Wednesday, 6 July 2016

#ARLG16 part 1: Presenting

Recently, I have been lucky enough to present a workshop at the ARLG 2016 conference. This came about as a result of my winning ARLG’s Alison Northover Bursary, which I used to attend the 2014 ARLG conference.  I had such an amazing experience attending the conference that I was determined to contribute to the next one.

I kept my eyes open for the call for papers, submitted a proposal in December 2015 and in January 2016 found out it had been accepted. I was thrilled! The proposal was based around a book folding workshop, to be co-presented with an ex-colleague, Fran Heap. In the past, Fran and I had both used book folding to lead various library initiatives to engage users and raise the profile of the library. We felt we could share these experiences in the hope that other library staff may be interested.

We decided to pitch the workshop as a relaxation session, allowing delegates a little time out from the busy conference timetable. We wanted it to be a workshop in which people could collect their thoughts whilst allowing the therapeutic properties of book folding to take over! It was still a learning experience, as people discovered ways in which libraries may utilise book folding activities.

In the run up to the conference, Fran and I produced examples of folded book art to create a

display, and worked together on the presentation and accompanying handout. On the day of the display, I was worried not many people would sign up for our workshop as conference delegates often feel the pressure to absorb as much ‘academic info’ as possible in order to get value for money. My concerns were unfounded though as the workshop was more or less fully booked. Twenty-five of the thirty places were filled, plus there was a handful of people who popped in because ‘I just had to see what it’s like’. There was probably 28-30 delegates floating about the room at any one time, and had there been any more it would have been a little unmanageable.

During the workshop, we gave a presentation showing how we had previously utilised book folding, then invited delegates to create a piece to take home. During the practical element of the workshop, relaxing music was played along with a slideshow of book folding images. At the end, we drew names out of a hat and gave away 7 pieces of folded book art. Delegates also received a detailed handout, outlining the slides, a page of further information links and several step-by-step DIY patterns. Delegates pay a lot to attend conferences and we wanted them to have something to take away at the end of the day.

I was over the moon with how the workshop went and was on such a high afterwards. We received lots of positive feedback with people saying it was just what they needed at the end of an intense day. Many said they would try to introduce it to their own libraries and had gained lots of new ideas of how to engage library users. Several people event tweeted about the workshop, which was a lovely surprise. I made sure I replied to all the tweets which mentioned it.

Although I have done occasional presentations at day events in the past, this is the first time I have facilitated a conference workshop. I loved every minute of it! – but perhaps that was because it was a ‘fun’ session rather than a heavy-going topic. I especially enjoyed the chance to co-present the workshop. This was the first time I’d shared presenting responsibilities with anyone and it went well. We ran through which slides we would each narrate and there were no awkward moments between slides. In case nerves bettered us and we couldn’t remember who was to narrate which slide, we had teeny tiny visual reminders on screen. I heavily relied on these and would have been lost without them. We aimed for a conversational delivery and I think we achieved it. Working on the whole project with someone gave it an added element of enjoyment. I am currently a solo librarian so working closely with someone on a project isn’t something I experience very often, so it made a nice change of pace. Being able to bounce around ideas helped improve the overall quality of the workshop.

Since the workshop, I have browsed the slides and discovered a typo in one of the headings. Instead of ‘green week’ it says ‘greek week’. Neither Fran nor I noticed it, proving you can’t spot typos when your brain already knows what the word is supposed to say. I was mortified when I realised but laugh about it now. Not only did it remind me of the importance of proofreading, but also that you don’t have to be A* quality to present. A little mistake like that is human and had we noticed it during the workshop we would have made a joke of it. Not all workshops have to present ground breaking research; sessions which share experiences can be valuable too. Even ones which include typos! 

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