CiL : Make your own conference

This year at CiL, while the sessions were interesting and on-point, I was underwhelmed by what I learned in formal conference contexts. And that is in no way the fault of the conference or the presenters; it’s all me. Jason Griffey and I were talking it through, expressing some of the same thoughts, and what I came down to is that I have a very specific set of interests as relate to technology in libraries — issues re: ILS development and deployment, search and discovery innovations (particularly as relate to ILS integration), and the practical application of emerging web technologies in libraries. I also have worked hard, over the past several years, to be certain that I’m taking responsibility for my own awareness of and currency on those issues. Therefore… when I come to CiL, and attend the conference tracks related to the issues that I’m interested in… no one’s saying much of anything I don’t already know. And as I said, that’s not their fault; they’re saying great things about interesting developments — which I already know about. Because I proactively educate myself on these topics.

So in one sense, I think Computers in Libraries is no longer the conference for my level of knowledge, awareness, and expertise. Griffey and Tim Spalding and I were talking briefly about that problem, and wishing there was a more mid-level, hands-on conference relating to similar content but with more of a “how do I make it work, how do I do it, how do we overcome these practical and theoretical positioning challenges” bent. Such a critter doesn’t seem to exist.

But that conversation is why, in another very real way, Computers in Libraries is exactly the conference for me for as long as the people who attend it are savvy, interesting, thoughtful, and engaging. Because that conversation with Tim and Jason in the hotel bar on Tuesday night was just as valuable and thought-provoking as any formal conference session could be, and until we enter a more fully-fledged virtual professional development environment, it’s the best resource I have for expanding my thoughts and understanding of our profession.

So here’s to the CiL Unconference experience. I’m all for it. And if someone wants to build that mid-level conference? You’ve got an audience.


  1. That’s exactly how I felt after the last Internet Librarian, which I blogged about. Plus, I had an awesome experience at the unconference we had here in Kansas. I would be all over a CiL unconference, more conversations, more hands-on learning.


  2. I think the unconference movement is where this kind of thing is at. Other nice things about unconferences is that they tend to be CHEAP, they tend to be LOCAL (so contacts persist usefully well beyond the event), they tend to be INTERACTIVE, and they tend to be shaped by what people’s real immediate interests are.

    BarCamps for all!


  3. Excellent! I’m glad we’re all thinking along the same lines. I’ll blog on the same topic soon. Maybe we can create some sort of groundswell. I’d love a conference with some sessions that presumed what CIL mostly teaches. If it was a small unconference–great!

    I know what conferences “look like” to me. But I’m an entrepreneur, basically. If there was a spot-on conference like we’re thinking, would people be able to take time off for it? How long a lead-time would there need to be? If it’s an unconference with no money, does it have to be regional because nobody would get any expenses covered?


  4. This is something I’ve been interested in for some time…witness the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase as one way of answering this need at a large conference like ALA. I think there’s a way to do this virtually as well that breaks the value out of the “regional”.

    Tim, Jenica, et al…want to continue this conversation? Someone set up a room or google group for us. It’s obvious we could make something like this work. Just takes a little bit of planning.


  5. Viva la revolution!


    Yes. We should continue the conversation. I’d also note that the UnVocab from this week touched on some of Tim’s questions… would our employers pay for something that didn’t look like a traditional conference? Some say no. Given how many people say that the conversations and people are key to their conference experience we, smarties that we are, must be able to find a way to tell that story (to grab from Iris) in a way that’s convincing to the PTB.


  6. Conferences are perfect for spreading information to a mass of people. Implied is that the information can be understood by and is desired by a mass of people. Some information is so specialized, it can’t fit into that conference mold. Local meetings implies there are enough people in that area with the interest or expertise in the specialized information. What about the person with an interest not shared locally? Fortunately, there is the internet to allow communication to others with the same interests no matter how far away. Funding is routine for conferences, or sometimes important local meetings. But funding won’t be provided for mere internet communication on weird subjects. The trick would be to rate a bigger paycheck based on being the only person locally with the specialized knowledge.


  7. But… then I’d have to go to ALA. *grumpyface* You might be right, though — the audience at ALA is broad enough that it might be the perfect spot to grab the people who’re likely to be engaged by and invested in this kind of learning.


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