When I got off the bus for this years libcamp 2014 in July, the sun was shining and the Pride parade was about to kick off in the streets. This set the tone for my second unconference.
When I did my undergrad in Information Studies, it was impressed upon us from the start about the broad scope of being an Information Professional. One week we were learning about the science of information retrieval and the next we were discussing the psychology of colour design and typography. I returned to study with a vague notion of becoming a librarian and left university wondering what exactly a librarian was. These days I work in Digital Marketing where I spend a lot of time discussing/arguing with our content team about the principles that I learned as an information student. I don’t worry so much about what a librarian is anymore, but it was good to get back to talking about information access without worrying about how to sell stuff.
Unlike irelibcamp2013, I got to roam around all the pitches so I got more of a flavour of them this time. For those who have not had the experience of an unconference yet, a pitch is a chance to kickstart a discussion about anything of interest. They are informal and I really enjoy them because I get to listen to concepts and experiences that are often quite different to my own and they keep me connected to librarianship. Unconferences are ideal for covering a lot of different subjects and they have a really nice energy as the food is crowdsourced, the networking is casual and the learning is continuous.
I got to listen to Betty Maguire explore the concepts of access and intellectual freedom through the use of copyright. Jen O’ Neill led a pitch about employment, job-hunting techniques and non-traditional roles which brought up the thorny subject of internships. Laura Rooney Ferris expanded on the non-traditional roles and professionalism by leading a discussion on embedded librarianship while Marta Bustillo from DRI used the concept of collaboration as one possible solution to some of those problems. Philip Cohen from DIT asked why we should join the Library Association of Ireland and he received a flipboard full of post-its with different answers. Ann O’ Sullivan and Erin O’ Mahoney got me thinking about what sort of filters and feeds that I use to organise information for retrieval and avoid overload.
The reason I was roaming was because I was going to do a pitch myself about social media. There is a lot of fear and confusion around social media use out there. Some of it is warranted but a lot of it is unnecessary. I have seen social media guides and policies that are so rigid and dogmatic that they strike fear into the hearts of interns and send CEOs looking for lawyers. A lot of that confusion can be cleared up by putting people in a room and letting them knock heads together. I think that I learned more than anyone else there from actually doing this pitch and from conversations with people during the libcamp who shared their own experiences with me. That is what I really like about unconferences.
For my pitch I split the participants into groups, gave them a random institution and got them working together on language, tone, ethos and character. This allowed them to generate a “textual moodboard” (thanks to a participant who coined that phrase for me) that they could all buy into and take ownership of. Then I asked them to create a positive interaction on an appropriate social platform and a response to a negative interaction. Ideally this should be done for every platform that a company or institution uses and it should be used as a guide for every new employee that logs on for your company or institution.
I was happy that each group managed to achieve their objective and I particularly enjoyed the personas that they created for their institutions (A grown-up Matilda for the National Library of Ireland, The Gruffalo for Macnas and Edward Snowden for Open Knowledge Ireland were a few of my favourites), but to be honest, I knew that they would be well able for the challenge.
Looking forward to Libcamp15!