Third Time's a Charm
The second-annual InfoCamp on October 10 -11, 2009, saw many changes. The third incarnation of the information festival had a new venue and was much bigger than last year's event. And yet, the feel was the same: Participants signed up for the sessions they wanted to lead on a giant paper schedule; coffee was hot and abundant; participants were exhausted, yet enthusiastic; and the InfoCamp wiki was constantly being updated.
InfoCamp's genesis was in 2007, when ASIS&T Pacific Northwest Chapter and the ambitious ASIS&T University of Washington Student Chapter decided to revolutionize their annual meeting. And what a revolution this has been! For those of you unfamiliar with InfoCamp, it is “an unconference for the information community. It features an egalitarian, community-driven format in which most presentations are designed and delivered by attendees.” Topics range from user experience, information architecture, user-centered design, librarianship, information management to other, related fields. Topics are timely, because the call for proposal goes out the day of the conference, not a year or more in advance as is often the case at large conferences (for example, a session about the Google Book Settlement); entertaining (a session on Using Humor to Convey Information), and relevant (a session on Your CV as Killer App: A resume-writing workshop for information professionals).
InfoCamp had a new venue this year: Cleveland High School in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in South Seattle, near Georgetown. Cleveland High is a gorgeous old building, fully renovated, with Wi-Fi, a new computer lab, and a beautiful auditorium. Teachers were very accommodating and let InfoCampers into their classrooms, complete with Bunsen burners, chemical washes, math books, literature posters, pianos and drums and homecoming posters.
InfoCamp was also much larger this year. There were 350 people registered to participate, and most of them (297) showed up at one point or another, according to the InfoCamp blog. This figure is 95 more attendants than in 2008 and 202 more than in 2007.
I volunteered at InfoCamp for the second year in a row. I took the bookend shifts – the 8:30 a.m. shift on Saturday, registering participants and directing sleepy-looking people toward the giant urns of always-hot and fresh coffee; and the last shift on Sunday, tearing down posters, cleaning rooms and leaving Cleveland without a trace of the conference that had invaded it over the weekend.
Other highlights included eating tacos in the band room with the band director at Cleveland (who led a session on African drumming) on Saturday, and conversing with professionals in numerous fields over sandwiches and gourmet salads on Sunday. The keynote speech – sparking a weekend of ideas – was given by Axel Roesler, Assistant Professor for Interaction Design at the University of Washington School of Art, on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning, Vanessa Fox, search-engine optimization expert, writer and consultant, gave the plenary session.
Saturdays usually have a heavier attendance than Sunday, but both days had a good showing and most sessions were well-attended. Even those that weren't (like mine) included intimate, amazing conversations about important issues and brought in a diversity of viewpoints. My session (only my second time leading a session, too!) on evaluation methods for public libraries also drew some professionals outside of the library world and their ideas, comments, and suggestions were a great catalyst for thinking about performance and program evaluation. Together with students and public librarians, we critically analyzed library-evaluation shortcomings and brainstormed ideas about how to overcome resistance to evaluation use.
This year the InfoParty on Saturday night was not onsite, as it was last year. Rather we all ventured down the hill to Georgetown. Because there were so many of us, we split in two groups. Some went to Jules Maes for tater tots and beer, and while others headed to Stellar Pizza. Conversation, networking, and learning continued into the night.
The InfoCamp organizers gave a session on Sunday dealing with how to start your own unconference, hoping to encourage others to start similar ventures without all the same missteps.
The openness and sharing at InfoCamp is amazing, encouraging, and inspiring. However, rather than starting my own unconference, I'm signing myself up for the planning committee for InfoCamp 2010. After participating in InfoCamp for the past three years, I am still excited to go next year and am sure the 2010 will be just as good, if not better, than 2009.
Photo by brycej