#quasi13: A Quasi-Conference from ALA at UMich

Well, I’m going for a hat-trick of blog posts (after my hiatus, 3 in a row?!).

Today I went to Quasi-Con13, the second annual quasi-conference put on by the ALA group at the University of Michigan.  Just as last year, I enjoyed myself immensely.  The first part of the conference was an “un-conference” where topics were decided upon in the morning after some semi-structured small group conversations.  Organizers created a schedule based on these ideas and people went around to various break out rooms to discuss the topics raised in the morning.  Each room had two facilitators to help things move along.  They were great.  Thank you facilitators!

The morning discussions were fascinating!  I went to three:

  • tensions between academic librarians & faculty – expectations around the role of librarians
  • libraries & librarians in fiction – how are we portrayed? what would be better?
  • collaboration & competition in GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives & museums)

What wonderful discussions.  I’ll just pull out some of the things I heard from the libraries & librarians in fiction talk which surprised me (in that, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I think some interesting things came out of it).  Sure, there was some funny reminiscing of librarians being portrayed in TV shows (Seinfeld, Buffy, etc.) but things got substantive too.  I have been mulling over a set of questions that emerged from the session:

If you could insert a librarian into a show, how would they be portrayed? What would they do? Who would they be? What would be the plot?

I like this.  It would be awful to have some sort of “Big Bang Theory” effect happen – a show which reinforced negative or totally unhelpful stereotypes. But how do we make the work of information professionals interesting to a broader audience?  Infiltrate Antiques Roadshow?  Place a librarian on NCIS or CSI?  Is there a way to do that and portray them realistically?  What role in the library (outreach manager? director?) would even be able to make this happen?  Who reaches out to Hollywood?  Ah, so many questions, so few answers.

We briefly touched on Star Trek (by the way, here is a great article reflecting on Star Trek that you should read if you liked that show).  On that show, the computer is the library / librarian and all the cast members are totally information literate, i.e. know what to ask to get the information they sought.  So, is that just a Utopian version of the library and world of information literacy?

[photo coming soon]

In the afternoon, there were structured talks. I went to three of these as well:

  • Detroit & using archives to confront stereotypes & misrepresentation
  • The use of memes and web 2.0 for library marketing
  • Participatory learning: library-based makerspaces

I enjoyed the participatory learning session quite a bit as I’ve been thinking about “learning by making/doing/building/creating” a lot.  It was lovely to hear the stories from local endeavors – places in Ann Arbor, at the AADL, and at UM.  I think by the end of the day, people were a bit weary and petering out, but this was a very nice set of sessions.

[photo coming soon]

Some reflections on the day / experience:

  • I tweeted.  A lot.  This was the first conference I was consistently tweeting.  It was nice and not overwhelming (like the ESA 2012 and LTER ASM 2012 conferences were).  The audience were people I felt comfortable tweeting to, and it turned into good practice: turns out it’s hard to tweet and pay attention at the same time.  You can find my and other peoples’ tweets at #quasi13
  • In discussions and in talks, if people said snappy, short tweetable statements, turns out, those are easier to broadcast.  Makes me rethink the kinds of things I would say in a presentation to this kind of audience.  I’m sure politicians are way ahead of me on this one, but even at a conference comprised mostly of students, it’s still good to think about (will this be reverberated on social media?  If so, make some concise sound bytes, and perhaps even reference them – “you can tweet that”).
  • Organizers played around with badges this year.  I liked that.  The first half of the conference people were able to nominate others for badges (list of them here) and in the second half, I think people can just get badges for things like… blog posts and further reflections on the events of the day.  To be honest, the badges thing this year kind of confused me.  I like that it was something that was also going on, but I don’t quite understand how they got awarded and how one knows one got a badge.  I guess I’ll hear more later about that.  Having badges be dangled in front of me like a carrot did spur me to tweet copiously.  So that’s nice.  If I get a badge, don’t worry, I’ll post about it here 🙂
  • It was really nice to see some SI alumni come back for this.  I’m glad about that.
  • This kind of conference is a great opportunity for students to test out talking about their ideas and get a practice run at other kinds of conferences that might be more intimidating.  I’m really glad about that too.
  • Finally, the facilitators & organizers did a great job.  A+.

One thought on “#quasi13: A Quasi-Conference from ALA at UMich

  1. Pingback: Understanding Badging | Sarah Barbrow

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