Just into April and I’ve attended three 2015 conferences in very short order: Designing for Digital in Austin, ACRL in Portland, and just last week, OCULA Spring Conference in Jordan. I really enjoy going away and filling my brain with IDEAS. But then I come home to catch up with email and make sure I’m getting the basics of my regular job done and well, this all means that I haven’t prioritized sharing all the cool stuff from these conferences.
So, I’m going to work backwards & ‘strike while the iron is hot’.
Lots of Lightning
The #OCULA2015 schedule included two rounds of lightning talks. This is sort of unique, in my experience. Usually lightning talks are like the ‘appetizers’ of the conference world, and longer presentations are the ‘entree’. But I think this was an excellent choice. As I mentioned on Twitter, it was like a ‘show and tell’ for Ontario academic libraries. We got an opportunity to see the highlights of what people are up to, and the discussion was diverse and far-reaching.
- Jennifer Peters’ & Ewan Gibson’s fascinating work with Seneca’s digital media lab, the Sandbox. They’ve been enormously successful at developing modules on topics (like digital storytelling, ‘present awesomely’, and creating an e-pitch) and then being embedded into courses. So impressed by this stuff.
- Jennifer Thomas is on exchange from Australia, currently working at Ryerson library. I just love how she took the initiative herself to make this exchange happen & the interesting similarities and differences between her home and temporary places of work. Hilariously, both libraries were using the same stock image of a student.
- I got to hear Mindy Thuna & Joanna Szurmak talk about their interest in teaching with narrative again! I attended their 2013 OLA presentation & was inspired to try and use more narrative in my work. Just great to see how their research interest is evolving over time.
The only awkward bit with rounds of lightning talks is the Q&A (and this is not specific to #OCULA2015, elsewhere too). I think it’s difficult to ‘save the questions’ to the end of seven presentations. Which means that lively discussion and feedback are missing. I wonder if there’s a way to build in a few minutes of questions after each presentation, or whether that would completely kill the quick rhythm of this medium. I was also sorry that there wasn’t time for Q&A after the keynote speaker.
Colleen MacKinnon and I gave a lightning talk on the new UX team at Brock, using our ‘Get It!’ button story as a case study. It was a good (though tough!) exercise to force what you want to say into seven minutes. I hope we inspired others to ditch the ‘Get It!’ button too, if they haven’t already. It seems to be a hangover of when OCUL first pulled SFX in as a consortial arrangement, but it’s no longer necessary or in line with user expectations.
What do to with our ‘wicked problems’?
The keynote speaker, Karen Louise Smith , gave one of those talks that was so perfectly timed for where I’m at with all sorts of questions right now. Her title was ‘Design Thinking in Academic Libraries and Communities‘ and I wouldn’t be able to sum it up, but I’ll share a few of my favourite tidbits:
- Karen works with Mozilla on the Webmaker project and Hive Toronto. Both projects are deeply invested in digital media literacy & supporting people/ youth to become creators, not just consumers, of the web. I love this stuff — it’s right in line with my interests in getting more people understanding and editing Wikipedia.
- Facilitation is critical in empowering users, not just hardware. Our staff are key. For example, if you are introducing a 3D printer, we (library staff/ librarians) need to offer support that integrates critical thinking skills and information literacies.
- I’ve got to look up the UN’s ‘Design Thinking for Public Service Excellence‘ that she pointed to. Also that darn IDEO Design Thinking for Libraries that I’ve had on my ‘to read’ list for far too long.
- How you *frame* a design problem is critical. She encouraged us to be very conscious as to how we define a problem we are facing, before diving into generating solutions. “Every frame will result in a different solution/ websites/ app/ policy.”
- Karen pointed to a number of different models of Design Thinking, and made a connection to the iterative nature of action research (think, reflect, act).
The day ended with ‘Birds of a Feather’ & I joined the group considering how we can make connections with our local town or city. I thought I’d just be listening in, but it was a very engaging discussion and this felt like a really important topic the deeper we delved. One person mentioned how deep the ‘town & gown’ divide was in her city. We ended up focusing on building relationships with the local public library.
We talked about wanting to sit down together (univ./ college library + public library ), determine what the most pressing local needs are, and find out where the two institutions might already be overlapping. Someone came up with the excellent idea of developing a shared ’3D printing certificate’ that both institutions could recognize — why duplicate the training!? Our keynote speaker was at our table, and she said that, in the non-profit sector, there is a real need for support in accessing and making sense of census data and maps. What if the Data/ GIS librarian gave a presentation at the public library about accessing publicly available census data?
I also planted the germ of a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in order to engage local hobbyists or interest groups, and support the process with tech know-how (how to edit) and old fashioned librarian know-how (search for credible sources & cite ‘em). I had to leave early, but it appears the idea took hold & the group made a poster about it!
The OCULA spring conference has really found a groove with the lovely setting and small-scale in little Jordan. Never mind that the lunch by the Inn on the Twenty is beyond. Kudos to the organizers: my old pal Denise Smith, new colleague Mark Weiler, and Peter Duerr for an excellent day.