2021 Rural Libraries Summit

Rural Libraries Summit banner

ALA's Rural, Native, and Tribal Libraries of All Kinds Committee (RNTLOAK) invites rural library workers to the inaugural Rural Libraries Summit. During this virtual two-day summit, library workers will have the opportunity to hear new innovative initiatives happening at libraries across the United States, share challenges and successes, and network with peers. The summit is May 25-26 and registration closes Friday, May 21. 


Schedule          |          Speakers          |          Registration 



Please note that all times are in Central Time. 

Tuesday, May 25

  • 10 a.m. - Opening
  • 11 a.m. -   Beyond the Messy Reality of 2020: Why Libraries Thrive in Uncertain Times
    In the most unprecedented times, libraries continue to be resilient, dynamic organizations. With smaller budgets and staff, rural libraries respond with intention and flexibility to meet the needs of our communities. Join us in a discussion about reinvention and reimagining services and programs, collaborations developed and sustained during COVID, and how these steps will help drive library services as we reopen. Presented by Jennie Garner. 
  • 12 p.m. - Lunch
  • 1 p.m. - Academic Library Connections
    Join us for a conversation about partnerships between rural and academic libraries. We'll share a few examples, including telehealth projects, and invite you to share your experiences, ideas, and dreams. Presented by Leslie Warren, Dianne Connery. and Carol Perryman. 
  • 2 p.m. - Creating Relationships: Cousin Libraries 
    In 2018 Medicine Spring Library, the academic and community library for the Blackfeet Reservation, asked the Imagine IF Library, the Flathead county library system, to enter into a cousin relationship. This informal relationship has brought the two libraries closer in ways that can only be described as familial. By attending each other's events, integrating patrons in each other's programs, and dreams of more interaction, these cousin libraries have been creating a bond that transcends county and cultural boundaries. Presented by Aaron LaFromboise. 
  • 3 p.m. - Rural Libraries and the Social Wellbeing Project
    Three researchers interviewed over 200 community members from eight rural communities nationwide to document and develop new understandings of the way libraries impact social wellbeing in their communities.  We took a radical approach, engaging the library directors as partners and co-creators of a set of tools based on research finding, and then paying other rural library directors to test them.  The result is a website (www.rurallibraries.org) rich with open access data, research findings, and evidence-based social wellbeing tools, as well as a new model for participatory library research. This program will tour the online resources, highlight key findings of the research, and make a call to action for a rural-led librarianship grounded in social connection and community dynamics for deep impacts. Presented by Eli Guinnee and Margo Gustina.

Wednesday, May 26

  • 10 a.m. - Icebreaker 
    Join your colleagues for the Rural Libraries Summit networking event! You’ll have a chance to participate in activities that help you get to know the other attendees.
  • 11 a.m. - Finding Grant Funds and Building Unique Partnerships
    Southern Oklahoma Library System is a small, rural library system in South Central Oklahoma. Although SOLS is funded primarily by ad valorem taxes, they are always looking for new and inventive ways to raise money for the system. One of the newest ways SOLS is doing this is by becoming a passport acceptance facility at their Headquarters library, Champion Public Library. Staff at Champion Public Library have undergone training to become acceptance agents and this service has generated more than $16,000 in the past year. Join SOLS Director, Gail Oehler as she shares steps SOLS took to become a passport acceptance facility, the training process, and answers questions for other libraries interested in starting this service. Alexandra RIvera will go over a broad overview of the funding environment and finding funding resources. Presented by Gail Oehler, Alyson Hayes, Alexandra Rivera. 
  • 12 p.m. - Lunch
  • 1 p.m. - What's Happening at Your Library
    Summit attendees are invited to share successful new initiatives and projects. This is an opportunity to learn more about what's happening in rural libraries and learn how projects can be implemented for similar success. 
  • 2 p.m. - What Extension Can Do with/for your Local Library
    In 2020, Michigan State University and the Library of Michigan entered into a partnership that has resulted in impactful services for library staff and residents alike. Patrick Cudney will discuss the laws that fund and guide all Extension services in Michigan, and how MSU Extension’s philosophy and culture add value for Michigan residents. Sonya Schryer Norris will talk about how half of the state’s small and rural library websites now host free MSU Extension courses for their patrons that are updated by LM staff with the click of a button; mindfulness workshops especially for library staff; customizing Good Governance workshops for library trustees; and even how MSU Extension’s Michigan ArtShare program will provide art for the state library building in Lansing. Presented by Sonya Norris and Patrick I. Cudney.
  • 3 p.m. - Closing by ALA President-Elect Patty Wong


Patrick I. Cudney is the Associate Director/Acting Director of Michigan State University Extension, where he has served since 1996. His administrative portfolio includes overall logistical and business operations for MSU Extension, an organization with a statewide footprint of 600+ individuals and a total budget in excess of $93 million dollars.

Jennie Garner has held a variety of roles at North Liberty Library (IA) for 25 years, the last six as library director. As a manager, it’s long been Jennie’s practice to Involve all levels of staff in planning and decision-making. She firmly believes that staff development and engagement– both in the library and in the community –are keys to a dynamic and successful library.  As a person who finds energy in chaos, she used the constant changes and challenges of the last year to galvanize her team to review general library operations and refresh services to take the library beyond the pandemic.

Eli Guinnee is the State Librarian of New Mexico.  He previously served as director of the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System in rural Western New York and the director of Patterson Library in Westfield, New York.  He is a researcher on the Rural Libraries and Social Wellbeing project.

Margo Gustina is the Special Projects Librarian for the Southern Tier Library System.  She serves as the lead researcher in the Rural Libraries and Social Wellbeing project. 

Alyson Hayes has worked in the Southern Oklahoma Library System since 2009. I started out as the Branch Manager of the Davis Public Library. In 2011, Hayes transferred to Ardmore and was Head of Circulation/Publicity Coordinator for the system. For the past nine years, she has been the Branch/Outreach Coordinator for the library system. In this position, Alyson Hayes supervises the system's seven branch libraries and promotes the library through programs and outreach in the libraries and communities. Hayes attended the University of Oklahoma and received a BA in Journalism/Public Relations in 2008 and received her MS in Human Resource Administration from East Central University in 2012. Alyson Hayes has and has just recently received her MLIS from the University of Oklahoma.

Aaron LaFromboise is currently the Director of Library Services at Medicine Spring Library, the academic library for Blackfeet Community College and the community library/archives for the Blackfeet Nation. Through her leadership, Medicine Spring Library received the 2018 Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums Institutional Excellence Award for creating a safe and enjoyable environment within the Blackfeet Tribal community. Aaron is a 2014 ALA Emerging Leader, sponsored by the American Indian Library Association, a former commissioner for the Montana State Library (2014-2020), serves on the ALA Presidential Committee for Julius Jefferson Jr., and is the American Indian Library Association Vice-President.

Serving as the Executive Director of the Southern Oklahoma Library System, Gail Oehler began working for the system in 2011 as the Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator where she managed and developed system-wide promotions, events, and marketing tools for the 8 branch libraries.

In her current role as Executive Director, Oehler formulates strategic direction and tactical planning for the organization's services and mission. Most recently, was the implementation of a passport facility in its Ardmore location, Champion Public Library.

Oehler earned her B.S. in Journalism from Texas A&M – Commerce and a master's degree in Information and Library Studies (MLIS) from the University of Oklahoma.

Carol Perryman worked in public, law, and medical libraries for nearly 3 decades before beginning an academic career. At Texas Woman’s University, she teaches all medical library courses as well as information retrieval and grant-writing. Her interests include evidence-based practice, critical evaluation, consumer health, and the changing roles of librarians in practice and within their communities. She was co-PI of an IMLS-funded scholarship program for small, rural public libraries (TLCART); her involvement with this program and longer-term interest in consumer health has led to a focus on rural Texas public libraries and their involvement in community health support. 

Alexandra Rivera is a senior associate librarian at the University of Michigan. Her work focuses on student success and community engagement. She directs the library’s Peer Information Consulting Program, coordinates its K-12 initiatives, and serves as the library liaison to the UM’s Detroit Center and faculty, students, staff, and community partners collaborating on Detroit initiatives.

She serves on the ALA Executive Board and as vice president on the board of directors of the Joint Council of Librarians of Color, Inc. She holds degrees from Northern Arizona University (B.S.) and the University of Michigan (M.L.I.S.). 

Her interests are in the areas of equity and inclusion as it relates to library leadership, information and education access, organizational culture, community engagement, and instruction pedagogy.

Sonya Schryer Norris, Library Consultant, has served at the Library of Michigan for over 22 years. She's worked in a variety of roles since joining the Library Development team in 2006, including instructional design, E-rate, continuing education, and leading the web team through compliance to an accessibility consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Leslie Warren has served as Dean of Library and Instructional Support at Northern Michigan University since 2013. Prior to that she was with the American Bar Association Division for Public Education and served as Information Literacy Librarian at a community college in the Chicago suburbs. Leslie became a librarian after a brief stint as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Throughout her professional career she has been committed to ensuring that everyone has access to education and information. 



This event is at capacity and there is currently a waitlist. Sign up below and if there is additional space, you will be contacted with the registration information. This two-day event will not be recorded and will use the same zoom link. 



If you have any questions or concerns, please email diversity@ala.org.