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McIntyre Library staff puts talent on display at summer conference

| Jenna Vande Zande

McIntyre Library staff members’ Powers of And were on full display last month. In putting together plans for the yearly staff development day, McIntyre Library took a different approach than the usual trust falls and classic training sessions.

UW-Eau Claire’s McIntyre Library hosted its first McIntyre Library Summer Conference that featured the talents and interests of various staff members from all departments. Five sessions were taught with topics including belly dancing, document design, self-defense, improv and cake decorating. Over lunch, a special session featuring a presentation from resident jazz expert, library director John Pollitz was also held for library staff. 

The conference planning committee, Trista Anderson, Jill Markgraf and Jenna Vande Zande, approached library staff and faculty in the early spring to determine who would be willing to teach sessions and what the subject matter would be.

“Through conversation around the proverbial water cooler, we all kind of know what our coworkers do outside of work for hobbies, but this really gave everyone the chance to show off their hidden talents,” Vande Zande, library services assistant and co-conference planner, said.

And hidden talents and expertise abound at McIntyre Library.

Assistant archivist, Lark Keating-Hadlock, previously worked in a bakery for nearly five years, which taught her the delicious art of cake decorating. During her session, staff and faculty learned about the various decorating supplies and techniques to frost as well as the pros.

Interlibrary loan coordinator, John McCrackin, has been practicing martial arts since 1985. He holds multiple prestigious positions within the taekwondo community in Wisconsin, including an active membership on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Taekwondo Association. McCrackin taught staff the basic moves to use when approached by an attacker, even if the assailant is larger than the intended victim.

Head of research and instruction, Jill Markgraf, is relatively new to the improv scene, but after taking a leap of faith last year, she realized all the practical benefits of the thinking behind improv for the workplace. Markgraf presented a conference session for the Wisconsin Library Association conference last fall, and has since been in demand by libraries across the country to share her expertise. Participants in her session played a variety of games meant to stress the importance of listening, spontaneity and innovative thinking.

Program associate, Trista Anderson, has been practicing the art of belly dance for four years. She is a member of the local dance troupe ECShimmy, which focuses on Tribal Fusion, an offshoot of American Tribal Style belly dance. Anderson taught her session participants some of the basic movements in belly dancing and answered questions about techniques. Once everyone had the basics down, she taught the group a full routine that included hip drops, grapevines and shimmies.

Research & Instruction Librarian, Kate Hinnant, infuses her library work with a distinctive aesthetic flair, and offered to share her secrets. Hinnant taught a session about the dos and don’ts of font, alignment, spacing, and color choices. She accompanied her presentation with an array of delightful examples of terrible design choices much to the enjoyment of her participants.

Library Director, John Pollitz, led the lunchtime presentation which featured his vast knowledge about the Chicago Jazz scene, centered on legendary drummer Sam Lay. Growing up in Chicago during the 1960s allowed Pollitz amazing first-hand experience with some of the genre’s great stars. Listeners were treated to sound clips and personal interviews of some of his friends in the music industry.

Throughout the day faculty and staff were also able to stop by the book-themed craft table led by Pinterest aficionados Erin Kriener, circulation, and Crystal Schmidt, cataloging assistant, to make a variety of paper crafts like paper beads, origami flowers, and folded paper hedgehogs.

McIntyre Library attendees of the pilot event were happy with the day’s proceedings and the opportunity to interact with their coworkers in a less formal manner than meetings and general workday interactions.

Government publications assistant and active participant in many of the day’s sessions, Laurie Roach, really enjoyed the conference: “It was nice to see the talents of our other co-workers and learn a bit more about each other. There was such a wide variety of sessions that there was something for everyone.”

Building on the success of this first-time event, McIntyre Library is hoping to expand on the idea and invite their colleagues from other departments who are on campus during the summer months. Future plans may include art exhibits, musical performances, and other yet-to-be-revealed hidden talents. The sky’s the limit when staff embrace their Power of And.