As you know the Triad Academic Library Association (TALA) held its first conference of library paraprofessionals last week. Let me share just a little more history behind the conference. The idea for the conference came from Rosann Bazirjian, Dean of Libraries over at UNC-G back in 2012. Rosann enlisted support from our Dean and Joan Ruelle Library Dean over at Elon. They both agreed that the idea was one most worthy or pursuing and these three subsequently ended up financing the entire conference. They then took their idea to the other TALA deans and directors where it received support as well. So in late 2012 representatives from most of the TALA libraries started work planning for the event. Anna Milholland and I were the initial representatives from Wake Forest. Of course this was prior to Anna’s leaving for Salem College. Committee members met for about once a month to begin and increased with frequency as the conference date grew closer. We owe a special thanks to Craig Fansler for designing the conference logo. In the early stages of planning our targeted number for attendance was around fifty, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that number escalate to more than a hundred. The day was a spectacular one in that it met our expectations. We wanted our library paraprofessionals to have a day of their own; one with workshops, presentations, discussion groups and networking opportunities. Captured below are a few takeaways from the day.

On Tuesday May 13th I attended, along with many from ZSR, the first TALA Paraprofessional Conference held at UNC-G. After a great keynote given by three separate deans, Lynn, Rosann Bazirjian from UNC-G, and Joan Ruelle from Elon I attended a session called Staying Relevant: The New Technical Services. I chose this to gain a better understanding of the different tools available to our Resource Services department in doing their day to day job. After lunch which included a high energy Career Branding presentation by Patrick Madsen from UNC-G, I attended Mary Beth’s and Craig’s presentation on Emergency Procedures. They both did a great job and many questions and conversation followed. It was a good day and even though I did not connect with my counterpart from any other libraries I enjoyed the fellowship of all the other paraprofessionals of the TALA committee. – Tim

Of all the sessions I attended at the TALA Conference I particularly enjoyed the session led by Patrick Madsen of UNCG, on Career Branding. Madsen is the director of Career Services at UNCG and I found his approach and energy level very unique especially for a library conference. His main thrust was that we as individuals control our brand and success and failure in the workplace can be determined not just by our level of skill in our work, but in our social connections with co-workers and our attitude. Since ZSR is such a service focused workplace I thought this was very relevant session. – Bradley

I attended the session, Staying Relevant: The New Technical Services, because it was mostly out of my area of work and I wanted to peek behind the curtain. The speakers didn’t get “technical” but rather addressed common concerns we have in all areas of academic libraries. They pointed out that their staff (both librarians and paraprofessionals) is shrinking so it’s important to demonstrate the value of the work they’re doing. I appreciated their support for training and professional development and they gave good examples of where those opportunities are available. (see speaker slides) Shannon Tennant from Elon University pointed out the importance of visibility in making the needs and value of your department known within your institution. I think ZSR does a good job of letting people know who we are and what we do but it was an encouraging reminder. Both the lunch speaker, Patrick Madsen, the Director of the Career Services Center from UNCG, and Shannon Tennant encouraged the attendees to identify our strengths and apply them to our work. I hope to do some personal reflection on this point to better target the intersection of my interests and the needs of my ZSR team. I thought the conference was a great opportunity to see how other libraries confront common challenges. If this conference continues, I look forward to opportunities for more interaction between the attendees to discuss specific concerns. – Ellen M.

I really enjoyed the conference. The information was useful in the sessions I attended. I wish there was more time to talk to others who catalog. – Beth

The highlight of the conference for me was being able to spend the day with my ZSR Library colleagues who I don’t get to spend time with outside of the library. My favorite presentation was “Dealing with Different Types of Patrons” by John Champlin (WFU). It was good to be reminded that each patron is unique and helping each one based on their uniqueness and need gives the best service (students, staff, faculty, parents). – Kristen

The session of most interest to me was Technology, presented by Michael Vaughn from Elon. It was exciting to hear about new technology. The group was especially captivated about 3D printing. We actually got to hold an octopus he had printed! – Mary Reeves
Technical Services operations are changing from print based to digital. It is very important to have cross training within the department. We need to engage in more metadata clean-up services. – Doris

Students face many challenges during their college experience. Some are stressed, some relaxed. Some are prepared, some unprepared. Some are on the road to success, some sidetracked. Whatever the circumstance may be, we have many opportunities to make a difference in the students’ experiences at WFU. Helping them obtain the knowledge needed and serving them with kindness and smiling faces will set the stage for a successful study. Hopefully the ZSR library will not only impact their lives academically but be a place where they made many friends with students and staff. Technology continues to change the future of the library. Embracing this change and incorporating past successes will create new opportunities and new challenges. Our vision and attitudes could be the difference between success and failure. Being prepared for disasters before the event happens could be the difference between life and death. Preparedness reduces the amount of time for the actions that need to be taken. – Mark

I thought the conference gave us a great opportunity to meet and establish new relationships. There was a lot of emphasis on accepting change. The lunch speaker pointed out a lot of things that we do, but don’t realize they affect others. I think making people aware and just the realization that we sometimes do things without knowing will definitely make me more conscious of the energy that I give off. – Monesha

Providing quality service for internal and external patrons requires a balanced approach of discipline and empathy to minimize the price of non-conformance to library policies and procedures. To meet the needs of our patrons, libraries need to adapt and be flexible with ongoing trends in e-resources and non-traditional events and activities. – Travis

I found the TALA Paraprofessional Conference quite informative. The session on email and technology were of most interest to me. In the email session, one of the more vocal participants was my counterpart from the UNCG library. She brought up several of the same email issues I deal with concerning communicating with vendors. The session presenter gave excellent points on how to email vendors without assigning blame yet helping to initiate actions by the vendor to resolve the issue. – Prentice

Who knew this would be such a great experience meeting other third shift Paraprofessionals from across the Triad! Can’t wait until next year’s conference! Thanks so much to everyone that worked so hard in planning this year’s conference. – David