Since my son CJ was at summer camp and Dave Roellgen, past-president of the KCPL, had agreed to cover my hearings, I had the rewarding opportunity to attend this year’s annual American Library Association (ALA) conference in New Orleans. So Paula, Amy, Emily and I met in the wee hours of June 21 at the Knox County Library to start our journey. We drove in the 2018 Dodge Caravan that we purchased this year for our staff’s needs.

Although we had been given a thorough briefing on how to use everything inside the van when we were at Yochum’s dealership, within minutes we needed to read the manual to find out where things were! Eventually we were on the way! Credit must be given to Paula and Amy for performing most of the driving and navigational duties while Emily and I reviewed materials to determine event strategies.

We arrived later that evening and the next morning was something like what I imagined boot camp to be like in military service. My father told me that when he was in boot camp in the U. S. Air Force, the top airman got to pick his service location. I guess you can imagine that he picked Scotland and that is where he met my mother. Anyway, back to New Orleans. I will admit that if there was a graduation from the Knox County Public Library Boot Camp, I would have been dead last!

Paula, Amy and Emily had every hour — now let me correct myself — every minute planned. They came well prepared with “wheelie” bags and extra handle bags. I watched in trepidation while we packed up and drove the short distance to the convention center.

Having never been to an ALA meeting, I thought this might be a really nice event where I could meander around at an enjoyable slow pace.

I was so wrong.

The sessions set up for the attendees were nothing short of incredible. The session that I attended that is the most memorable was the viewing of the film “The Public.” Unbeknownst to Emily and I, Emilio Estevez sat right behind us in order to observe the reaction of the audience in this pre-release screening. The movie was so powerful and it vividly demonstrated how public libraries truly are a point of coming together for all socio-economic backgrounds.

Most of the time, we went our separate ways, picking and choosing items of interest to our specific areas of concern. I was extremely interested in a new book drop for our main library. Since then, we have purchased the new stainless steel book drop. I invite everybody to come by and see it once it is installed. It will provide secure drops for books as well as easy access and return of books to the building for our staff.

We debated how many miles we walked from one end of the New Orleans Convention Center to the other. It took us awhile to realize that we parked as far away from the event as humanly possible. But, needless to say, we got a lot of exercise pulling and lugging free books back and forth from the exhibition hall to our van. These books, videos and miscellaneous teaching tools were added to the library collections.

So what is the moral of this story, you might ask? Here it is: if you want to go to a convention and have a leisurely time exploring at your own pace, stopping to smell the roses and enjoy cups of coffee, heed my warning and do not go with Paula, Amy and Emily. These women are on a mission to get as much done as they could to gain knowledge and enhance the environment for the Knox County Public Library and its diverse patronage.

If you prefer a boot-camp environment and working out 24 hours a day, I encourage to attend a conference with Paula, Amy and Emily, whom I have affectionately renamed my KCPL-DI’s (Drill Instructors).

I will be better prepared next time!

Thanks to these incredible staff members and all the others who make our library a safe haven for anyone who walks through the doors. Being a member of the Board of Trustees has been a humbling experience. It is an honor to participate in activities amongst some of the most dedicated, professional caring citizens of this area. Please stop by and visit them. You will be amazed at the doors that they can help you open to the world of reading and the freedom that knowledge brings with it!

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