Tabitha and Stephen King were among the speakers at the Maine Library Association conference in May.

It’s June! When I was a full-time teacher (I still teach remotely), June meant that summer was here. It meant packing and returning home to Harpswell with my children to enjoy swimming, boats, trips to Katahdin, or lighthouses and picnics. Lots of picnics and lots of tidal pool exploration. Yet, as a teacher, it also meant taking classes and workshops. I was fortunate that Boston allowed me to meet all those professional development requirements while 3,000 miles from the state where I taught.

Professional development and continuing education are still on my summer “must-dos,” only now this work focuses on the library. All library staff within the Maine State Library System are actively participating in professional development or continuing education. In May, the Maine Library Association had its two-day conference in Bethel. With Curtis Memorial Library’s Wynter Giddings serving as president and myself as the new lead for the small and rural library interest group, we have a local presence.

The kickoff was a pre-conference dinner and presentation by Tabitha and Stephen King. Our library was given a generator from the King Foundation several years ago! For two days, Maine library staff attended sessions focusing on policies, programming, how to support community wellness, youth services, technology and broadband.

Keynote speakers included Maine author Monica Wood and the executive director of the American Library Association. I hosted a session for library staff serving communities of fewer than 3,000 people. Other sessions focused on academic libraries, youth services and legislative updates.

The conference is a chance for professionals to come together and learn from each other, ensuring all library staff are equipped to provide patrons updated and quality services. But continuing education does not stop there. Library professionals from around the state participate in a whole host of opportunities. 

The Maine State Library System, not to be confused with the Maine Library Association, runs many programs at no or low cost. As a new director, I attend a monthly Zoom meeting packed with information. From these meetings I have learned about everything from facilities and maintenance to data collection for annual reports.

As staff, David Perrier and I attend “coffee chats” where larger or more specialized libraries provide an hour of education on topics such as book collections and Programming 101. Other topics include wellness and safety. Once a month, often at noon, the state runs no-cost education sessions to support us.

Unlike David, I do not have a degree in library science. Maine understands that many of us who have chosen to serve in libraries do not have these degrees, however, we do have the Voluntary Public Librarian Certificate Program. This three-level program is designed to meet each library professional at their current education level. David is, of course, at the advanced level, while I am on the basic-level coursework in core areas: fundamentals of librarianship, collection development, organization of materials, management, programming and services, and technology.

Why should you, the library patron, care? When you come into the library, I believe you want materials and services that match your needs and interests. When staff and volunteers are informed, we are best able to serve you. By knowing how Maine’s Minerva cataloging system works, Cundy’s Harbor Library can request books from across the state for you or a set of books for a book club. By knowing how to maintain and keep the library safe, we provide a warm and welcoming place for all despite a power outage. Being current on technology and information on technology resources, we can help with hardware selection or provide a temporary device such as a laptop or hot spot. We can help you locate podcasts or figure out how to get your device to send information to a printer or another device. We can help you figure out how to find your misplaced phone. We can do all of these things because we have participated in continuing education.

Cundy’s Harbor Library is in the small-library sector because its resident population is less than 2,500. Here in Maine, 98.6% of our libraries serve towns of less than 2,500. I was surprised — no, shocked — to find that our neighbors, New Hampshire and Vermont, along with Maine, have the highest percentage of small and rural libraries. This region places a high value on libraries, and being up to date through our training opportunities is how Cundy’s Harbor Library can provide current services and materials.

“Library Connections” is a monthly column that rotates among the three libraries that serve Harpswell: Cundy’s Harbor, Orr’s Island and Curtis Memorial. Heather Logan is the director of the Cundy’s Harbor Library.