Planning a Regional Code4Lib: North 2013

As I have recently joined the code4libBC planning group, I thought I would reflect a little on how the planning happened and worked for code4lib north even though it was a while ago.

How it Began

Interestingly, it was one of the cataloguing librarians that noticed there didn’t seem to be anyone who had stepped up to host North this year, and wanted to host it at Ryerson. She approached me since I was the most active code4lib member at the time. She got another one of the cataloguing librarians involved, and I roped some of my team members into it.

Initial Planning & What We Promised

A lot of things were determined themselves:

  • The space was the nicest larger space on campus that would be free to us.
  • The dates were the only 2 consecutive days in the month of May available for that space. Conveniently, it was a Thursday and Friday.
  • The number of registrants were based on space.

Other requirements:

  • Tables and chairs had to be booked through facilities.
  • Podium had to be unlocked by media services, so that had to be booked too.
  • Wireless internet logins simply needed to be requested from IT.
  • Power bars we had in our stock of IT stuff.
  • Registration was done through eventbrite, since it’s free if you have a free event.
  • Lunch we decided would be a “on your own” since we were right downtown with lots of great options that are better than campus catering.

What we decided to promise participants was based on a budget of $0, but with the hope that the library (i.e. the chief librarian) was willing to fund coffee for the morning at least. So we promised people space, wireless, power, and coffee. Anything beyond that was extra.

What We Delivered

Beyond just wireless, power, and coffee/tea, we also got:

  • a small amount of breakfast food,
  • name tags (because it’s a 2 day event, and I can’t identify half the people by their names, only their twitter handles),
  • reservations for lunch groups and socials,
  • an untheme for the unconference.

The Schedule/Structure

Since the regional is an “unconference”, we didn’t want it to be too structured.

In order to get a better idea of how it worked last year, I spoke with @copystar who was the main organizer when it was at Windsor. Based on her comments and discussion with a few others, we decided on a similar structure as last year’s. Both mornings were dedicated to presentations, while the afternoon were set aside for hacking/workshops/discussion. We also began the first day with an opening talk by @waharnum on the untheme “computational thinking”.

We also had socials the night before the first day and the evening of the first day. I honestly don’t know how many people really showed up, but next time, not sure we need to make a reservation rather than picking a time and place.

What Actually Happened

As we wanted to encourage everyone and anyone who attended to speak, we did have some short presentations (5-10 minutes) at the beginning of the afternoon. Afterwards, we split up the room so that those doing a large discussion was at one end of the space. Some of the ideas thrown up on the wiki also never happened, but that is to be expected.

Next Time

Since there was only one presentation screen, whenever someone was at the front of the room, I think everyone felt like they had to pay attention, which was not our intention. For those that prepared a “workshop”, I think what would work better next time is to have them maybe do a 5 minute brief and then have them break off into a group that’s interested to know more.

Other than that, I think the structure worked well, and we more or less scheduled the right number of presentations in the morning.

Take Away

It’s all about getting people together, so you don’t need anything fancy or even anything particularly structured, just organized. We had a good team of people willing to do various things, particularly the cataloguing librarians did a lot of the university-side of things (facilities, media services, etc.) and booking reservations for lunches and socials. Overall, I think North went quite well this year and there were definitely a lot of great talks. I can only hope BC will be even better!

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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