Internet Librarian and Computers in Libraries are two of my favorite library technology conferences. All of the programming focuses on the application of technology in libraries, they have great keynote speakers, and feature shorter "Cybertour" presentations in the exhibit hall--quick, 15-minute introductions to whet attendees' appetites. This year, the organizers of Internet Librarian are trying something new and different: before the conference begins, attendees and anyone else who signs up on the wiki have a chance to attend LibCamp Monterey, a half-day "unconference" on library technology. I had the opportunity to catch up recently with organizer Amy Buckland about LibCamp and what attendees can expect. She and co-facilitator Jenica Rogers are very excited about the event.
Cindi Trainor: How will this event differ from the other Internet Librarian events? Who can attend?
Amy Buckland: This event is open to anyone who can make it to Monterey Public Library by 9am on October 23rd, and is able to sign up on the wiki (http://www.infotodaywiki.com/index.php/LibCampMonterey) - space is limited folks! It differs from other IL events because there are no set presentations - we will decide who will talk about what the morning of the camp. For those who are unaware of the "rules" of unconferences, they are:
- Whoever comes is the right people. (So don't fret about attendance.)
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have. (People will go off on tangents, follow them, it will likely be interesting.)
- Whenever it starts is the right time. (If a session runs long because people want to keep talking about something, that's okay.)
- When it's over, it's over. (If there is awkward silence in a room because no one has anything to say, move on to the next topic.)
- (Though some say this isn't truly a rule) The Law of Two Feet--If you're not teaching something, or learning something, you should leave the session and find another where you will be teaching/learning.
CT: What is the schedule for the morning?
AB: After a quick meet'n'greet so that everyone gets to meet each other, we'll go about setting the schedule for the rest of the morning. We'll use the topics suggested on the wiki as well as others proposed in the morning, to determine all that we hope to cover during the morning. Depending on the number of people, we will likely need breakout sessions where we can have two different topics being discussed at once.
CT: What are some possible topics you hope to see in breakout sessions?
AB: I have yet to attend a library camp where one of the topics wasn't library camps. People are curious about this new format, so there is frequently a session. Other possibilities range from focused discussions on open source software in libraries and how to train staff on emerging technologies, to "big picture" talks like the role of libraries in today's internet-enabled world, and what do we mean when we talk about privacy.
CT: What do you look forward to most about this unconference?
AB: Personally, I love the open discussion. And the lack of PowerPoints. But mostly the open discussion. Plus, having it at the start of Internet Librarian means that all the participants will really get to know one another early in the conference. It's always a pity when, on the last day of the conference, you meet someone that you'd really like to get to know. Those at Library Camp will have an advantage!
CT: Have you attended other unconferences?
AB: Yes! One Big Library in Toronto. I also organized ETIGcamp for Canadian Library Association Emerging Tech Interest Group this past May, and was on the team that coordinated the uncon sessions at SLA 2009. I'd have to say that the academic library session at SLA was my favorite. It was amazing! So much sharing, so much enthusiasm, so many people!
CT: What advice would you give others who want to have an unconference in their area?
AB: If you've never attended a unconference before, take a look at
"Open Space Technology: A user's guide" by Harrison Owen (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/182963681) or Steve Lawson's soon-to-be-published book " Library Camps and Unconferences" (Neal Schuman, Jan 2010). The LISWiki has a list of past and future library camps - you can check out the pages of different unconferneces and see how they organized their day. And remember, you can't plan much more than the logistics of the day (chairs, wifi, candy), but that's okay. When people are interested in what they are discussing, they actively participate - most library camp sessions I've been to run long because people are so involved in the discussion, they lose track of time (this is a good thing).
Amy Buckland is the eScholarship Coordinator for McGill University Libraries, and Jenica Rogers is the Director of Libraries at the State University of New York, Potsdam.