Some quick thoughts on the 2015 Collective Conference

picture of Chad in front of Knoxville Sunsphere
Obligatory Sunsphere selfie, proof I was there.

Most library conferences I have been two lately are mega events, often requiring trips to strange (and hot) lands like Las Vegas. Some colleagues found a new conference, that was cheap, small, and offered an alternative to those traditional sage-on-the-stage venues.   The conference was called The Collective, and happened to be located in a town where I had lived for 7 years.  These are some ideas and observations from The Collective 2015 Conference in familiar (and cold) Knoxville, Tennessee.

Returning to a city that you lived in for 7 years, having been in your profession for 13 years since you left, can make you feel really old. I visited my old apartment building; it looked the same. However, so many things have changed, like why did they get rid of O’Charley’s on the Strip?

One would hope that by driving 400 miles south, one would be greeted with warmer temperatures.  It was -10 in Knoxville, and -18 in Athens.  So I guess that’s a little warmer?!?

There are always those one or two people who have to ask the last question, or have an opinion or insight in every single conference session. This can be exacerbated by smaller conference settings.

I’d like to make a Collective-like mini-conference-like thing for library staff in our building to sign up and present. My initial idea is that folks could do a 10-minute-max show-and-tell (wow-that’s-a-lot-of-hyphens) of productivity apps, email hacks, or just about how they work.  I envision that folks could submit proposals via a Google form, then the organizer(s) of the mini-conference could organize the session in a logical order.   I also envision lots of coffee and homemade baked goods.

I like to play with others, and enjoy doing so. However, attending two 1.5 hour sessions back-to-back where “we will break into small groups and talk” is a bit much. I left the second session to attend a more “sit-back-and-listen” presentation. I’m all for group activities, but they can be draining as well. I appreciated that the Collective gave a mix of both listen/question and active/workshop/engage/discuss program formats. Kudos for choice.

I’m still a sucker for PowerPoint versus the “let me live demo this for you” presentation. I’m a big fan of a loose script, not so much of the freestyle.

For an upcoming presentation on how to make videos, I want to do some video success stories of some of my colleagues. The plenary speaker had a couple of video testimonials, which added a great deal to her PowerPoint presentation. I think my colleagues offer some great insight, and this could showcase more than one expert on the topic.

Sched.org rocks. That is all. I loved how easy it is to choose what I want to attend. I even got an email each morning telling me what my conference schedule was for the day. Very cool.

Best catch phrases (likely paraphrased):

  • On leadership: “Sometimes when you are good at something, you keep doing the same thing. ” You don’t grow and it limits you.
  • On solving a problem: “We talked a lot. We’re academics, so we formed a committee.”
  • On library streaming video:”Discoverability preceeds usability.”
  • On the hours and scheduling of the library at NCSU:  “It’s complicated.”

Favorite session:  “Staffing the Commons”  .  Good, practical advice, and the discussion after the presentation was great as well. Writeup to follow once I can wrap my head around things.

Session I had higher hopes for:  “Project Management Tools and Tips“.    I read “tools” to mean productivity and teamwork applications, such as Evernote and Trello, but it was rather Word templates for asking the right questions about a project.  Another colleague had a similar interpretation, so perhaps a different description would have led me to another session.

Attendee dinner reception: It’s very hard to beat beverages, BBQ, blues, new and old librarian friends. ‘Nuff said.

Water bottles and messenger bags make for great conference swag.

Being able to stay in the same hotel as the conference is pretty awesome.

We drove 800 miles round trip for the conference, and planned to make our stay a little longer and more leisurely.  However, snow going down forced me to drive 35 mph all the way to Cincinnati, and the threat of more snow pushed us to leave the conference early on Friday, missing the final two sessions.  Regardless of the drive, I thought it was a good conference and would love to attend (and perhaps even present) again.

I applaud the folks at University of Tennessee libraries for putting on a great conference.  This conference serves as a model of what small conferences should be.