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I attended the 7th Annual Paraprofessional Conference at ECU on Thursday and Friday, May 13 and 14, 2010. Chris Turner, Staff Development and Training Coordinator, Dept. of HR, ECU, warmed us up with communication calisthenics as we performed the partial art of verbal judo. Like Judo itself, it uses the energy of others to master situations, generate cooperation and gain voluntary compliance under stressful situations. The positive energy you put in will give a positive result. Remain calm but don’t respond “calm down!” Don’t take it personal and you will be able to diffuse the patron’s ego. These and other techniques help to enhance safety, lessen stress at work and home, and decrease patron complaints to name a few benefits.

On Friday, the keynote address delivered by Christopher Harris, Coordinator of the School Library System for Genesee Valley BOCES was “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Libraries.” The traditional library was a sacred secular place of quiet patrons. It resisted any activity that interrupted the quiet enjoyment of another patron. We need culture as well as knowledge and libraries should do away with unnecessary restrictions. He suggested that today’s library should accept the zombies (digital natives) and use pop culture references to make the library an easier connection. We should learn the memes (LOLCats, Fail, etc.) and see how they apply in the library. To support his stance he provided research from Scott Nicholson at Syracuse University suggests about 75% of libraries already support gaming. We should not dissolve but evolve and embrace the net gens changing interests and media access methods, including gaming, e-books and more.

The first session I attended Advocacy on the Frontlines: Making a Difference from Where You Sit led by Eleanor Cook, Assistant Director, Collections & Technical Services J.Y. Joyner Library, ECU. The message was simple: articulate the value of the library to the community and of yourself as an employee of the library.

The second session led by NC State University Library Technicians Erin Pons and John Pommerich titled Scoping, Shepherding, and Pacing at the Service Desk: Next-Level Customer Service Strategies for Library Patron Across Generations. It was interactive using discussion and role-playing to demonstrate Scoping (being aware of your particular users’ needs), Shepherding (guiding patrons with digital media) and Pacing (keeping pace with media access to knowledge). When a patron’s perspective becomes evident through active listening, library staffs use these strategies to maximize patron satisfaction.

The third session led by Kathleen Grau, MBA titled Social Networking and Your Career covered the do’s and don’ts of using Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter. Be careful what you post and who you accept as friends because recruiters are being more persnickety in their employee selections, and they are using unconventional methods of candidate evaluation.

And the fourth session led by Maliha Farhadi, Library Technical Assistant Teaching Resources Center, J.Y. Joyner Library, ECU titled Diversity Awareness Makes Life Interesting was informative. We examined our own cultural identity and learned how that identity affects our relationship with others. Using name association role play we became aware of our own attitudes, perceptions, and feelings about various aspects of diversity while making a commitment to increase our understanding and knowledge of others.

Overall the Conference was informative and raised my awareness in digital media, social networking, quality customer service and cultural diversity.