Last night I was boiling spaghetti noodles and had the bananas too close to the gas stove. The full-blast flame left a large inky black blotch on its Minion-like yellow skin. I kept thinking my spaghetti and meatballs were burning but it was my bananas. Yes, my husband has been having fun with that one. And why-the-heck am I telling you this? Because we had a librarian conference and for someone that always manages to create unintended muddles, it went smooth and has me so excited to try new things like Libguides and Classroom Connections and Makerspace activities that I have to share the experience. If you can, organize a conference, it is well worth being noodle-brained afterwards.
Here’s the scoop: The EARCOs Librarian workshop on November 6 and 7, 2015 had over 70 participants with guest speaker Jenny Luca, Head of Digital Learning and Practice at Wesley College in Melbourne, Australia, inspiring us to be game-changers and embrace new technologies. Multiple speakers in breakout sessions kept the conversation going adding to a plethora of best practices and what librarians are trying to accomplish in 21st century libraries. From technologies, to Makerspaces, to Libguides, to book clubs, to inquiry, to lessons, and more, librarians shared and networked in ways that incorporated the best of professional development and lifelong learning.
The idea to do this came when I was at the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas eating lunch with a librarian from Singapore who suggested we host a library conference. Candace Aiani, the High School Librarian, has wanted to do this for a long time and pounced on the notion determined to implement it when she got back to Taipei American School. She discovered that it wasn’t possible that year, but persisted for the following year like a midnight moth after a streetlamp.
Candace and I decided the year before on the conference topic and goal, but we remained flexible depending on what guest speaker we would find and his or her expertise. I found the speaker while Candace worked with administration to get the school to host the event on a certain date. Once this was in place we had summer break and didn’t race back into it until school started in August. We divided tasks and met once a week going through checklists to make sure everything was covered. The flyer was the first thing to be completed and loaded on EARCOS’s website to publicize the event. We have a professional development office that deals with EARCO’s making less tasks for us. For instance, they handled the guest speaker’s transportation, hotel, and flight, food, and venue bookings.
Once the flyer was settled it was time to get the word out. Candace and I reached out to all our library friends to spread the word as we only had 10 registrants in September or two months before the event. The schedule and presenters were the next item to be ticked off the list. Candace put together the brochure and we started to contact potential presenters. The teachers from the ALA conference were the first we asked and they were more than eager to be involved in the event. They suggested others and pretty soon we were turning away speakers as the schedule filled up. We spent the next few weeks collecting bios and photos for the brochure.
We met with the professional development office to determine venues and they booked rooms for the event. Rather than have a traditional tour of the libraries, I created a Klikaklu scavenger hunt game. Participants used iPads to match images in the four libraries. Meanwhile Candace contacted vendors interested in coming. EBSCO hosted a Friday night social event. Presenter gifts were purchased for all the speakers and a photographer was lined up.
I was a bit surprised by how many registrants we got in the last month. Because last minute airfares are expensive I didn’t think that so many would sign up that late, but perhaps their cities have better fares than ours. Besides the introduction PowerPoint, I gave two presentations on “iPads in the Elementary Library” and “Blogging and Book Clubs.” Candace and I met and worked on our presentations sharing ideas and supporting each other. I was amazed at how little I knew of what she has been doing with high school students. Sometimes we get so swept up in the tidal wave of school busyness that we don’t slam on the breaks enough to find out what is happening across divisions. We met after the conference to reflect. One thing we would do differently is have more transition time between presenters. We only had 10 minutes and 20 minutes would have been better. I would have had more people taking photos and setup Periscope.
Over lunch participants had the option to go to a job-alikes table. People write topics on a white board that they wanted to discuss with others and the table number where the discussion will be. I wrote one on “Visiting Authors” and a group of us discussed good or not so good visiting authors. We also setup unconference sessions led by participants about topics suggested by them and written on a whiteboard while the conference was happening. We took these two formats from the Learning 2.0 Asia conferences as they are nice options for someone that wants to explore a specific topic not on the schedule. The job-alike lunch talks had more participants and this might be because the conference was too small for unconference sessions. Learning 2.0 has hundreds of participants and had longer breaks between sessions.
The Learning 2.0 conferences are actually a great study of how to make a conference global. Our librarian conference has given us a glimpse at the leaders in social networking and innovative library programs. It has created a venue to develop global relationships that can grow long after the conference. So folks, coordinate your own conference. Shoot, you are being taught COEtail classes by some of the original Learning 2.0 brainchildren. Tap into their knowledge and set the burner high.