Reimagining the Conference Experience in a Post-COVID Library World

by | Nov 4, 2020 | 0 comments

Tony Zanders and Eleanor Cook

Session summary: In a Post-COVID world, conferences have entered a historic moment of transformation. As attendees sit at home in front of screens, organizers are tasked with balancing the pressing matters of today while preparing for potential issues of the future. These events play a central role in the library community’s strategy to exchange expertise. The need to share knowledge has increased dramatically as our institutions’ ability to use pipeline recruitment techniques have vanished in a time of furloughs, layoffs and job freezes. Talent acquisition, diverse or otherwise, is at a standstill. Eleanor Cook and Tony Zanders presented a discussion of the future of library conferences and their unique ability to mitigate inequity in the profession.

Tony and Eleanor represent the best of the old and new in our profession. Eleanor is in post-retirement after 35+ years in the profession, and Tony has completed a stint in an academic library as Entrepreneur in Residence. His new company, Skilltype, is developing a software platform for information professionals and their teams to analyze, share, and develop expertise. As we undergo a transformation to moving the traditional model online, what opportunities do we have to parallel process issues of health and safety alongside diversity, equity, and inclusion? Will this new environment make professional development more equitable for those who could not previously access it? Is this an opportunity to have new voices and perspectives shared? Can more people participate in developing relationships that lead to opportunities thanks to a wider”hallway?”

Eleanor Cook, Interim Head, Music Library, East Carolina University showed some photos of the conferences such as the 1887 ALA Conference and asked us to imagine what it would have been like to travel! It was a privilege and not like we do today, but even today there are still issues to address. Here are some limitations of place-based conferences.

;Virtual conferences do not provide direct networking opportunities, and attendees do not get the same cultural experiences especially if the conference occurs in a place they have never been to.

Tony Zanders, Founder and CEO of Skilltype, a talent marketplace for the library community to analyze, develop, and share expertise, said that half of today’s workforce will have to be retrained by 2025. which is very costly (large companies like AT&T and Google can spend up to $1B). Silltype has been building a global community to address the problems. We are all in this together and need to help each other figure this out

  • Professionals want to develop their skills and have access to every course created from anywhere.
  • Libraries want to train their staff members and incorporate training and development into key personnel decisions.
  • Training providers want to facilitate training and create a business model that provides training for people who most need it, then measure the impact the training has on the recipients.

Here is a comparison of professional development from 2020 through the next 5 years.

Conferences prior to the pandemic have expanded their online components to make them more affordable and accessible,. Historically, the online experience was subpar in some cases, but in a post-Covid world we will see a better quality experience and perhaps more hybrid conference attendance options . Morressier in particular has a unique solution for poster sessions and presentations.


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