ARSL Conference Renews and Recharges Rural Libraries

After Sarah's post about the ARSL conference scholarships, scholarship winner Nola Ramirez wrote the following email to the California rural library list. Nola shared that "attending the conference renewed my sense of purpose, recharged my batteries, and helped me to be more committed to be my best everyday." The 2010 ARSL conference will be in Denver, Colorado, October 14-16 and is a joint conference between The Association for Rural and Small Libraries and the Association of Bookmobiles and Outreach Services. The creativity, dedication, and sharing spirit of rural and small libraries will surely be present in full force! 

Good morning! I'm Nola Ramirez, for the past 18 years I have been the Branch Manager of the Gustine Branch Library in Merced County.

Gatlinburg was my 2nd ARSL Conference, and the 2nd scholarship that I was fortunate enough to receive. The biggest impact for me attending the conference was the opportunity to meet, listen, and speak to other people who work in libraries. You might ask "why is that?" Well, I work totally alone in a busy regional branch library. There is no money in our budget for meetings, so the only interaction I get with other staff members is through email, phone calls and quarterly visits from the Supervising Branch Librarian. Attending the conference renewed my sense of purpose, recharged my batteries, and helped me to be more committed to be my best everyday. I have already registered for the conference in Denver, and I look forward to participating once again this year. I have purchased my plane tickets and have reserved my room.

The second thing that I brought back from the conference is the realization that I must work harder with my patrons to help get them back to work, and to feel better about themselves while they are looking for a job. While attending college I had worked for an employment agency.  Today I help patrons get ready for their interviews using those skills I learned back then. I help patrons one on one with their resumes: I read them; make suggestions; help format and correct spelling errors; and etc. I teach them how to job search online, post online resumes, and get them set up with an email account. The number of people that still do not have an email account is huge. Patrons can be afraid to ask for help, but I always tell them, that there are no dumb questions, and that I am here to help them, not pass judgment. Victoria at the central library in Merced wrote a resource page for job seekers, which I use as a handout for my patrons. I just registered for the Infopeople workshop, Job and Workforce Recovery: Libraries Helping Individuals and Communities, May 18 - June 15. I also proctor tests for online students and continuing education courses for real estate, etc. I am the only one in town and the surrounding area that offers this free service.

The session, Thinking Outside Your Barn@ Your Library, interested me since my library is located in an agricultural area. Everyone (including schools) come to see the parade in town during FFA week. My plan had been to participate in the parade this year, but unfortunately that did not happen because I was on medical leave after having surgery when the parade was held. We have 2 tractors at home, and I was going to enter one of them into the parade and hook a cart to it. Several children offered to sit in the cart and read to their goats, bunnies, dogs, etc. It is now being planned for next year.

I am also in the process of weeding my collection to make it more appealing to the public. This is an ongoing project throughout Merced County. Each library is trying to weed "a box a week".

Nola Ramirez, Branch Manager, Merced County Library, Gustine Branch Library, Gustine, CA
(reposted with permission)


Thank you for highlighting rural libraries. It's so rare to see that online. It was also neat to see someone from the San Joaquin Valley Library System. SJVLS is a consortium of 13 county/city libraries sharing resources and a catalog to probably the poorest and most rural places in California.