Above: Sarah Gransee and Anna Booraem at the NCLA annual conference
Buncombe County librarians are helping spread best practices and innovative techniques to the rest of the Tar Heel State. During the 65th North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) Biennial Conference in October, Librarians Anna Booraem, Sarah Gransee (who left Buncombe County in November), Matt Phillips, and Melisa Pressley spearheaded presentations ranging on a number of topics from piloting a mentorship program to creating community through art programs. Fittingly, the NCLA’s conference theme was Cultivating Community, and our Buncombe County librarians certainly supplemented the topic with their knowledge and passion.
“One attendee told me and Anna that we gave one of the best-paired presentations she’d seen, and she commented on the way we related to each other and shared the information together in a cohesive and authentic way,” notes Sarah, whose presentation was called Cultivating Community with a Library Mentorship Program. Echoing on that positive feedback, Anna says it was gratifying to see attendees process how they could take Buncombe County’s template and implement it in communities across the state. “Along with the Library Mentorship Committee, we put a lot of thought and consideration into our Library Mentorship Program, and it was clear that the session attendees felt that. We had great questions at the end of the presentation, and it was fun to share what we had created. Several people expressed gratitude for the detailed, clear framework we provided as well as the handbook template we shared,” says Anna.
Adding to the variety of topics being presented, Matt lent his expertise on library business resources, the value of promoting library resources for small businesses, and the importance of those resources for entrepreneurs and the local economy. “I spoke to a business librarian from UNC Greensboro, and he told me that he appreciated that I contextualized my business resources discussion with a story from a past position. It was great to know that providing those details helped to make my presentation more effective,” explains Matt. “Presenting at NCLA helped to demystify the many conference presentations I’ve seen as a librarian and felt like a great next step to develop my presentation skills and to introduce myself to library colleagues through North Carolina. It helped me to feel energized and ready to explore new and different ways of approaching our work.”
Along with making a presentation on collaborating with local nonprofits, Melisa also earned the prestigious NCLA Leadership Institute Award for her work with the NCLA Leadership Institute cohort. “The acceptance process to be part of an NCLA Leadership Institute cohort is competitive with applicants from across all 100 counties of the state. I knew I’d worked hard on my essays and application, and I was honored to be accepted into the cohort,” says Melisa. A large part of her work with the cohort was developing a program to implement after completing the course. “My project is starting a new library association that will represent the western district of the state, from Buncombe to Cherokee counties. Often, those of us in western North Carolina don’t get the opportunity to get involved in advanced NCLA roles because we are so far from the Triangle and Triad, where the grad schools are located. I’d like to see an organization that supports those of us in WNC.”
As for her presentation, Melisa highlighted the Black Mountain Library’s work with the Black Mountain Center for the Arts and the Friends of the Black Mountain Library. “This low-risk, high-yield endeavor has brought the wider Black Mountain community artists together with professional artists to create literary-related art through free instructional workshops and learning opportunities,” explains Melisa. “I think it’s important to show the quality of work we do in Buncombe County Public Libraries. I hope that the attendees walk away thinking, ‘Buncombe County Public Libraries is a creative and cool place to work.’”
There’s no doubt our creative and cool library staff are inspiring people in our community and beyond with innovative resources paired with their excitement of sharing that knowledge with colleagues near and far. Congratulations to Anna, Sarah, Matt, and Melisa for successful presentations that help grow Buncombe County’s reputation for being responsive and creative with our programming. And congratulations to Melisa on finishing the NCLA cohort, we look forward to continuing to see how your work will create new and stronger relationships with libraries in our region.
Above: Melisa Pressley poses with her well-earned award