14 Mar 2014

I2c2 Innovation, Inspiration and Creativity Conference: using positive disruption to improve libraries. March 6th and 7th, 2014-03-13

Guest Post by Hugh Murphy (@hughtweet), Senior Librarian Collection Management Services, NUI Maynooth Library

Over two days in Manchester, a group of 100 librarians came together to unlock some creativity at i2c2 (#i1c2).

Brendan Dawes provided the first keynote. As a designer, working with digital data, Brendan’s work reminded me initially of David McCandless of 'Information is Beautiful’ fame, but as his talk progressed, he focussed as much on the analogue as the virtual. Speaking in a very informal and impassioned way, a huge amount of what he said would resonate with anyone working in our data fuelled profession today. His skills at visualising data were ably displayed, as well as his creativity in using this data via exhibitions and apps such as Kennedy and interfaces such as doodlebuzz.

Brendan’s projects and his reasoning behind them were fascinating; from a professional perspective, I really liked his maxim that ‘Design is finished when there is nothing left to take away, not when you have nothing left to add’ – which some of our systems and database vendors could take to heart perhaps. His appeal to make data resonate with people through image and narrative was very well received- as were his many references to 1960s James Bond movies. All in all, an ideal keynote, in terms of content and delivery, witty and provocative, from someone who very obviously loves what he does and excels at it. Seriously, check out his stuff - http://brendandawes.com/

The rest of day 1 was spent in a haze of Lego blocks, flip charts and the occasional [more] traditional talk - all of which were meant to inspire a more creative approach to what we do, and all of which were effective, in very different ways. It was a welcome surprise to find out that playing with Lego is now a legitimate way to solve ‘grown up’ problems (no, really!) and the time spent at ‘serious play’ was hugely enjoyable and instructive and dovetailed nicely with group sessions along the lines of discursive problem solving, which happened throughout the 2 days. As with any conference which has parallel sessions, some of the ones I missed sounded useful – particularly the University of Manchester staff talking about innovation in projects such as Eureka!. The workshop using Ketso to map and manage change had great potential, but perhaps suffered from a lack of time, making it hard to understand why the Ketso scheme would work better as a methodology over more traditional organisational mapping, or a world cafe, for example.

Day two started with David White, and academic who researches how we use the web for learning and identity. Using models such as ‘visitors’ and ‘residents’ which seek to move beyond the much quoted (and oft-derided) ‘digital native’ idea, David’s words will have chimed with anyone who has tried to promote critical evaluation of information to a user. As with Brendan Dawes, a very thought provoking keynote, which asked librarians to focus more on thinking about content, rather than curating it and the cultivation of a ‘pedagogy of questions’ over the quest for answers.

Again, Day 2 had its fill of group challenges and collective creativity. Although I missed it, the session entitled Bringing it Home: Tools to Bridge the Gap Between Inspiration and Real Action, which aimed to show attendees how to positively persuade, influence, and motivate their colleagues received huge praise from people lucky enough to attend, and comes highly recommended. The afternoon’s sessions included a variety of short talks and more structured presentations and while a little shorter than some previous sessions, worked very well as a quick snapshot of the creative work which is going on in our profession.

This entry really doesn’t do justice to the depth, variety and sheer vibrancy of i2c2 and anyone interested is urged to view relevant tweets (#i2c2), blogs and the conference website. It can be hard to justify attendance at any conference in these straitened times, let alone defend attending one which occasionally channels ‘The Lego Movie’, but it is critical that we understand that creativity is an essential part of what we do, and how we do it. It’s all very well paying lip service to it – we need to be ever more proactive in encouraging everyone to think creatively. As such, a brave and innovative conference like this undoubtedly is of benefit as much, if not more so than some of its more traditional equivalents and I suspect every attendee came away with inspired thoughts about how to improve our services


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