Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

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(Upstate New York Unconference)

After mulling them over for a bit, I believe I am ready to share my thoughts about my first unconference experience. The conference in Syracuse last week (discussed here) attracted approximately 70 participants the first day and 50 participants the second day, even in the face of inclement weather (sooo typical). I was there for both days facilitating sessions and taking real-time notes for the wiki. Notes from all of the sessions (including additional information and linked resources) can be found on the wiki, and I encourage attendees to check it out as well as those who were unable to make it upstate.

As a student, I found the unconference particularly helpful. I was able to take a lot of what I have learned in my various courses and see it applied to real life situations. For instance, I can read about creating a balanced collection all day long, but after hearing from some libraries who have faced book challenges and differing community views, I have a better idea of (and more appreciation for) collection development. I would encourage any library students in the area (from UB or Syracuse) to either volunteer or attend if this event takes place again (I’m fairly convinced that it will). It’s an excellent and zero pressure way to network with librarians and will set you apart from the hordes of other LIS graduates when looking for a job. It’s also just a fun way to get some of the “inside scoop” on what’s happening in the libraries in Upstate NY.

I don’t believe that traditional library conferences will be disappearing anytime soon because they offer lots of things that the library crowd enjoys, including trips to interesting places (aka time spent outside of the library), opportunities to speak with vendors and face-to-face networking and reconnecting with peers. However, I think that library unconferences are going to continue to gain popularity. At the core of it, they are about learning and sharing, without any of the “bs”. For one thing, librarians will always be attracted to free or low-cost learning opportunities (because that’s what we offer to our patrons). Secondly, an unconference offers the type of informal and unstructured learning environment in which everyone can participate without falling asleep during a powerpoint presentation and can leave the room to attend another session without feeling rude.

I just read about an upcoming unconference being hosted by the Arlington Public Library in Virginia. It’s going to focus on “the greening of public libraries.” If it wasn’t a 7 hour drive away from me, I would totally be there. I would love to see more libraries hosting and participating in unconferences. Also, perhaps this “unconference” idea is something that academic librarians could massage into a new learning model for students. Maybe freshman orientation sessions could be held in a similar fashion (i.e. informal, unstructured, discussions with the students instead of talking at them, learning from them as they learn from us, etc).

Edit: Just came across another resource, a newly created wiki for library unconferences.

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Written by Erin Dorney

March 16, 2008 at 8:42 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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