2012 ALTAFF/Gale Outstanding Trustee Conference Grant

Karen Parrilli

Karen Parrilli Karen Parrilli is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Skokie (Ill.) Public Library. Parrilli took a position on the Skokie Public Library Board of Trustees in July 2009, and was elected to a six-year term in April 2011. She serves as the board’s representative to Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS). RAILS serves library members in the northern and central part of Illinois (public, school, and business libraries). Parrilli is a member of the Illinois Library Association, the American Library Association, the Public Library Association, and ALTAFF. Below is her report summarizing her experience at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.



This year’s ALA Annual Con­ference theme, “Transforming Libraries, Trans­forming Our­selves,” lived up to its name. It certainly trans­formed me, as the proud recipi­ent of the 2012 ALTAFF (now United for Libraries)/ Gale Outstanding Trustee Conference Grant. I concluded my first ALA An­nual Conference with a greater appre­ciation for all that libraries stand for, and the influence they have on patrons and our communities.

I arrived at the Anaheim Conven­tion Center, appreciating the warm sun, flowers, and landscaping along Katella Avenue. At first intimated by its size, I hesitated to walk into the exhibit hall. I tentatively looked around, and then forged into what at first seemed like a maze of displays, technology, and peo­ple. The smiles on the faces I encoun­tered, both exhibitors and attendees, welcomed me to explore further. As the hours passed the first day, meeting our division representatives and attend­ing sessions designed specifically for Trustees and advocates, I valued how fortunate I was to have received this exceptional opportunity.

I give a heartfelt thank you United for Libraries staff members Sally Gard­ner Reed, Beth Nawalinski, and Jillian Kalonick, as well as past president Peg­gy Danhof, for their warm reception upon my arrival and for guiding me through the overwhelming (in a good way) labyrinth of my first ALA Annual Conference.

I found the sessions to be informa­tive and presented with enthusiasm and professionalism. Participating in the division-sponsored sessions, such as Nuts & Bolts for Trustees, Friends and Foundations; ALTAFF in Action: Leadership Training at its Best; Trans­forming Libraries Through Frontline Advocacy; Intellectual Freedom and the Library Trustee, and several others, through Monday’s Gala Author Tea, filled the days with information and knowledge. I left the conference more confident in my role as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Skokie Public Library.

I was honored to be invited to eve­ning receptions, where I enjoyed the social atmosphere and met some terrific people. I became aware of the impor­tant relationship between libraries and the publishing industry. Attending the inaugural Andrew Carnegie Awards presentation for adult fiction and non-fiction books was especially notewor­thy because of its significance in the publishing world.

During the conference I noted some of my thoughts and observa­tions of the challenges librarians and libraries are facing now and in the near future:

  • Legislatures and libraries have dif­ferent priorities, and there is an urgent need for both sides to work together
  • Libraries are often at odds with state and local governments as to the library’s role in its community.
  • There are genuine concerns over future funding, changing business models, owning vs. leasing, self-publishing, etc.

I also made several positive obser­vations during the conference:

  • There is unbridled enthusiasm demonstrated by librarians at all levels.
  • Librarians are dedicated, and li­braries are quite aware of their important role in communities and society as a whole.
  • Libraries appreciate their support­ers — Trustees, Friends, and Foun­dations. With budget cuts facing so many libraries, Friends groups and Foundations play an increasing role in keeping libraries open and providing even basic services.
  • Library staff members are confi­dent, facing problems with a sin­cere desire to solve them in order to better serve not just patrons, but the entire community.
  • Librarians are open to new ideas; they have a willingness to share what works and their successes.
  • Librarians have a commitment to freedom of information. At one session, a quote attributed to librarian Marjorie Stern struck a chord: “The local library is the es­sence of democracy.” The theme of intellectual freedom made me fully understand the role we all play in keeping libraries vital and relevant to peoples’ lives in the 21st cen­tury.
  • There is admiration on my part for the librarians and library staff who dedicate their lives to serving their community.

 Lastly, I am grateful to United for Libraries for all the services they provide. At every United for Libraries (then ALTAFF) session, staff promoted the many services, resources, and orga­nizational tools available to Trustees, Advocates, Friends, and Foundations so that they may serve their libraries, patrons, and communities.