conferences & events

A buzzing Library Camp

Lucky I brainstormed and wrote down initial reflections just as I arrived home from last month’s Library Camp, as only now I seemed to have got round to posting about it and my involvement in the (un)organising team.

For an unconference, Library Camp sure does require some preparation to ensure the event runs smoothly on the day. Phew! With a bunch of other information professionals committed to bringing Library Camp to Queensland, I think we pulled it off very well. It was fabulous to take a step back from the action and watch it happen – buzzing conversation and coming up with collaborative solutions. I involved myself with setting up registrations, merchandise, preparation of the program and slides for the proceedings, drafting programming procedures, organising a panel discussion, being an MC and facilitating sessions throughout the day.

The set-up

eep! There wasn’t much time between The Edge opening and the start of an action-packed afternoon. I’ll admit I was stressed in setting up the auditorium and ensuring things were put in their starting positions. I had to remind myself at times that others knew what to do, it was a team effort. I perhaps showed my stress a little more than I wanted to. I was fine, it just didn’t appear that way! As an MC, I wanted to keep proceedings as simple and relaxed as possible.

As an MC

Prior to the event, I was comfortable and confident in being an MC. On the day? I’m not so sure. It was either that I wasn’t the right person, I didn’t have the right equipment, or that it was difficult to manage all the “Oh, don’t forget to mention….” requests.

After the welcome segment, there were some feedback relating to my position on the stage. If I had it my way, I’d have a roving microphone and would’ve preferred to be walking around the floor amongst the audience. (Roving microphones finally came out in time for the panel discussion). I wanted to appear involved in discussion, not directing it. For an unconference, I believe this sent a mixed message to participants, particularly those who hadn’t been to one before. On one hand, I looked all too professional behind a lectern on a stage, then on the other hand, the event was meant to be casual, informal and relaxed. So I guess there’s a thought for next time. I certainly enjoyed being an MC, I’d do it again and the team appreciated all the feedback.


Possibly due the fact a lot of people hadn’t been to an unconference before, the programming started off rather slow. But as people saw others stand up and suggest sessions, whether they knew about the topic or not, the energy began to charge up, and as I looked at other members of the (un)organising committee, they started to look more relaxed as we shared a ‘tah-dah!’ moment. A tip for future unconferences would be to explain the whole process first, then go step-by-step. This allows people to gain a sense of the whole picture from the get-go.

We trialled 40 minute sessions, with a five minute change over time. Some feedback indicated this was too long and given the proximity of the ‘rooms’ at The Edge, the change over time perhaps wasn’t needed. So maybe next time, sessions of 30 minutes with a five minute buffer would be more ideal.

The panel discussion

Instead of a (un)keynote speaker, we had a panel discussion to kick start conversation and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. I believe this was one of the key successes of the day. Local leaders of the profession shared their thoughts to the question, “Excuse me, are you the librarian?”. The theme for the discussion, sponsored by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), focused on the changing skillset of a librarian or information professional; what kinds of roles we’ll see less of in the future, and the kinds of roles we’ll see more of.

Finding your passion

In one of the last sessions of the day, I found myself in a discussion about students and new graduates landing their first library job. Carolyn MacDonald from Bond University shared her wisdom with the words “Find your passion”. I would agree whole-hearted that every budding new information professional needs to do this. You wouldn’t be in the profession if you didn’t. Passion shines through. Other common tips included being prepared to move, identify transferrable skills, research the organisation and role you’re applying for and don’t be arrogant. I believe this is true of any profession, really. If you want to be successful badly enough, you need to put in the effort, and yes, sacrifices are required. Having a degree does not make jobs land in your lap.

Final thoughts and skills acquired

On a whole I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in organising an event that brought people and ideas together. It was a pleasure to be a part of it, to assist participation and generally making sure everyone gained as much as possible from the first Library Camp in Queensland.

The (un)organising committee worked so well on the day, I am very appreciative of support  from the team and fellow MCs. I learnt a great deal about managing expectations throughout the (un)organising prior to the event; working and communicating with people I hadn’t done so before; building on my public speaking skills and experience, and technical skills relating to the Mac-projector set up.

Photos from the day can be viewed on Flickr. And catch up on the tweets by searching the Twitter hashtag #libcampqld.

Awesome stuff.


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