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TL v61n2:The Circulation Conference
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 61 Number 2



The Circulation Conference: A Successful Partnership in Improving Professional Development


Stacey J. Smith
Head of Circulation, University Libraries
University of Memphis


Maya Berry
Acquisitions/Public Services Librarian
Christian Brothers University, Memphis, TN


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As Head of Circulation for the University of Memphis, Stacey Smith observed that there were not many opportunities for circulation staff to share tips, tricks, and best practices. In 2005, Stacey created a Circulation Conference to address the need for collaboration amongst circulation staff in the Memphis area, and it has been held every year since. 

As the circulation staff is often the first and sometimes the only point of contact in the library by library patrons, it is important to make them aware of how vital their role is in library services and to keep them informed of new developments.  The goals of the conference are to have local circulation staff get to know one another to build a sense of community, find out about upcoming technological advances that may affect circulation, learn about new library trends, and to have a great time at the conference.  

We have been fortunate to have increased attendance over every year. Some years we had to turn away participants due to the limits of the room in which the conference was held.  Although our primary focus is on libraries in the Memphis area, we have had attendees from Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi. We try to include a variety of programs during the conference that would appeal to circulation staff from a variety of libraries, including academic, public, and special libraries, although it seems like most circulation programs are applicable to circulation staff in all types of libraries. 


Figure 1. Circulation Conference Attendance 2005-2010


Topics of conference presentations have included safety and security in the library, discussions of library policies, customer service, self motivation techniques, discussions on how to handle different situations at the circulation desk, and the ever-popular book repair session.

To plan your own circulation conference, the first step is to get a group of interested circulation staff together to form a circulation conference committee. Send out an invitation to each library in your area for a meeting to see who is able to participate. Having one representative from as many libraries as possible in your area is ideal; each library staff member will be able to give input on what conference topics will appeal to the staff in their particular library and may be able to provide resources from their library, such as a free conference location or assistance during the conference with other members of their library.

After you have formed a circulation committee, you will need to meet with your committee to plan the conference!  Although you will have to make decisions on many little details, the four main areas to concentrate on while planning your conference is your conference format, budget, location, and publicity.

The format of your conference will be determined by what will work best amongst the libraries in your area.  Some questions that you may want to think about while planning your conference are: What type of conference do you want to have?  How many days do you want to have the conference to last?  What day of the week? In the beginning of our circulation conference, we had the conference scheduled over a Thursday and Friday morning.  We eventually changed the conference to last an entire day on a Thursday, as we were getting more and more people who were traveling from out of town to attend our conference.

Your budget for the conference will be determined by the amount of money you charge as a registration fee. We are charging $15 per person for our conference in 2011. The majority of our fee typically goes toward lunch for each participant. We try to make our registration fee as low as possible so that as many library staff can attend as possible. Since you will most likely have a very small budget, consider asking local businesses for donations of items that you might need. We try to have as many door prizes and giveaways as possible donated by local businesses. Also ask conference committee members if their libraries can contribute to the conference either money or items such as pencils, pens, and folders with their library logo. Setting up a bank account may be useful for your conference, but carefully check into what you would need to do to be able to set up a business account. You may be able to have checks written out to the university or other organization that is hosting the event.

To find presenters, look around in your libraries in your area. Are there people in your library community that are experts on topics? Although national speakers are a big draw, for our purposes, we have tried to focus on local talent. Not only because local speakers will often speak for free, but also because local library staff will be available for questions long after the conference. This conference also provides an avenue for professional development for staff in your library.

The location where you hold your conference is important. See if any of the libraries in your area have a big meeting room or several rooms where you can host the conference for free. You will also want to make arrangements for meals, check-in, etc. You will want to have signs and staff to direct people to various areas of the library or place where the conference is being held. The hosting venue may have contracts with specific vendors so you may have to use them instead of possibly cheaper alternatives elsewhere. You will want to make sure that you have adequate parking available in the location that you hold the conference. You also want to make sure that there will be enough bathrooms for participants, including handicapped accessible facilities.

Finding free ways to publicize your conference is important, especially if you have a very small budget. Free ways to publicize your conference include social media sites such as Facebook, posting information about the conference on the host library’s and other libraries websites. Also, word-of-mouth is a great way to get people informed and excited about your conference.

When planning for the day of the conference, take into consideration possible illnesses, emergencies, and general no-shows among your committee members and presenters.  Before the conference is over, feedback should be gathered from participants, as this will give you valuable information in planning another conference next year.

Immediately after the conference, you should plan some time to clean up the conference room or rooms. Depending on your location, you may have chairs and tables to put away, extra conference documents to pick up, and food to pack up and put away. If you received any donations, send thank you notes to your donors and tell them that you are planning to have another conference next year. Meet with your conference committee a few weeks after the conference to review feedback, to set a date to start planning next year’s conference, and to congratulate yourselves on a job well done!

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