Saying goodbye with an unconference

7 Jun

This month, I finish up my time on Cornell University Library’s Reference and Outreach Committee. I served for three years, two of those as co-chair. (That second year was my fault, too, as I talked them into setting up a staggered co-chair system to address the fact that the committee’s leadership and membership change right as we’re gearing up for orientation, R&O’s biggest responsibility. And I figured I shouldn’t recommend that if I wasn’t willing to do it myself.)

R&O was a committee I wanted to be on ever since I started attending their monthly forums: any group who gave librarians regular opportunities to talk about cool stuff they were working on was a group I wanted to be involved with. All in all, it’s been a great experience, though at times difficult and trying. I will miss it, even as I enjoy getting a little bit more time back each month.

Welcome!One of the last events of my tenure was the first annual R&O Unconference, which we held back in May. We’d been asked to take on something new this year, as a long-time responsibility had been taken off our plate; the Unconference was what we came up with. We started planning it in the fall, figuring out what mix of structured and unstructured activity to include, and how to convince the CUL community (most of whom had never been to an unconference, including most of the R&O Committee) to buy into the latter.

We ended up getting two rooms and running the event from 10am to 3pm in Mann Library (and providing lunch from Manndible, which was key). The one structured piece was a series of lightning talks in the morning, with most of the speakers signing up in advance. We took care to have the talks occur in a different location than the registration, coffee, and danishes; this paid off when, even as a majority of attendees went to hear the talks, at least two groups of them stayed to participate in breakout discussions. We also had two folks sign up to give lightning talks on the spot, which was awesome. (And my lightning talk on the DigitalCommons@ILR user survey contained what could be the greatest slide I’ve ever made.)

2013-05-21_14-22-30_745The breakout discussion model carried the afternoon, with folks migrating from group to group and groups transitioning from topic to topic with an ease that filled me with joy. Overall, the event was very well received, at least one or two new projects seem to be spawning out of it, and it looks probable that the R&O Committee will be holding one next year, as well.

That one, I just get to attend.

I posted pictures to both Facebook and Google+, if you’re interested in checking them out. But I want to wrap this post up by thanking everyone who’s been on R&O during my tenure: Kaila Bussert and Susan Kendrick, who set great examples as chairs when I joined; Jean Callihan and Jeff Peterson who were my fellow members during my first year; Hilary Wong who’s been my co-chair this past year and has done such a phenomenal job; and Virginia Cole, Sarah How, Kevin Pain, Marsha Taichman, and Jill Wilson, who have contributed so much as committee members and all did such great work preparing for the Unconference. And my thoughts and thanks especially go to Nan Hyland, who passed away in 2011, and whom we miss and mourn.

Thank you all. It’s been amazing.


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