by Eli Edwards
Being new to Puget Sound, as well as law librarianship, I was particularly interested in the sessions for this year’s workshop, entitled “Moving Ahead When There’s No Money in the Budget: delivering information, developing skills, and serving the community in tough times.” The content and presenters were even better than anticipated, and I left with new tools and resources to try, new communities to explore, and new insight as to how state and local politics work.
The first session was devoted to the resources of the Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC). Executive Director Tracy Burrows discussed trends in the public sector – the major trend being the reduction in workforce across local and state government agencies. Legal Consultant Joe Levan then gave us a tour of the MRSC website and its many resources. While MRSC is primarily devoted to providing research services to cities and counties of Washington State, it also has archives of inquiries to its research staff, historical and current opinion from Washington State courts, and city and county codes.
Next were presentations on finding new pathways to professional development, without expensive courses, classes or conferences. Eura Szuwalski from the Washington Talking Book & Braille Library for finding traditional and non-traditional communities of practices, including Yahoo! and Google groups, professional association-based forums, and specialized online learning & community commons. A particular highlight was WebJunction, which has partnered with the Washington State Library to offer online courses on office software, best practices for library management, and web design, among other relevant skills and competencies.
Gary Davis from Companis (which matches volunteers with local non-profits) then gave us a slide-free presentation on how to find and assess whether a particular organization would be a good for you (and you a good fit for the organization!). He was encouraged that so many in the audience had good experiences as volunteers, and talked about how to evaluate ourselves and what we are looking for in a volunteer experience. Two of the questions we should ask ourselves are: “What am I doing in my life?” and “Is what I’m doing fulfilling?” His rubric for finding a good fit as a potential volunteer: know yourself (strengths & limitations), give, & be able to tell a story about yourself.
After lunch, we were treated to bird’s-eye views of the political process in Olympia and Seattle. First up was Tacoma News Tribune writer Pete Callaghan, discussing the state legislative session and the most significant events that have occurred, including the approval of same-sex marriage, the budget negotiations, and the procedural reversal that led to the Senate approving a budget bill written by the minority Republicans. Finally, Seattle Council-member Bruce Harrell talked with us about growing up in Seattle and some of his legislative priorities, such as public safety, police accountability, and fair housing/employment equity.