PLA unconference

Cross-posted at WebJunction – with many thanks to Jennifer Peterson.

It was a great honor to be invited to facilitate the first ever PLA Unconference. In true unconference form (less-ness), the participants built an intriguing schedule of sessions filled with engaging and inspirational conversations.

The unconference is a participant-driven, organic approach to conference programming. It’s education and networking all wrapped into one. It’s the chance to offer ideas. It’s the chance to lead a discussion. It’s the chance to network with other attendees interested in the same issues you are. (See Library Success Wiki and LIS Wiki for more examples of library focused unconferences).

In Philadelphia, after I gave a quick overview of the unconference format and guidelines, participants began by posting proposed descriptive titles on sticky notes. Then proposed session leads were given 30 seconds to pitch their session to the group. With some topics duplicated, participants clustered some of the proposed topics together and then all were given three votes each to pick the sessions they’d like to join. Based on these votes, we built the unconference agenda together.

Library Journal’s Josh Hadro provided excellent Storify coverage of the unconference, complete with images of our afternoon together. Session topics included:

  • Econtent Stuff
  • Successful Community Engagement
  • Genealogy in the Public Library
  • Future of Librarianship
  • Transmedia Storytelling
  • Tech Training

Participants attended two of the sessions and we wrapped up the unconference with some time for sharing back with the full group. When Sara Dallas, PLA 2012 programming chair asked the group if they recommend the unconference as a do-again event, the group answered with the affirmative. The format can be used in all sorts of settings, with staff or with your community, and I’m pleased to share the deck that I used to facilitate this event – if you’re planning your own event, feel free to use these. Thank you to the Global Libraries team at the Gates Foundation for sharing *their* decks with me, so that I could build this one. Thank you to the PLA programming committee, who worked together we had everything we needed for a successful session, and for supporting me in my role as facilitator. Thank you to John at ITI, who donated three copies of Michele Boule’s Mob Rule Learning (great resource for unconference planning). And a huge thank you to all the participants in Philly, who made this unconference a model for future PLA programs! I’d love to hear from you if you decide to do one of these, and how it turned out for you.