Unconference Reflection

By Jennifer Thiele

I had never attended an unconference before, so I was thrilled to be able to be present at the first annual feminism in LIS unconference at UWM.  First, I had to say that I thought the promotion was fantastic. The virtual conference flier was in my Facebook feed from one of my public librarian friends a few weeks before it was even promoted formally at UWM. This strong virtual presence carried over to the WIKI where individuals were able to talk both before and after the weekend.  This familiarity among the conference attendees prior to meeting really added to the camaraderie of the individuals who were there, carrying on conversations where they were left off online.

The whole brainstorming aspect of an unconference is one that I think is most important. So often we go to conferences, select a session and listen in, sometimes in and out of consciousness. This conference was active, with the participants invested in the outcome from the beginning.  For me, the key to the success of this thing is the collaboration of ideas.  Very rarely do public, special, academic and library educators get to have a discussion about ideas that are important in their lives, and how they translate cross-specialization.  Some very important collaborative ideas came out of these talk sessions, with public librarians talking to professors, academic librarians with public, public librarians with students. Research and practice was a thread that ran through the conference repeatedly, and we were able to have an opportunity to collaborate ideas to capitalize on each others’ expertise by making sure we are speaking the same language, brainstorming, and remaining connected.

The unposter session, though, was one of my favorite aspects of the conference. Being able to give and receive input from an audience of intelligent women from all specialties was so valuable to getting perspective on research expansion. The casual nature of the five minute talk was so encouraging to those who were just beginning to do research, and it was a great illustration of how important it is to get input from those “on the ground” when doing research that is applicable to practicing librarians.

Overall, this was a wonderful opportunity to connect and brainstorm. I’m looking forward to future conferences to come up with more ideas for women in LIS! We had a great group of attendees but I think the conference was so successful that we will have more interest in the future. I feel very lucky to have been a part of this one.

Jennifer Thiele is a PhD student at the school of information studies, and has experience working in public and academic libraries. Her studies emphasize information policy, literacy and outreach.

Call to Participants: Share your experience

Thank you for your attendance and participation in the Feminism in LIS Unconference.  What were your thoughts throughout the weekend about the unconference format, discussion, and action plans?  How will this experience influence your practice, studies, or research?  What connections did you experience, personally or intellectually?

We invite you to contribute your perspective by blogging about your experience at the unconference on your own blog or via this blog.  If you post directly to your own blog, please send a direct link.  If you want to post as a part of our blog, please send your content, the blog title, and a 20-25 word biography.  All items should be sent via email to Adriana McCleer, amccleer [at] uwm.edu.

Thank you!

What are you reading?

Titles of classic and contemporary readings were flying around the room in the areas of LIS, FLIS, sociology, education, philosophy, prison experiences, among others.  If you made a suggestion or caught the details of a suggestion, please share it by adding it to our growing list of resources or our Zotero group bibliography.

The most recent addition was shared by Sue Searing:

In our group (#6) we discussed storytelling, and I recommended this research done at U of Illinois GSLIS on distance education students:
Catch a cyber by the tale : online orality and the lore of a distributed learning community / Betsy Hearne & Anna Nielsen. In _ Learning, culture, and community in online education : research and practice_ / Caroline Haythornthwaite & Michelle M. Kazmer, editors, pp. 59-88. NY: P. Lang, 2004.
The research uncovered the folklore of the earliest distance ed cohorts at GSLIS, including stories about juggling school and the rest of life. These are mostly women’s stories, of course.

Let’s get into groups

Check out the groups that have come out of our brainstorming session…

Group 1

  • Digital Labor
  • Intellectual Property – women and other marginalized groups

Group 2

  • Decentering whiteness, heteronormativity, middle-classness.  Teaching against the status quo.  Barriers to support
  • “L”, “I”, “O”
  • Interactions R, G, C
  • Theory and Practice

Group 3

  • Feminist approaches to information literacy
  • LIS education
  • Storytelling
  • Theory and Practice

Group 4

  • FLIS outside LIS
  • Dissemination of feminism discourse across disciplines

Group 5

  • “anti” work within in the system.  Gramsci’s notion of “Organic intellectuals”
  • Practicing LIS on the job
  • Political climate

Group 6

  • Cataloging feminist gray literature/blogs
  • Collecting stories/storytelling
  • Women’s studies resources

Group 7

  • “Being” female
  • Computer technology
  • Storytelling

“The 1893 Woman’s Building Library Database: Out of the Ashes, Onto the Internet.”

Sarah Wadsworth shared the stories of the women and the books that were united in the Woman’s Building Library, a collection of over 8,000 volumes written by women that were displayed as an attraction at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago beginning on May 1, 1893.  The exhibit provided an international showcase of women’s perspectives in the public sphere at a time of debate over women’s rights.  Although there was not direct access for users to pull books directly from the shelves, the exhibits were arranged artistically, and Candace Wheeler wanted visitors feel at home in this literary space.  The books that comprised the collection were donated from around the United States and around the world.  The works of African American women were few in this collection, although the works of author and poet Frances E. W. Harper were found.

Melodie Fox provided an online introduction to the list of book titles was created at the exhibit in 1893 based on the books received at the library.  This book list was used as the basis of the 1893 Woman’s Building Library Database of bibliographic records.   The abstract explains, “With support from a Carnegie-Whitney grant from the American Library Association, Dr. Wayne A. Wiegand initiated work on the database at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Library and Information Studies, where research assistants used OCLC records to complete, as far as possible, the bibliographic data for each item. Work on the database then passed to Dr. Sarah Wadsworth, who later enlisted the help of Melodie Fox, [Doctoral Student] at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who made substantial improvements.”  Ms. Fox described how the arrangement of books by state and national category limits the ability to see the power of the topics women were writing about during the late nineteenth century.  By sorting the items in the database, it is possible to view a listing of books that were written about medicine and science, for example.  There are opportunities for researchers to interact with the data and build on the knowledge gathered about the 1893 Woman’s Building Library.

Additional information from the database abstract: “The database was an important source for the collaborative book Right Here I See My Own Books: The Woman’s Building Library of the World’s Columbian Exposition (University of Massachusetts, 2012), coauthored by Wadsworth and Wiegand.  A separate foreign titles project revolving around the non-US content in the Woman’s Building Library is currently being developed at Rutgers University, under the direction of Dr. Marija Dalbello.”

Coming out of the attic tonight…

A group of approximately 50 library and information practitioners, scholars, and aspirants will begin their collaboration tonight with a reception and discussion to shape the plans for the weekend.  Sarah Wadsworth and Melodie Fox will share a presentation entitled, “The 1893 Woman’s Building Library Database: Out of the Ashes, Onto the Internet”.

“Out of the Attic and Into the Stacks” Feminism in LIS Unconference: Day One
Friday, March 9, 2012
7pm – 9pm

Location: University of WI-Milwaukee Student Union Fireside Lounge
2200 E Kenwood Blvd
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Support for this unconference is provided by:

  • The Center for Information Policy Research and the School of Information Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • The School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • The Wisconsin Women Library Workers

Unconference Details

Thank you to those who have registered for the “Out of the Attic, Into the Stacks” Feminism in LIS Unconference scheduled for March 9-11, 2012 at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

For details on accommodations, the agenda, and meeting locations, visit http://sois.uwm.edu/feminismlis.

If this is your first unconference experience, check out http://www.unconference.net/ to learn more about the unconference format.  They say it’s “Like a conference, only better!”

To prepare for the discussions you may choose to read an article or start a book that was recommended by other unconference participants at http://feminismlisunconference.wikispaces.com/Resources.  If you have any other resources, websites, videos that would be of interest, please add to this list and to our zotero group bibliography.

Follow us on Twitter for updates about the event @FeminismLIS and participate in the Twitter conversation with the hashtag #feminismLIS.

We look forward to an enriching weekend!