One Big Library Unconference attracts participants from Ontario and the US

The future of libraries, including the idea of having one library without borders worldwide, is the main topic of discussion at the One Big Library Unconference tomorrow, June 27, organized by the York University Libraries Emerging Technologies Interest Group (ETIG) and hosted by York University Libraries.

Some 90 people, mainly from Ontario with some from the US, are expected to attend the One Big Library Unconference at the Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Avenue (north of Dundas Street) in Toronto.

What is different about an "unconference", compared with the usual scholarly conference, is that the content of the sessions is created and managed by the participants, and the final program is decided upon by the them. The talks will be informal and interactive with more than half of the time allotted dedicated to small group discussions. Everyone will be expected to contribute in some manner.

"The topic, the idea of the One Big Library, is one that’s of special interest to me," said William Denton, Web librarian at York University Libraries who, with colleagues Stacy Allison-Cassin and John Dupuis, is organizing the unconference. "It’s a sort of a new idea, and one of the things we want to get out of the day is that people will talk about it, think about it, and go off with ideas about how to build more of it."

One of the people coming from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, will be available to talk about Zotero, a personal research management tool that will help people build their own personal branch of the One Big Library.

Whether they are medical libraries or business libraries, all libraries are already connected by telephone, interlibrary loan and the Internet. The concept of having one big library is a way to further link all the libraries around the world. In an interconnected world, all libraries can really be thought of as branches of One Big Library, whether physical or virtual in nature.

"We hope that some new projects and collaborations will get started, and that there will be a lot of discussion about what people are doing and how it could help or be used by someone else," said Denton. "Librarians love giving away what they do, and there are a lot of systems and Web librarians coming who make it easy to share huge amounts of information online."

In addition to discussing the future of libraries, the unconference will look at what tools are needed to support and extend the One Big Library and the uses of social software in libraries. The goal is to bring people interested in the future of libraries together with the hope of sparking collaboration and cooperation, and starting conversations between people in different kinds of libraries as well as with people outside of libraries.

"The unconference came about because some of us on the Emerging Technology Interest Group in the library wanted to have an unconference. They’re fun and interesting, of course, and they’re a new model of how scholarly communication and collaboration can work," said Denton. "The people in ETIG are interested in how libraries fit in there and how things are changing. And they’re just a lot easier and more flexible to organize than a conference."

For more information about, visit the One Big Library Unconference Wiki or visit the York University Libraries Web site.