Connecting information professionals across upstate New York.

Just What is an Unconference Anyway?

By Alexis Mokler

While I have never attended an “unconference”, I have spent the last five years attending conferences held by UNYSLA, NYLA, etc. I originally dreaded the idea meeting in a room full of strangers to talk about topics that were entirely new to me as a 1st year library school student and later as a 1st year librarian. I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me.

Over the years, I have met some of the brightest, most interesting, and in some cases, well-connected librarians and information professionals in this country. At the UNYSLA Fall 2009 conference in Syracuse, I discovered that Janice R. Lachance, SLA’s CEO, and I grew up in the same small town in Maine!

If you are still unsure as to whether this will benefit you, read on for more information on Unconferences.

Read on…



Alexis Mokler, UNYSLA Director, Membership & Recruitment

An unconference, as defined by Wikipedia,  “is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations.”

Tips to Maximizing Your Unconference Experience

  1. PARTICIPATE –  The key to a successful unconference is participation from every attendee. Topics and the resulting discussions will only benefit you if you speak up and share your ideas, concerns, and stories.
  2. MINGLE – By only talking to individuals that you already know, you will be unable to expand your current network, which is ultimately the true purpose of unconferences.
  3. LISTEN – While it is very important to speak up, it is just as important to listen to your fellow unconference attendees. Use open-ended questions after you pose a point to continue the conversation and let others express themselves respectfully.

For more information:

Library Camp @ Syracuse – Advice for Participants
The Unconference Blog
Article – “How to get the most out of conferences”, by Scott Berkun

And be sure to post your own topic suggestions on the Speak, Share, Learn event page on Facebook.

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