One of my new endeavors in 2015 was the UW Open Meetup, the brainchild of myself and colleagues Carrie Nelson and Jim Jonas. With half a year under our belt, I thought I’d provide a quick update on how things are going.
The story of our origin is that we’re a bit of a rogue group. We just made a meeting about open access, data, and education a thing. We found each other, cooked it up, and threw ourselves into it. We notified the people that needed to be notified but this was another one of those things that was all us. We’re all librarians, though at the time we started meeting we were all in different libraries with no real overlap – no shared committees or projects. We started talking about our passion for openness and the myriad issues it intersects with and we had this moment where we wondered aloud where everyone else was. Surely others cared too. Then we realized that maybe our first step should be to make a place to breed those connections and collaborations and insight and new directions. We got to work.
We put up a basic website. We got a twitter account. We scheduled an awesome room in the Education Building for an entire year, June 2015-2016. (That seemed like such a long time when we started. Now I’m like whaaaaaaat. June 2016 is right around the corner!) We started thinking about content, meeting structure, listservs to target. And then we filled up months and months with attendees and speakers and discussion aplenty. It was fun but it was a lot of work for three people with already full jobs.
Moving forward, there are a few things I want us to do better and I think we’re well on our way. Coming up with a semester’s worth of content up front is necessary (not quite there yet but you know, #goals). Having a schedule for initial promotion and reminder emails is vital; for a while we were just too late in sending emails letting potential attendees know what was on the schedule. It became a two-pronged problem: because we didn’t figure out exactly what was happening at the meeting until a week or two beforehand, we gave potential attendees a fairly limited window to make room in their schedules. It was also hard to tell if our programs were compelling enough, too – there’s a very limited pool of people who a) have an openness-related project or topic b) are willing to speak c) are available to speak on our meeting dates/times. And of course in order for any of that criteria to matter we have to be able to identify that person anyway!
Having a robust, interesting, ongoing community takes a ton of hard work. It’s the kind of work I really did not understand or think about before I dove into trying to build and sustain this type of group. It’s both an art and a science – one of my favorite types of challenge. There’s room for process improvement and systems thinking, plus creativity and playfulness and innovation. Experimentation.
I wanted to get things rolling last summer and fall then turn attention to branding and marketing down the line, once we had tested the waters. Finally the Openness Meetup’s time in the queue has come! This month my terrific assistant Cameron and I worked together to create the flyer shown at the beginning of this post. I’m really happy with how it turned out: a strong visual presence incorporating the commonly identifiable open access symbol, the UW color scheme, and of course the UW crest thrown in for an extra dash of playfulness.
This semester I’m hoping to expand the number of external speakers we showcase. I’d love to feature projects, organizations, and people that can both inform the UW community about things that happening elsewhere and provide new energy and inspiration for what is possible. Of course, we’ll still keep room in the meetup’s structure to feature local projects and speakers as we can recruit them; it just was too difficult to solely rely on local folks because we didn’t want to burn ourselves or the same group out by asking them over and over again. Stay tuned for further updates down the line!
In case you’re interested in the tone we take when marketing this on campus, I thought I’d also share what we just sent out to the UW listservs:
Happy spring semester! Now is the time to incorporate the Openness Meetups into your schedule for 2016.
Last semester, our meetings focused on learning more about openness in general and sharing our interests and activities around open access, open data, and open educational resources (OERs).
The coming semester promises to be particularly interesting as, among other things:
- campus is developing a strategy to support development and use of OERs,
- an Open Access Policy (eg. UMN Open Access Policy) is beginning to make its way through campus governance,
- funders are increasingly requiring public access to research results, and
- the campus data stewardship work takes shape.
We plan to incorporate more presentations and discussions from national experts into our meetups this semester, though we’ll be sure to set aside time for us to share our own work and questions and to continue to build our own community around openness.
Meetups are held every third Thursday from noon to 1:30 in the Wisconsin Idea Room (Rm 159) at the Education Building. Spring dates are: January 21, February 18, March 17, April 21, and May 19. If you’d like to be included in a calendar invitation, let us know by email.
This month: January 21, Noon-1:30
Rm 159, Education Building
Topic: Policies that impact openness
Brianna Marshall, Jim Jonas, and Carrie Nelson will present information about federal (and other) funder public access requirements, state and institutional open education policies, and UW System/Madison policies around ownership of content created on campus.
These meetups are intended for faculty, staff, and students with interest in how or why we might collect, share, and access information in ways that make it easier for more people to use that information in more ways. No need for specialized knowledge or experience. Please feel free to share this invitation with anyone that may be interested.