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.