by Adam Wright
North Texas Regional Library System
“Theme conferences would be great because it gave us an opportunity to really focus on more specific aspects of our jobs. A basic library conference would not have children's librarianship as a focus and as such we would only be part of each workshop. I also think that this was a great way to meet other people in the field.”
“Frankly, I was able to attend CYC because it was free. I work for a small public library with only 4 full-time librarians, and as a newbie, I have to "wait in line" to attend TLA, PLA, and ALA until those with more seniority have had a chance to go. Another advantage of CYC is there are so few workshops and conferences that are specifically geared toward public youth librarians, which have to deal with different issues that school librarians do.”
“I enjoy the smaller, themed conferences. All of the sessions are relevant and the entire conference caters to other librarians with similar interest. This is so nice for networking and community building! I also like the convenience of attending a local one-day conference. Many librarians either don't have the extra money or time off from work to attend the longer conferences out of town, which can be quite expensive.”
- Taken from Evaluations for the Children and Youth Conference for Librarians 2007
On August 10, 2007, one hundred and seventy-one librarians gathered together in Fort Worth Texas at the Children and Youth Conference for Librarians 2007.This first annual conference was geared towards children and youth librarianship and was a collaborative effort between the North Texas Regional Library System, Denton Independent School District, Mansfield Independent School District, Denton Public Library and Southlake Public Library.
The steering committee, with a representative from each of the partners, met once a month for the previous eighteen months to collaborate and work on setting up the conference.The conference began with a keynote speech by renowned brain researcher Lori Dixon.The attendees were then offered a selection of six tracks to attend breakout sessions:Young Child, Children, Teens, New Technology, Professional Development and Multicultural.The conference included a vendor area where over 20 vendors set up tables to have access to the conference attendees.Refreshments were provided all day.Everyone was responsible for their own lunch.
Sounds good.Total cost to attend event:$0.NTRLS footed the bill.Funds from NTRLS continuing education(CE) budget were used to pay for the event.
The amount of positive feedback and the overwhelming number of registrations (We had hoped for a 100 at the most) made us here at NTRLS realize that we might have found an untouched niche within libraryland’s continuing education community.Themed, regional conferences at no, or little cost, seemed to fill an unrealized need for many librarians.
We are now planning on holding several more of these conferences:at least 3 a year.
Here are some of the benefits these themed conferences bring to the table.
1.Cost.Because of the CE budget, NTRLS was able to provide the CYC conference at no cost to attendees.In return, NTRLS realized a greater return on its CE investment (ROI) because CYC touched more individuals than one of our traditional workshops that usually bring in an average of 25 to 30 people.As the above quote mentions, some people were only able to attend CYC because of the zero price tag.As these conferences grow and budgets shrink, NTRLS might one day have to charge a nominal fee to attend these conferences, but it will never rise as high as a statewide or national conference.
2.Focus.These conferences focus on one topic of interest to one sector of libraryland.CYC focused on issues important to children and youth librarians.Our next conference will be focused on technology issues so all technie-oriented librarians will hopefully attend.
3.Networking.With so many librarians and vendors attending CYC, it was inevitable that some networking would take place.It allows librarians who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to meet and share ideas with each other.
4.Time.We did CYC in one day as compared to other more general library conferences that last three to four days.A lot of the feedback received praised the one-day format.
For NTRLS, I have already written about what a great ROI we realized with this event.We have an added bonus with these types of events:brand recognition.As we offer more of these conferences and reach out to more librarians, the NTRLS name will always be associated with the themed conferences.
NTRLS’ themed conferences will never replace the TLA or ALA conferences; this is not our intention.Instead, we want to give a day to librarians to drown in their specific passions and to network with others who share those same obsessions.
For more information about the Children and Youth Conference for Librarians 2007, go to http://www.cyc2007.com.
If you are interested in participating in a future themed conference, please contact us. We would be happy to have you on board.