While we were in Singapore for the IFLA World Library and Information Conference, we attended IFLA Camp2, an unconference run by the IFLA New Professionals Special Interest Group.
For those of you unfamiliar with the format, an unconference is a twist on a traditional conference. Instead of conference delegates forming a relatively passive audience attending a pre-determined program arranged by a committee, the un-conference delegates are instead participants. Together, they collectively create the agenda for the day and then participate actively through discussions and other activities in each part of the ‘program’. Sometimes unconferences are also called ‘Bar Camps’. This approach to conference and events seems to have largely developed from the technology industry, however it has been picked up in a range of industries including the library and information profession.
IFLA Camp2, was hosted at Li Ka Shing Library, at the Singapore Management University. The event ran over 1 1/2 days and included between 30 and 40 participants from all around the world. After some debate, the group decided on topics and a structure for the event’s discussions as reflected in the below photographs.
So what are the ‘pros’ of unconferences?
What I enjoy about unconferences, and IFLA Camp2 in particular, are the opportunities they create to get to know colleagues. At so many conferences networking is rushed and squeezed in between the scheduled sessions. Because of the more interactive nature of the unconference model you have an opportunity to interact with the other participants a great deal more than you would at a traditional conference. At IFLA Camp2 I got to meet many amazing librarians who I could then continue to build connections with throughout the IFLA WLIC.
And what are the ‘cons’ of unconferences?
The more active model of interaction demanded by unconferences doesn’t suit everyone’s learning styles. Some might find the collaborative decision making model difficult and others find it difficult to speak comfortably in this kind of environment. In an example like IFLA Camp2, we were operating within a complex international social environment where not only were many different primary languages at play but also different cultures and different cultural expectations. It is important when we create events like these that we ensure that different types of learners and people from different cultural backgrounds can find ways to participate.
We had a great time at IFLA Camp2, and find the unconference model a useful addition to the range of models out there but we want to know what you think.
Have you been to an unconference before?
What did you think?