Low and behold….our humble little library was chosen and the excitement immediately started to build!

‘It wasn’t hard for that to transpire…the excitement y flight out to the convention site and reserve my hotel room.  Oh, and the details obuilding, that is.  In order for this to happen, I had to register for the conference, book mf what to wear . . .well, I could spend another entire paragraph on that alone!  It was all so delightfully thrilling.

‘The Conference:

Fantastic, awe inspiring, intriguing, motivating, rejuvenating, thought provoking, confrontational (yes, I said confrontational) vision building, absolutely mind blowing!

‘These are just a few words to describe the event.

‘What I saw, what I felt, what I took away from this particular gathering of librarians was an intense love for knowledge, love for education, love for our communities and each person in them from the very very young to the very very old.  This organization, the ARSL, is a group of people who saw a tremendous need in our small towns around the USA and decided to reach out and lend an informed hand to those struggling remote libraries.  They provide badly needed support for those who labor day after day, (many of which do it at low pay with no benefits at all) doing their absolute best to provide a greatly needed service to their citizens.  Rural and small libraries may be the only place some people have a chance to use a computer,  the only place where they can learn how to navigate the internet, the only place to gather with liked-minded people over the content of a controversial book and discuss it freely and safely.  In some places in our country, people literally have no other access to the written word or the vast databases found mainly on the internet other than in their local libraries.  It is a place where our children can dream, scheme, plot and plan their wildest imaginations among the pages and pages of books found on our shelves.

‘Our small libraries have limited budgets which makes programming a challenge, to say the least.  At this conference, we learned an endless source of inexpensive materials, excellent ideas and imaginative programming that we can, in turn, utilize in our libraries immediately.  They even had a breakout session on how to present to your city council or library board your ideas and sell it in a fashion that no one could refuse.  Practical, simple, easy, step by step tricks of the trade that any librarian could implement the day they returned from the conference.  I felt armed!

‘By Saturday morning my admiration and respect for this profession had grown by leaps and bounds.  I saw intelligent, professional and yet still down-to-earth men and women share their experiences in running their small library.  For me, this conference is a place for those of us on the front line to get re-charged,   re-vitalized, and yes, a little bit pampered in order to go back home and press on knowing we are not alone.  We have a strong force behind us, an extraordinary source of information readily available at the click of a mouse.

‘Like catching fireflies, I caught something remarkable, something exceptional for just moment in time at this meeting.  Something I’ll remember forever.  The conference might be over, like the fireflies that perished, but the fervor and zeal was enough to fuel me until it comes around again.

‘I must close by thanking the Utah State Library and the Institute of Museum of Library Services (IMLS) for granting not only myself, but three other librarians in our great state to attend this conference.  My gratitude runs deep.  Thank you so very much.”

Respectfully submitted by

Betsy Erickson, Director, Ephraim Pubic Library, Utah

October 2012