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Mary Scanlon and I attended the Thursday session of NCLA’s 58th Biennial Conference in Greenville, where 543 registrants converged on the Greenville Convention Center.

The speaker at the day’s Ogilvie Lecture was Mary Boone, State Librarian of North Carolina, who commenced her address by countering our awareness of parlous times for libraries by citing positive statistics for the state: NC is the 4th fastest growing state, 10th most populous, and is projected to be the 7th most populous state by 2030. On the other hand, there have been hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the traditional big three job areas– tobacco, textiles, and furniture, as a new economy has emerged based on technology, banking, pharmaceuticals, and auto-parts , yes auto-parts. She underscored the importance of NC libraries and the services they provide, despite cuts to their own resources (17.9% cuts at ECU, for instance, the home university for this conference). She singled out NC community colleges’ challenges as they try to support a new curriculum that addresses the education and training needs of the new workplaces. I’ve read, for instance, that community colleges are jumping on the bandwagon for educating in emerging green technologies. Yet community colleges have had resource cuts of 25-41%.Public library use is at an all time high, heavily used by people seeking new jobs and forced to apply online, when some have never touched computers in their lives (some public libraries have also found it necessary to take reservations for story hours!). However, she remains optimistic that one can define one’s core mission and still provide essential services. For instance, she cited innovative strategies in the face of materials cuts:librarians going into the stacks and displaying literary classics in lieu of the latest bestsellers, with the result that these venerable works are flying off the display shelves.She closed by urging us to redefine and update our mission and do different, if necessary, with less.

I attended the RASS luncheon, which featured author Jill McCorkle as speaker. She prefaced her readings with engaging and humorous accounts of her writing process, disclosing that she tends to jot intriguing snippets of conversations on slips of papers, napkins, paper towels, etc. which she then stows away for future use. She cited one such remark from this summer, coming from a woman in a grocery store who observed that “the humility had been just terrible” of late; Ms. McCorkle emphatically agreed-and added that quotation to her cache for future use.She was queried, inevitably, about her archival practices (her papers are at UNC ), and she assured the audience of librarians that she does indeed place these slips she’s used in a story in an envelope, to be archived with her other literary output. Her readings from her most recent short story collection, Going Away Shoes, were delightful, full of wit and insight.I am looking forward to finding out how the tales ended.

Each day of the conference offered a session on the greening of libraries, and not surprisingly the sessions were all highly popular, with enthusiastic presenters and audiences alike. The choice of the day was “NC Public Libraries Going Green,” presented by Jody Risacher, Director Cumberland County Public Library & Information Center, Jodi Hojosy, Green Business Program Coordinator, and Dan Barron, Chair NCPLDA Green Libraries Task Force. They offered a very interesting and encouraging overview of Green Library initiatives in NC, including the NC Green Libraries Project (Mr. Barron’s portion) and included a specific account of how the Cumberland County Public Library earned the local Green Business Certificate. That opportunity had fallen into their laps when Sustainable Sandhills approached the library as part of an initiative to assist businesses and institutions in the area with sustainability planning and to encourage them to embrace more environmentally friendly modes of business. The Library now has an informative web page, “Thinking Green, Working Green,” that is filled with information resources, including books and dvds owned by the library, as well as links to external information sources for consumers, provided by governmental and by environmental agencies and organizations.

“Utilizing Library Space for Learning Opportunities,” presented by two UNCG librarians, Kathy Crowe (Associate Dean for Public Services) and Mike Crumpton (Assistant Deans for Administrative Services) took us through the process of assessing, devising, and developing learning spaces. They conducted an environmental scan, assessed how the students use space and what they need, considered changes and updates, and began the planning and renovating processes.They considered changes in how students approach learning and studying, such as active and reflective orientations, group and individual study, technology and other resource access issues. They determined that they needed to create a larger instruction lab, expand collaboratories and group spaces, develop a Learning Commons (the new term for Information Commons), expand service areas such as vending machine and copy center areas as well as the Archives space, reduce and resituate government documents, and reduce as well the reference collection. As a means to these determinations, they used three assessment approaches, an in-house survey, observational studies, and focus groups. Focus group results revealed that the 24/5 expansion was popular as were cafĂ© booths, collaboratories, group areas and vending. Many considered the library’s environment conducive to study, and confirmed the need for quiet space areas. Fortunately, UNCG has made the expansion of Jackson Library one of its highest priorities, and the proposed design will expand the tower for book stacks and create a center for academic and student life.

Mary Scanlon and Kathy Makens, Electronic Resources Librarian at Durham Public Library, presented a BLINC session on “Social Networking for Career Advancement:It’s Not Your Teenager’s Facebook.” With her usual verve and energy even at the end of a long day spent a-conferencing, Mary explained the various social networking tools and correlated them with professional uses to which they could be put– totally unfazed and undeterred by connectivity poltergeists. She discussed email alerts, useful for journal articles; RSS feeds for both journal articles and blogs; Twitter for conference and professional association coverage; and Facebook, for similar purposes. I had not heard of RT-re-tweet forwarding; or twibes -twitter tribes ,what else, graced by a librarian twibe; or Pipes for filtering the inevitable abundance of RSS feeds (used with a Yahoo account). The audience, coming from various levels of experience, was very engaged, and peppered the two presenters with questions at the end of the very informative session.