Outreach at the 2016 Glass Art Society conference

Earlier this month, the Glass Art Society held their annual conference in town. The museum was one of the major spots for lectures, glassmaking demonstrations, and events, and we (the library) wanted to position ourselves as a key location for conference attendees. We decided to raise awareness of our space, services, and collections through a number of on- and offline outreach efforts, including film screenings, a giveaway for library donors, and advice to glass artists for preserving their legacy.

Conference attendees watch a demo by Raven Skyriver.

Conference attendees watch a demo by Raven Skyriver. (Photo via Karol Wight)

The Glass Theatre

The library has a great collection of films, and we thought it would be fun to share a few of them with conference attendees. We partnered with the Glass Art Society and the Palace Theatre to screen six glass-related films over the course of two evenings, including the Emmy-Award winning Pilchuck: A Dance with Fire. Pilchuck’s executive director, Jim Baker, generously introduced the film both nights and followed each screening with a Q&A. More than 200 people attended the screenings and several more came into the library to watch the films over the course of the conference.

 

Glass Artist File donation stations

The Glass Artist File comprises half of the library’s verticle file collection; we currently have files for more than 10,300 artists working in glass. Since artists are one of the main groups that come to this conference, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to solict donations and raise awareness of the collection. We set up two “donation stations” in the library, and anyone who donated items during the conference received their choice of a prize (including books, t-shirts, and glass). We received more than 40 donations from artists and educators, and promises from others that they would mail us materials. Many of these donors had not previously known about the Glass Artist File.

 

Ask an Archivist

One of the library’s major initiatives this year is to build up our collection of contemporary artist archives, and so our unofficial theme for the library’s conference outreach efforts centered the library as a home for artist archives and our staff as experts on preserving artists’ legacies. Towards that end, our archives department staffed an “Ask an Archivist” table in the library for several hours over two days. We encouraged conference attendees to ask questions about their personal collections, including what to save; how to organize, describe, and preserve their materials; and why it was important to start thinking about their legacy now. Our archivists spoke to a number of artists about their archives, and handed out information including a handout we created specifically for conference attendees.

We created a handout for conference attendees with basic storage, preservation, and description tips for their personal collections. We also made the handout accessible online through our Special Collections & Archives LibGuide.

We created a handout for conference attendees with basic storage, preservation, and description tips for their personal collections. The handout is also accessible online.

#GlassArchives campaign

Of course, we also wanted to share some of the great materials we already have in our collection, especially those related to the Studio glass movement and contemporary glass art. To do so, we put together a social media campaign, primarily on Twitter, using #glassarchives as our main hashtag. We posted photos from our archives and Glass Artist File, links to finding aids, a link to the handout I mentioned above, and information about Ask an Archivist and the Glass Artist File donation stations. Prior to the conference, we published a blog post and two articles in GASNews, the Glass Art Society’s newsletter, about our collections and our interest in contemporary artist materials.

In addition, we put together a slideshow featuring more images from the collection, and looped the slideshow on two monitors located in the reading room. One of the monitors was next to our sign-in form at the reference desk, and the other was stationed in the GAS Educational Resource Center, so we had many people stop and watch while they were waiting to sign in, ask a question, or collect materials from the Resource Center. The social media campaign also proved popular – the average number of interactions with the photo posts in particular was higher than our usual response.

Lessons learned

Although I’ve been to many conferences, this was the first I was involved in hosting. While I was very happy with our results, I came away with a few notes to self.

First, start planning earlier! I formed our library committee at the beginning of the year by the request of our admin team. This was a sufficient amount of time to accomplish our end of the planning and implementation, but we were six months or more behind the main conference planning committee. Starting our work earlier would have allowed us more breathing room and time to work with other groups to effectively publicize our events. As it was, several of our events were not publicized as planned and we did not have all of the resources we requested.

More importantly (for me personally) is to stress less, because conferences are crazy! I love the ideas and enthusiasm that come with conferences, but as an introvert, they are draining, stressful events. As someone with a Type A personality, I like to have everything approved, planned, and implemented without last-minute changes. So, when I found out conferences don’t work like that, my stress levels ratcheted up several notches. Add on the stress of a presentation I was giving (separate from the library’s outreach efforts), and I was one stressed-out librarian. Although I don’t think I’ll ever be stress-free during a conference, learning to go with the flow a bit more when planning events and publicity will definitely benefit my health and ability to sleep during the next conference I help host!

Me during portions of the conference. (Photo via NBC)

Me during portions of the conference. (Photo via NBC)

Do you have any tips or advice for planning and hosting conferences? Share them in the comments!

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