Un-brella 2013

UN-brella: bringing the unconference spirit to Umbrella  2013

On 2-3 July around 600 delegates came to Manchester for Umbrella 2013, the flagship conference of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). An impressive variety of expert speakers, inspiring presentations and demonstrations of cross-sector engagement all featured, making this a superb event for connecting people in the library and information world. Adding to this ethos of progressive collaboration was UN-brella, a series of unique learning and networking opportunities in the guise of unconference style events. Holding an unconference within the usual conference format was the perfect opportunity to offer an exciting, experimental and stimulating sideways glance at the traditional library conference. I was privileged to joinunbrella the UNbrella team* who under the guidance of Franko Kowalczuk proposed  a lineup of social and unconference activities designed to complement the main conference programme and enable Umbrella 2013 to reach new spheres of professional engagement.

        *The UN-brella Team L-R:Franko Kowalczuk, Annie Johnson, Carrie Wright, Helen Kielt, Oliver Key.

 Why an  unconference?

Unconferences have grown in stature most evidently with the nationwide explosion of Library Camps- events which are now regularly bringing the library community together at points all over the UK and Ireland. The unconference is built upon a formula where content and discussion is driven by participants, as opposed to a small number of pre-determined speakers. Have you ever attended a traditional conference session and felt after a short period of time that you were not getting out of it what you expected, however were too embarrassed/scared/polite to move elsewhere?unconference The unconference advocates the principles of Open Space Technology and the Law of Two Feet**. At an unconference you have the freedom to decide where you need to be and to take yourself there. By taking charge of the agenda you take ownership of your own learning and your participation becomes what enables the learning of others. Ultimately, if you show up, you’re vital to the whole thing. That’s really empowering. Little wonder unconferences such as Library Camps are now the go-to event for people interested in the library and information world.

What did UNbrella offer?

The purpose of UNbrella was to add something unique to Umbrella and to give traditional conference goers a flavour of the unconference experience. This was done via two main brackets: UNbrella (alternative events, debates and activities) and Cocktail UNbrella (the bit where people come together to socialise). The UN-brella stand was located among others from CILIP special interest groups and it was here that the Prison Libraries Group hosted ‘Heaven or Hell’ tombola- a fun and interactive way to share stories and experiences from prison librarians. A bingo theme continued with ‘Human Bingo’ running throughout the conference, a networking game which got delegates talking and asking some of the more unusual ice-breaker questions(!)

Mini Library Camp was a fundamental part of UNbrella which offered a taste of the larger Library Camp experience. We were thrilled to have present two experienced advocates of the library camp movement, Richard Veevers and Penny Andrews who led a Mini Library Camp on each afternoon of the conference. This was an opportunity for people to come together, learn about library camp and to set an alternative agenda to the main Umbrella, albeit for a couple of hours. Imagine the experienced, intelligent, passionate information professional who sits in the audience at a traditional library conference- put them in a library camp forum and suddenly you get to see their passion, hear their intelligence and learn from their experience. See the difference? I can still picture the wide eyes of one delegate who left a mini library camp session at UNbrella stating it was the ‘best part of the conference so far’.

The Umbrella programme contained a number of panel debates on topics such as ‘Where does the Internet end and the library begin?’ ‘Community managed libraries’ and ‘Leadership in the information profession’. UNbrella planned follow-on sessions for each debate, giving a chance to continue discussion with panel members and delegates in a more intimate and unstructured setting. Teasing out points, asking pertinent questions and voicing opinions were what these sessions were all about. In the spirit of unconferences this was an opportunity to generate debate and information sharing in a very open way.

Unconference events are naturally built upon social engagement and networking and in essence every aspect of UNbrella was an attempt to capture this. However there was a dedicated social strand to UNbrella which was very important. Pre-conference drinks on the eve of Umbrella gave a chance for people to meet and network, introducing first timers to the UNbrella agenda and why this was going to be a library conference with a difference. A lot of delegates travelled from all over the UK to Manchester for Umbrella and were invited to kick off the first day with an early morning breakfast along with the UNbrella team. Similarly UNbrella hosted the alternative conference dinner and quiz event, where delegates had the chance to let their competitive sides out (all of these social UNbrella activities contained a number of prizes).

What did UNbrella hope to achieve?

For two days UNbrella represented an alternative vision for the future of library conferences, showing that the unconference can offer something unique and valuable to the library community. Unconferences seem to go some way in quenching an admirable thirst in the library community for sharing, networking and learning. They offer a platform from which we can push the boundaries of how we learn and grow professionally. UNbrella hoped to go some way in promoting the benefits of Library Camp and unconferences to a professional community and show that the traditional conference can be adapted in creative ways to meet the needs of participants. It showed that as information professionals we don’t have to follow one formula or convention but instead can be creators of our own learning environments.

**Harrison Owen’s Four Principles of Open Space and Law of Two Feet:

1) Whoever comes are the right people

2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have

3) Whenever it starts is the right time

4) When it’s over it’s over

Law of Two Feet: if at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use your two feet and move to some place more to your liking. Such a place might be another group, or even outside into the sunshine. No matter what, don’t sit there feeling miserable.

(Adapted from: http://www.openspaceworld.com/brief_history.htm)



CILIP: http://www.cilip.org.uk/

Unconference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference

Unbrella: http://unbrella2013.wordpress.com/

Library Camp Ireland: https://sites.google.com/site/irelibcamp2013/event-archive


By Helen Kielt (@HelenKielt)


Un-brella Team Image c/o Helen Kielt.                                                                                                         Un-Conference Graphic c/o NPDIreland via http://cooltext.com/


New Professionals around the World

New Professionals are great networkers and community builders. This has already lead to a large number of groups for and by new librarians around the globe. We compiled a list of initiatives for you to get an overview on what is happening in different countries and areas of the world. . Also check out the NPs around the world-twitter list which is a great resource to follow the day-to-day business of these groups!

New Professionals Day Ireland has been updated to the IFLA New Professionals listing. Check out this blog for more details and connect with our international colleagues.


As part of our New Professionals Day we will as you know be tackling Twitter and it’s use as an information tool for us all.

If you’ve not joined Twitter yet – do – it’s so simple to sign up.

A whole new world of information will be at your fingertips and you can become more involved in #irelibchat – exchanging ideas, knowledge and top tips as well as sharing experience with colleagues across the island of Ireland.

Check out Libfocus for more info.


Who is NPD?

On the build-up to our first event we thought a little introduction to the group might be required.

NPD was set up in May 2012, but really didn’t kick off properly until post the capstone frenzy, by 5 MLIS students from UCD SILS 2012.

The primary objective of NPD was to try and promote a sense of community amongst ‘New Information Professionals’ and provide an outlet for those interested in entering the field.

This was all borne from a visit in May to the London based event  CILIP NPD 2012.

A group of MLIS students who we met at CILIP New Professionals Day 2012 also started a similar organization in Manchester.

Manchester NLPN is currently unaffiliated with other organizations.

Wanting to get the first NPD Ireland event up and running as soon as possible, we  decided to remain unaffiliated with any other groups at that time with a view to possible affiliation in the future.

Traveling for work and other commitments meant that the group became 3 in December.

NPD is currently comprised of Marie-Therese Carmody, Sarah Connolly and Peter Fleming.

Our inaugural event is self-financed by the NPD team and is free to attendees.

Whilst other groups have been very supportive in terms of helping us to publicize our event on Twitter, Facebook and in the various ILS institutions we are currently not officially affiliated with any groups or organisations.

We do appreciate all the assistance we have received from our communications and interactions with ILS institutions, the current students themselves and our colleagues within the wider Information Profession in Ireland.

With a fully booked day, we and all of the hosts and our keynote speaker are looking forward to our first event.

Thanking you,

NPD Ireland

Theory into practice…

For those currently pursuing their studies on the road to becoming an information professional, do you question whether all this theory will be of use when you graduate and are working within the field?

As we’ve previously mentioned, we are all recent graduates of UCD SILS, but our experience on putting the theory from our various courses into practice applies to all who pursue this career path. Two of our number are employed in Irish libraries, which is not bad for being recent graduates, and one is in full time employment but not within the Information Professional field. However, within all our jobs, we have utilised our learning from the Masters, putting into practice various aspects that have enhanced our own working environments.

  For myself, within my first proper week of working in a library, I had to assist a Ph.D student with SPSS software and explain quantitative and qualitative research. Since then I’ve assisted numerous students with their research, pointing them in the right direction for their particular area of study. So those of you, currently going through the rigours of observation, notation and then the transcription of your interviews for Research Methods II be assured, it will come in handy!

Two of us, one in the library field and one without, have utilised our attendance on ‘The Teaching Librarian’ course producing information literacy sessions for both academic and business audiences. We both have utilised Articulate software, Dropbox, and Prezi in order to develop and enhance our teaching sessions. I have encountered through my work with both Undergraduates and Post-Graduates, that the Kulthau model on the information process rings true for most. Whether a fresh faced teen or the more mature researcher, we can all encounter problems. As an information professional, I assist them but also provide encouragement and hopefully support in their research quest. I’ve also encountered students who suffer library anxiety and as someone who felt that self-same feeling when I first became an Undergrad, I understand only too well how that can impact on one’s studies. So all our learning from Claire McGuinness’s excellent class has already in such a short space of time, been put to good use and into practice. Luckily for us in Dublin, Claire has taught at both UCD and DBS.

So what about the core ‘librarian’ skills of cataloguing I hear you cry as you struggle with your assignments for AACR2 and MARC21 et al? Christoph at UCD has taught us all very well, and I have to admit for myself I have become a committed cataloguing geek.

I completed a voluntary project during the summer whilst completing my MLIS and working full time, with Christoph’s advice ringing in my head.  I poured over the AACR2 manual, figuring out how I should go about cataloguing particularly tricky items as ‘every day is a school day’ in cataloguing. Subsequently, I have gone on to assist in another voluntary project, but this time utilising Dublin Core. Whilst loving AACR2 – Dublin Core is ideal for this particular project. Most ‘librarian’ roles incorporate some aspect of cataloguing and the joy of Dewey so rest assured you will be utilising it. If you manage to catch any of Jane Burns presentations, she will also illuminate the importance of understanding taxonomies, cataloguing and classification and it’s utilisation outside the library realm.

Of course, the one area that all modern Information Professionals should be aware of is the field of web and IT skills. Whilst we don’t need to be programmers, we do require the skills to understand what is required to provide information effectively. Luckily, I attended Web Publishing and Information Architecture and I have incorporated the learning from them both into all aspects of my paid and voluntary work. Understanding and being able to code in HTML has been of huge benefit, as is being familiar with aspects of web design and information architecture. Completing usability testing and creating pre and post test questionnaires have already been a huge benefit to me in my working sphere. Completing projects that allow you to create and learn in a safe environment, before you test out your ideas in the world of work, has been an invaluable exercise.

So take heart, enjoy what remains of this semester and work hard, the rewards both personally and professionally are very high. The sense of achievement when you incorporate some of your learning into your working life is immense, or at least it is for us. Each one of us has found that the MLIS has provided us with many skills as well as the interest and knowledge to seek out and improve on what is becoming a solid skill base for our future careers.