Thursday, December 13, 2012

Staff Development Unconference

This book is available from WMRL.
On Wednesday, Dec. 12th I attended a staff development unconference facilitated by Sam Eddington, with the Eastern Shore Regional Library, and Helen Blumberg with the State Library Resource Center. We were there to learn:
  1. Under which circumstances we might hold an unconference as opposed to a more traditional staff development event, and,
  2. How to facilitate an unconference that is productive, fun, and educational.
There were several take-aways that I'll highlight. The first being that if you don't already have the book, Library Camps and Unconferences, you need to buy it. Right now. Sam says it is worth its weight in gold and has been the most valuable piece of staff development literature he has read to date. He planned and facilitated his first ever unconference simply by following the advice in this book. 

The second take-away is in order to have a productive unconference the theme should be something that's flexible yet long-standing. For example, customer service has many facets and has not yet yielded any quick and easy results. Therefore, a topic such as this would lend itself well to an unconference because it would ideally generate lots of discussion. One topic that would not lend itself well to an unconference format would be, "how to teach patrons Microsoft Excel."

The third take-away is that in order to be successful, an unconference doesn't need to result in deliverables. The discussion and ideas and connections made during the process of the unconference is success in and of itself. Although, should deliverables happen, then they happen.

I actually had an ulterior motive for coming to this unconference. I had recently been volunteered to investigate how MD libraries could make use of video streaming technology such as UStream and since I did not have any experience with UStream I thought the unconference would be an appropriate venue for picking the brains of other folks who may or may not be involved in this project. And I was right. It was extremely valuable. Working with Shayna Siegel, Sam Eddington, Helen Blumburg, and Kim Smithson, the group of us walked out of there with 3 events that we're going to attempt to stream live to UStream. 
  1. What I learned at the SLRC conference & why you should attend, too (Dec. 17)
  2. MLA Conference Updates with Emily Gamertsfelder and David Dahl (Dec. 19)
  3. Technical Services: Top Trends in an Ever-Changing Library World (Jan. 22)
 Some remaining take-aways that might be helpful for me to mention here are:
  • Start small. Your first unconference shouldn't be a group of 200+. How about 20 or 25 instead?
  • You can apply the unconference flavor to all sorts of events: un-meetings; un-performance reviews, etc. Be creative!
  • The space for your unconference should be very flexible - able to move chairs that are lightweight; lots of white boards and markers; etc.
So what am I going to do with my new-found knowledge? Well, besides tackling the UStream project with more enthusiasm, I will share what I've learned about unconferences with the Tri-County Summit 2013 #makeithappen Team. Perhaps a portion of the Summit could be unconferencey; maybe an un-breakout session? How would you like to see unconferences comes to the region?

1 comment:

Sam Eddington said...

I'm really, really glad this was helpful to you! Also, you did a better summary of the event than I did, so thanks for that!