Lifting the lid on Internet Librarian International

How Internet Librarian International's conference programme takes shape.

Traditionally, the late May Bank Holiday in the UK, and Memorial Day in the USA, mark the start of summer when thoughts turn to holidays, long warm evenings in the garden or at the beach, picnics and barbecues. Here at Internet Librarian International the end of May also marks the last stage of programme development for Internet Librarian International before the programme itself is unveiled during June – leaving just over four months until the conference itself takes place in London on 21-22 October. 

The importance of delegate feedback

The process of putting the programme together starts immediately after the close of the previous year’s conference, with a survey sent to all delegates to get their thoughts about which sessions and speakers they found most useful, which topics they would like to see covered in more detail, and which experts would they like to see featured at future events. This year, this process was complemented by social media activity which asked information professionals and librarians to share insights into their challenges and priorities for the year ahead.

A team of experts

Key to the whole  process are the conference co-chairs and Advisory Board, who together provide a breadth of experience and outlook – vital to Internet Librarian International’s cross-sectoral approach with coverage for all information sectors and services – academic, corporate, public and school libraries. This year’s co-chairs are Information Specialist and Information Consultant Phil Bradley; Thomas Brevik, Librarian at Lindås Public Library in Norway; Marydee Ojala, Editor in Chief of Online Searcher magazine from the USA; and Donna Saxby, Librarian at Kingham Hill School, in the UK.  The Advisory Board includes members from around the world.

The next step is to put together the Call for Speakers, which is announced in February each year. Desk research into trends and innovations shaping the information industry is combined with formal and information conversations with info pros from around the world to identify the theme for the year and to come up with the key topics that should be covered in the conference itself. This year’s theme is 'Positive Change: Creating Real Impact' and with that in mind, potential speakers were invited to send their ideas which demonstrated how they are using transformative new ideas and services to make a positive impact on their organisations.

Once all the speaking proposals are in, the process of winnowing  them down begins. This is never easy.  This year, in particular, hundreds of submissions were received, from all over the world. With only three main conference tracks and two days to work with, there simply isn’t enough space to accommodate all the excellent proposals sent in, so some difficult decisions have to be made.

At the same time, the process of inviting keynotes and other expert speakers begins. Again, ILI strives to have keynote speakers who convey the breadth and diversity of the information world so, for example, a leading academic librarian may keynote on Day 1, and be counterbalanced by an entrepreneur who has a new and interesting perspective on our digital future as the keynote on Day 2.

Shaping 'the delegate journey'

In many ways, the most exciting and also the most challenging part of the whole process is fitting all the building blocks together. What is the 'journey' that a delegate might take through the conference? How do the sessions and tracks complement one another? How does the programme accommodate opportunities for reflection and discussion, not forgetting networking and socialising?

This year, there are also some exciting new developments to look out for as ILI continues to expand, and to reflect the many ways in which librarians and information professionals are making a real difference to their organisations. The 2014 conference programme will be unveiled in June, so watch this space!