#Citymash 2015 – unorganising an unconference

In the summer of 2014, as a respite from my dissertation, I spent a day at Pi And Mash, a Mashed Library unconference held at Senate House library. Mashed Library, as its website says, aims to bring “together interested people and doing interesting stuff with libraries and technology “.

I attended sessions covering topics such as “So you want to be a systems librarian”, how to analyse the logs of self-check-out systems and how to introduce a new discovery system, as well as watching the slow progress of the 3D printer.

In the pub later, bouyed up by enthusiasm and a few pints, I (and another CityLis student Sarah Stewart) foolishly tweeted that Citylis (City’s Library and Information Science department) should consider hosting the next event. Lyn Robinson and Ernesto Priego actually took us up on the suggestion and #Citymash was born.

Lyn, Ernesto, Sarah and I were joined by Ludi Price (a City PhD student), Andrew Preater and Karine Larouse from Imperial College and Simon Barron from SOAS. As many of the team are big hitters in the world of library technology, and they all knew more people in the library/technology world,  I wasn’t sure what I would be able to contribute. However, while they arranged sponsorship, booked rooms and tried to rope in session leaders (including our own James Atkinson), I found a number of areas where I could help.

Monitor Twitter in the run-up to the event. As well as promoting the event via Twitter, it was also important to respond to tweets about the event.  A lot of tweets were from people who were coming on their own, trying to work out if they’d know anyone there. Making contact with them in advance helped to ease some nerves, as they felt that they knew us by the time they came. Twitter was also an easy way to answer quick questions about te nuts and bolts of the day – travel, timings, catering etc.

Keep everyone caffeinated. We were lucky that Ernesto managed to secure enough sponsorship to pay for tea and coffee in the mid-morning and lunch breaks.  But as we weren’t offering tea and coffee on arrival, we made sure to tweet the location of the nearest caffeine en route to the venue. Quite a few people were grateful for the advice to head to Pret before coming down to City.

Keep everyone fed. Actually this wasn’t too much of a problem. We asked everyone to bring some food to share, and ended up with way too much! If anything, have a plan for getting people to take home their food, or to redistribute it at the end of the day.  But do make sure you bring plenty of paper plates, disposable cutlery and napkins. If you can arrange labels to identify vegetarian, vegan and gluten free food, that’s popular too.

Make friends with the security team, and say thank you later. We were really lucky to have a very helpful security guard on hand. After the first hour or so, we were able to hand over the registration and reception to her. She was do helpful that we all nominated her for a Wow award afterwards.

Book a pub for later (and confirm the booking!). Although the event was due to finish by 5.00, people were keen to keep chatting to their new friends/contacts/Twitter buddies, so having somewhere to go onto helps to prolong the event.

Somewhere to unwind. We were lucky to have access to more rooms than we needed for sessions, meaning that one room could be left free for anyone who needed a quiet space for reflection and relaxation. One attendee who suffers from sensory overload found this especially helpful and later tweeted their thanks. It’s not something I would have thought of in advance, but would definitely suggest in the future.

I hope that CityMash will run again in 2016, and I’ll be there to help out if it does, armed with more paper plates.


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