Library “unconference,” Quasi-con back for second year

The second annual Quasi-Con “unconference,” sponsored by the University of Michigan student chapter of the American Library Association, takes place Saturday, February 2 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the School of Information in North Quad. This year’s theme is Minding the Gap, which poses the questions: What might we do differently in our libraries, archives, or services; what might we add; what might we give up?

Quasi-Con is part unconference, with participant-driven workshops and conversation, and part traditional conference, with presentations and other planned events. More than 70 students and professionals attended the first Quasi-con in 2012, engaging in conversation and information-sharing on libraries, archives and information work.

Kelly Davenport

“Quasi-Con is a great chance to build your résumé through professional engagement, and trade ideas with peers and professionals,” said Kelly Davenport (MSI ’13), Quasi-Con’s planning committee leader. “We are hoping it becomes an annual tradition and professional outlet for library and archives students.”

Informal small group discussions characterize the “unconference” portion of the event. The afternoon schedule includes a set of lightning talks and panel presentations. “The un-conference model is meant to be more informal and egalitarian, and therefore more dynamic,” said Davenport. Participants will discuss and explore new service models, technologies, user populations, communities, and new collections, as well as underserved communities and new chances to collaborate and innovate.

“I had never been to an ‘unconference’ before,” said Karen Stover (MSI ’12) about last year’s event, adding that the unplanned agenda resulted in some great discussions. As a member of this year’s Quasi-Con steering committee, she is “excited to be a part of something that has brought UMSI together in new ways.”

New at this year’s event is the chance to earn digital badges by conference contributions. For example, someone who actively participates in the un-conference portion by consistently providing input may be nominated for an "Idea Generator" badge. The badge can then be showcased online, in a personal portfolio or social networking site, and will be linked to specific evidence of what the attendee did to achieve the badge.

Kristin Fontichiaro

Shauna Masura (MSI ’13) is working on implementing the digital badges, along with UMSI clinical assistant professor Kristin Fontichiaro and students Sharona Ginsberg (MSI ’13) and Victoria Lungu (MSI ’13).

Masura wanted to get involved in Quasi-Con 2013 after hearing last year's organizers speak at the 2012 Michigan Library Association Conference. “Their impressive enthusiasm and vision captured my imagination,” she said. “Digital badges are a newer concept, but I believe that they will be an important tool for libraries in the coming years, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to test out these new ideas in an atmosphere like Quasi-Con.”

“Our goal is to give students a low-pressure chance to present their work to a library-friendly audience,” Davenport said. “We’ve also found that professionals get a lot out of interacting with students and exchanging ideas. This event is really set up to unite people of all different experience levels.”

Quasi-Con is open to all students, library/archives professionals, and community members. There is a $10 fee, which covers breakfast and lunch. Out-of-town guests may contact organizers for assistance with parking. For more information about Quasi-Con, email alaofficers@umich.edu.

POsted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013