Monday, 20 November 2017

Conference (i2c2) reflection from Daan

During the i2c2 conference, I gave everyone challenges to complete - Daan Van Loon's was to write a summary of the conference! So here it is...

“Is this normal for a library conference?”
- the old me –

I have been to conferences before, as a linguist, an historian, musician, teacher, even as an actor. But this was my first library conference, and I was very much aware of that fact as I walked out of the Joseph Rowntree Conference Hall on Cober Hill, near Scarborough, on Tuesday morning. Something was happening, and not only to me. Anthropologists state that it is possible for panic to act like a contagious disease. Inspiration can do that as well. I know. I was there.
It started with the announcement that we had to create our own nametag. Before I knew it I was chatting with fellow colleagues on how there can never be enough feathers on a badge, how orange sharpies had to be somewhere in the vicinity and musing on whether my own badge would pale in comparison to the incredible creations of my peers. Looking back, it is clear that we probably almost all had that feeling, as ‘hidden under any bushel you will find twenty-four librarians, apologizing for taking up space’.
To hell with linear reports, I will come back to that first afternoon later. I want to go the start, the thing that changed us. The keynote by Emma Coonan, presented on Tuesday morning of the 14th of November. She showed us a mirror, her own mirror image, the mirrors that we create around us and the mirrors that we should always use, but almost never do.
Be free to fail. Do not distance yourself, but stay close. Be humble. Be proud.
I do not know whether she had anticipated this, whether Andrew Walsh had anticipated it, but Emma showed us all a side of being a librarian that took us exactly where we had to be. At least, that was what happened to me. It felt like we all shed some weight, moved out of our library traditions, corporate duties and fears, and became a group of friends, eager to spend more time together. Eager to play and eager to create. And then there was Lego. I like Andrew’s comment on twitter after the conference, that ‘it isn’t about the Lego’. It was about what we envisioned the Lego to be. Animals, ideal librarians, everybody nodding along to completely different interpretations of the things that we do and the things that we are. I have not felt more at home in a work-related environment in years. We talked about how innovation can be blocked, how hard it can be to overthrow old perceptions and prejudice. We laughed about all those obstacles that stand in our way, because we are free to fail. Proud and humble.
I love how memory is not a linear thing, because my mind has connected all the amazing and inspiring papers that were presented to that first keynote. Because they were about how we could create new ways to be librarians, using sound, zines, theater, games, embedding ourselves, mapping and having spaces to make stuff. They were about how easy it is to fail, but also about how rewarding it is to try, or to paraphrase my dear colleague from Chattanooga, Tennessee: ‘there are countless roads to your destination. The one that gets you there is the right one’. I think that at that point, had the I2C2 conference been finished, I would have been satisfied, having been truly inspired. Then the second keynote happened.
Rosie Jones told us, on Wednesday morning, that she only had a PowerPoint so that she would not sidetrack too much. She then took all that energy, all the inspiration, the creativity and open ideas of the previous days and started to mold it. Rosie talked about how to get out into the real world and actually use that inspiration as a librarian. To use failures in a professional capacity, to not be daunted by the weight of responsibility. To play. If you think that something is starting to get too bureaucratic, change it. A meeting with too many points on the agenda? Change it. Boring conferences without any interaction? Change it. Let people cheat at your games, because it is not the game that matters, but that it is played. And fail, fail badly.
When I got back to my library yesterday, my colleagues asked me how the I2C2 conference was. What the latest intel on information literacy is. If I have any new ideas. I talk about Lego and play do, about meeting lovely people, about feeling secure enough to play the piano for them in the morning. About cider tasting, ice-cream and steampunk folk. It is only after that first round of standard chitchat that I suddenly turn serious and say that I have probably just been changed for life. That I will probably not forget this first library conference as long as I am a librarian. That I feel sad that it is already over but ready to rumble at the same time.  
There is now a post-it on my laptop. It says:
Be free to fail. Do not distance yourself, but stay close. Be humble. Be proud. And PLAY.

Daan van Loon


  1. Dear friend,

    I have seen your blog here, It is nice to meet you! I will keep watching it in future. on more thing.all Nice all well.thanks!

  2. Nice to read your article! I am looking forward to sharing your adventures and experiences.
    aliza sheikh

  3. Nicely written! I myself attended a meet while attending a bunch of corporate events NYC for my company. I was hoping it to be over soon, but the topics were really nice and the conversations really sparked up. It was a good experience all in all.

  4. Thanks for sharing your valuable experience. After reading your blog, it seems that this conference is interesting and would love to attend such in near future.