LIS Education Symposium [pt. 1]

LIS Ed organizers
with the amazing #LISed15 organizers, from left to right: Alice Mitchell, Sarah Crissinger, Kate Rojas, Madison Sullivan, Jamie Wittenberg, Sveta Stoytcheva, me!, Nicole Helregel.

This is part one, where I share general thoughts on #LISed15. Check out part two to read through an annotated version of my presentation.

I found out about the LIS Ed Symposium in February, when I was contacted by HLS writer Nicole about participating in a keynote talk aimed at bringing together a handful of Hack Library School alumni, namely Micah, Annie, and myself. When I found out I could duck out early from NADDI I was in! I took Friday off, made the drive to Urbana-Champaign, and arrived that afternoon in time to hear reporting back from some of the unconference sessions as well as Emily Weak from Hiring Librarians.

I am awed that this event was organized by just a crew of students, especially as I reflect back on how in my role as SAA student chapter president in library school I organized our small archives conference. I was totally unoriginal. I followed the template set by student chapters in previous years, which was of course very helpful but probably could have used a bit more attention. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel that I could or should deviate from it, though, or at least I was too lazy to. I can’t quite recall my headspace at the time, I just know I went through the motions and didn’t go beyond the basics. And even though I had this template and an awesome group working with me to make it all happen, I remember how stressful it was to wrangle everything.

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So this is what is in my brain as I think through what the organizers did with #LISed15, which was so much more sophisticated than the archives conference was under my direction. Not only did they come together with this idea, they did it in an extremely polished and effective way – and they did it on their own.

Let’ s just take a minute to talk about the aspects I was awed by.

  • Communication + marketing – From the first moment I was contacted through all the processes on focusing our talk topic, coordinating sharing slides with the planning committee, and hotel and travel logistics, I was astonished by the communication. It made my life as a presenter so much easier. It did not go unnoticed. I imagine this same time and effort was taken with others in communication with the organizing committee. Also, #LISed15 was marketed exquisitely. Their Twitter account was active and I know they reached out to different library schools across the country.
  • Interesting program – It’s hard to come up with a useful and engaging structure for an event like this. You can view the final program here. I was impressed by the mix of different sessions and particularly that they had included unconference-style sessions, which I sadly missed. Also, the fact that a code of conduct was included and prominently shared on their website? A thousand yeses.
  • AV expertise – The committee streamed the entirety of the symposium so that anyone, anywhere could listen in and participate. Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle all the technologies involved (video cameras, microphones, livestreaming platform, and the millions of cords that accompany all of the above) KNOWS that this can be an overwhelming task. Add to that the fact that it can be a thankless role where often people are stressed about not being able to hear or the screeching feedback from the mic, and well, it’s a wonder we do all the work to make this happen in the first place. At #LISed15 this was mainly Kate Rojas, who was both an excellent troubleshooter and kept a remarkably cheerful disposition throughout.
  • Moderating sessions – The organizers grabbed the mic and remained energetic and engaged during the crucial q+a time. They thanked the speakers, they asked questions, they sparked discussions – both in person and in the online chat. I was exhausted so I imagine that they were all exhausted at just about every moment of the symposium too but they kept the energy going.
  • Food + coffee – Let’s just say it was plentiful. If this seems not worth noting I’m guessing you haven’t been to an event where these necessities are lacking!
  • Design – I’m all about the aesthetics and I think the committee did a lovely job with the design of their web and print materials.

Needless to say, #LISed15 was better run than a lot of “real” conferences I have attended. I actually feel like I got a lot of ideas that I can use at the Midwest Data Librarian Symposium that I am organizing with Kristin Briney!

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On Friday afternoon the organizers gave me a thoughtful thank you present and I was about to cry I was so touched. They had already put the keynoters up in a hotel, after all, and had said all sorts of ego-boosting things about how excited they were for our talk. To get a legit gift after that… just whoa. I felt special. I’m grateful to the committee for their thoughtfulness. (Aaand for the practicality of the Starbucks gift card;  I for sure associate #LISed15 with my iced coffees now.)

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Beyond the organizers, I also got a lot from chatting with the other attendees. A few people made comments along the lines of, “I read your blog when I was thinking of coming to library school.” It was kind of exciting to think that real people actually have read things I’ve written. That probably sounds like a bizarre thing to say since I am writing something for public consumption currently… but in truth I often feel like I am writing out into the void. Commenting no longer seems en vogue (except from my friends! love you guys!) and I don’t look at the stats for this site. I forget about the things I write and the fact that they might make a difference to someone.

Overall, though, I have to note that the attendance was smaller than I anticipated – and ohmygod so much smaller than the content of the symposium deserved. It would be interesting to get the actual numbers from the organizing committee. There’s nothing sadder than seeing the carefully printed registration badges languishing on the check in table, unclaimed. Anyway! You’ll hear my thoughts on people not showing up when I share my presentation slides.

I also met several LIS faculty. I was impressed with their dedication, particularly the folks that showed up on Saturday as well. The head of their program, Allen Renear, was around for pretty much the entire conference. That level of engagement just about blew my mind.

On Saturday, Annie, Micah, and I gave our talk. I am often completely drained after the adrenaline of presenting wears away, and that day was no exception. Luckily I was able to find some of the most heavenly Mexican food I have ever had, tuck my introvert self into a corner, and silently eat everything that was in front of me. I may need to make a pilgrimage back to Urbana for Maize. It was that good.

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My final overarching thought post-#LISed15?

PEOPLE WHO LIKE EACH OTHER GET THINGS DONE. The organizing committee is proof of the importance of teams that are industrious, big thinkers who bring that elusive but crucial element – fun. And that’s why I’m all about injecting joy into work and life, more so than ever.

the organizers wrapping things up

Excitingly enough, the organizers have gotten a conversation starter accepted to ALA in San Francisco. I’m sure they’d love to see you there if you are attending.

Thanks for everything, #LISed15!

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