On Tuesday, May 13, the first (and possibly annual) TALA Paraprofessional Conference was held on the campus of UNC-G. The conference, co-sponsored by the libraries at Wake Forest, UNC-G, and Elon was created specifically to give an opportunity for professional development to the paraprofessionals who work in the Triad Academic Library Association. Those in attendance at the conference from ZSR included: Ellen Makaravage, Tim Mitchell, David Link, Prentice Armstrong, Doris Jones, Mark Boger, Travis Manning, Craig Fansler, Linda Ziglar, Tara Hauser, Kristen Morgan, Bradley Podair, Beth Tedford, and Monesha Staton. If it seemed inordinately quiet around ZSR on Tuesday, now you know why.

The opening keynote was given by the three deans, Lynn Sutton, Joan Ruelle (Elon) and Rosann Bazirjian (UNC-G) who gave an inspirational talk on the future of academic libraries, the changing roles of paraprofessionals, and the skills needed to be ready for those changes. Throughout the day, the remainder of the conference provided two concurrent sessions for those in attendance to choose from. The first session I attended was a workshop given by WFU’s John Champlin of the PDC, entitled “Serving Different Types of People” (which was originally called “Dealing with Different Types of People” until he realized how judgmental that sounded.) He discussed the importance of understanding the unique place that the patron is coming from, and utilized M&Ms to spur discussion in a most unique way. He also managed those that took issue with using the word “customer” in relation to users of library services. This has never been a real sore point with me personally, but John managed to handle it pretty well, even changing slides in the middle of the presentation when he could.

In the afternoon, Craig and I co-presented a session on Disaster Planning to a packed room. The session was part “how we did it”, part “how and why you should do it too”, part “resources” and part “hands on training”. We provided visuals of what to include in a “to go” kit, and where you might buy the resources you need. We included tips on getting buy in from administrators and the importance of having the authority to implement a plan. And, being good librarians, we included a bibliography of resources. We had some good conversation and input from others in the session that had done a similar exercise in disaster preparedness but arrived at a different result. The session was well received overall. We also gave away door prizes which kept them interested all the way to the end.

The day was successful and there seemed to be universal interest in repeating it. In the next iteration, there may be more opportunity for the “birds of a feather” to compare notes, as that was one thing that the day lacked. Prentice, however, found another accountant, and David identified the “overnight guy” at a neighboring institution, so there was plenty of opportunity for networking going on. Congratulations to the visionary TALA leaders who identified this as a worthwhile conference to pursue. Initial assessment would indicate that it was.