I Didn't Get Mauled by Bears at InfoCamp
InfoCamp is an “interdisciplinary un-conference for information architecture, user-centered design, librarianship, and information management. It features an egalitarian, community-driven format in which presentations are designed and delivered by attendees.” There is no set program. Only the opening and closing keynote speakers have been booked in advance. The participants decide what they want to discuss and lead sessions about topics of interest. 2008’s InfoCamp saw such relevant issues as the plummeting economy and financial bailout, redesigning library websites so they are more accessible to users, how to increase dialogue between marketers and IA/UX in companies, and the ubiquitous Emergency Librarians.
The first thing that struck me, comparing the 2007 1st annual InfoCamp to 2008’s, was how many more attendees there were at the two-day conference. By the official InfoCamp count, 202 people attended September 27th and 28th. One person flew in from New York City to attend the conference! Others came from around the Northwest, including B.C.
Last year I went as a passive attendee. I had a great time, learned a lot, and increased my professional network. This year I decided to take it to the next step and participate.
Originally I had decided I would participate by being a volunteer. Not only did this get me free registration, but also a nifty badge that proudly stated “Staff.” For my free registration I had to put in a few hours of work schlepping chairs, herding participants, and checking I.D.s… Yes, this year’s InfoCamp had a party Saturday night! With a bar! InfoCamp took the term BarCamp to a whole new level. Additionally, I decided to actually lead a session on Saturday. That big white empty sheet of paper called my name and coerced me into signing up for an afternoon session. I spent the morning listening to the inspiring keynote delivered by the iSchool’s own Jacob O. Wobbrock about the amazing research he has been conducting on access and ability. For the rest of the morning I flitted from session to session, my anxiety slowly increasing. What was I thinking?! Signing up to lead a session! I’m no good at public speaking, how am I going to fill an entire hour? I knew what I wanted to present on, but not what I wanted to say.
When my presentation time finally came, I took a big, deep breath, hooked my laptop up to a projector, and began my slideshow of modern Dutch libraries. Just back from the iSchool’s study abroad summer program in Rotterdam, I had a lot to say about the Dutch libraries I had visited (while taking a break from studying research methods) and their overuse of neon. I managed to fill the hour time allotted to me and keep my audience engaged (and still had stuff left to say!). Fortunately for me, Kelly, who had also gone to Rotterdam, was at my session and helped me fill in some gaps.
I talked about the differences between U.S. and Dutch libraries (the Dutch have to pay membership dues, and are therefore a bit better funded than our public libraries), how Dutch public and academic libraries are integrating technology in unique and effective ways (and also some not so effective ways – like the crazy expensive media pods gracing every Dutch library that I never saw in use), and how the central public libraries have cafés or restaurants that serve booze! I took questions from the audience and hopefully stimulated thinking about library technologies from developing more intuitive catalogs to playing Guitar Hero.
Everyone was so supportive, encouraging, and genuinely interested in my presentation that maybe I’ll panic less next time I get up to speak. And hopefully I’ll have something new to present next year, because I do intend to attend and participate.
January 10, 2009