This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

October 28, 1998 - Running the CLA Conference

I was the eldest of five children. We rotated the chore of doing dishes.

On the whole, I can't say I enjoyed it much, mostly because five kids and a varying number of adults produced a lot of things to be washed. But it could be OK, depending upon my partner.

I learned from this experience something fairly important: some things just have to get done, whether or not there's glory, money, or pleasure in it. Sometimes, it's just your turn.

Two years ago I was approached by the outgoing president of the Colorado Library Association. She asked me if I would consider tossing my name in the hat for the position she was leaving.

Basically, it was a three year job: the first year you were "President-Elect." What you got for the glory was the privilege of planning the annual conference for the state.

Then you were "President" for a year, and mostly just presided over association business meetings. Then you were "Past-President," when you finally had enough experience to be useful. Most Past Presidents spend the year cleaning up the messes they made the year before, and serving as counselors to the next folks.

There's no money in it, of course, and at first the thought of a three year commitment scared me off.

But then I realized: sometimes it's your turn. Nobody else wanted the job, so it wasn't hard to get elected. My own backyard was pretty much in order, and there were several state-wide issues facing libraries that I had some strong opinions about.

I decided it was my turn to do the institutional dishes.

Running the conference -- which went from October 16 through the 19th at the DoubleTree Hotel-World Arena in Colorado Springs -- was fascinating.

First, I had to locate some committee chairmen and chairwomen. We had a Programs Chair, responsible for getting enough (mostly unpaid) presenters on subjects of interest to librarians. By the time we were done, we had over 90 programs, delivered from Friday morning through noon on Monday.

We had an Exhibits Chair, our own Holly Deni. The task here is to contact companies who sell to libraries, and set them up in a hotel display area, where they interact with potential customers. Holly pulled in so many vendors that they spilled out of the exhibit area into the hotel hallways.

We had a Local Arrangements Chair, responsible for coordinating meals, identifying sources for audio-visual equipment, and generally making sure the room arrangement worked.

We had a Publicity Chair, responsible for letting the roughly 500 Colorado Library Association members know about the conference. We had a Registration Chair, who set up a way to register for the conference over the Internet. By the time we were done, we'd swelled the ranks of CLA to some 800 people, over 700 of whom came to the conference.

We had some other positions: DPLD's Cindy Murphy and Patt Paul looked after special events at the conference, such as evening entertainment, author signings, and back up for vendor support.

My job? I talked to the hotel a lot, brought in a couple of big library speakers, and worried myself into insomnia.

And you know what? I enjoyed it! While I don't plan to run another conference for at least a decade, it was interesting to get a close-up at the inside of the conference business. I'll never look at a conference the same way again. It's a lot like running a library, with a big focus on service, intellectual content, and a host of details about the facility or facilities. It works, or doesn't work, depending upon how well you pick your people. I picked some good ones.

And I also had a chance to touch base again with two of the more influential people in my professional career: Michael Gorman, Dean of Libraries for University of Southern California-Fresno, and Will Manley, director of the Tempe Public Library in Arizona. They're both famous librarians -- which means, of course, that nobody but librarians knows about them. Fame is relative.

But by the end of the conference, I was proud of my profession, glad to have been of use, and amazed by the sheer diligence, passion, and intelligence of my colleagues.

Now I'm ready for year two, CLA President.

So what dishes need washing in your professional life? Could it be your turn?

No comments:

Post a Comment