The Common Denominator….Libraries
About 18 years ago, my Dean at the Moraine Valley Community College Library handed me a flyer describing a one day conference for library employees and said I could go if I was interested. It was held at College of DuPage and looked intriguing. I decided to attend.
I went that day, not really knowing what to expect. When I walked into the auditorium to hear the keynote speaker (I think it was the director of ILA at the time), I was amazed to find the room filled with more than 200 people. The keynote speaker was fabulous: inspiring, entertaining, dynamic.
The rest of the day I went to sessions of my choice; there were several programs in each time slot. The topics ranged from circulation to technical services to problem patrons. (It hasn’t changed too much!) The walk to different buildings and classrooms was a little far at times, but luckily I had worn comfortable shoes! Lunch was great, and I met some very interesting people from special, academic, and public libraries. We all had different jobs, but the common denominator was libraries.
The afternoon was more of the same with an invigorating wrap up session at the end. When I filled out the evaluation form, I noticed that it asked for volunteers to serve on the Planning Committee for the next year. I was very excited and filled out the form and sent it to Tobi Oberman, one of the originators of the Reaching Forward Conference. She and Tom Rich, the other coordinator, invited me to attend the next meeting.
I joined the Planning Committee and remain a member 18 years later. The conference has moved from COD to Pheasant Run to a hotel downtown and then, finally, to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. It has grown from 200 attendees to almost 1,000 each year. Although it began and still has its emphasis on support staff, library employees at all levels now attend and find the conference beneficial.
With the 20th anniversary celebration of Reaching Forward on April 30, 2010, I invite and encourage you to attend this next year. Encourage your administrators to look closely at the Conference for your library’s staff in-service day. By the time you add up the cost of the speakers, the food, and the time it takes to pull it off, you may find that it is more economical to use Reaching Forward as your in-service day. Leave the program planning up to the committee!