At the 2018 Association for Small and Rural Libraries (ARSL) Annual Conference in Springfield, many IHLS members stated they had finally found a conference that understood their needs. The conference had the added advantage of providing networking opportunities with fellow librarians working in small and rural libraries across the country. (ARSL applies the title of “librarian” to anyone who works in a library.)
This year, around 20 of our members and the IHLS Membership Team, Ellen Popit and Anna Yackle, attended. The conference was held in beautiful Burlington, Vermont and again offered programs specifically geared to the interests and needs of small and rural libraries. More attendees this year were from New England, but librarians from across the U.S. plus areas of Canada took advantage of great networking experiences.
This conference and its value are becoming more recognized. The conference has been sold out for the past two years and they are seeking a much bigger venue for next year’s event in Wichita, KS. The state libraries of California and Vermont awarded grants to cover the costs of several of their rural librarians to attend. The Illinois Library Association is considering how to best reach out to and serve small and rural libraries in Illinois.
According to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson, “Rural areas cover 97 % of the nation's land area but contain 19.3 % of the population (about 60 million people.)” Approximately 80% of Illinois is rural. These statistics translate into the existence of many small and rural libraries. Someone had the foresight to see the people working in these libraries needed an organization that would allow them to share their experiences, struggles and hard-earned knowledge.
In 1982, Dr. Bernard Vavrek, Director of the Center for the Study of Rural Librarianship at Clarion University in Pennsylvania, helped found Association for Small and Rural Libraries (ARSL). This group brings together libraries that are very similar to IHLS libraries. Anyone interested in membership or attending next year’s conference can find information on their website. Hope to see you next year in Wichita.