Having returned from the CoFHE 2009 conference in Edinburgh on Friday evening, I’ve almost managed to catch up on sleep since and gather my thoughts on the event. I’ll write separate posts for the sessions I attended (otherwise this would be a mammoth post!), but thought it would be useful to give an overview and highlights of the conference first.
After an eventful journey (involving three trains when it should have been one!), I was pleased to meet others on their way to the conference for the last bit of the journey. We made our way to the registration desk where we were met by members of the organising team who were all extremely welcoming and helpful. This was evident throughout the whole event – it was organised very well and you were always able to find help if you needed it.
The theme of the conference was “E-libraries and Green libraries: exploring accessibility and sustainability” and many of the talks/workshops addressed current issues such as sustainability, dealing with the recession, copyright, and using new technologies.
There was plenty of opportunity for networking, with refreshment breaks throughout the conference held near an exhibitors space. It was also good to be able to talk to the exhibitors in a more relaxed atmosphere (e.g. during mealtimes); I think this is beneficial for both the exhibitors (who gain an insight into our needs) and potential buyers (who can speak to the companies on a more personal level).
The catering was fantastic, and we enjoyed a quiz on the first night (which I enjoyed although contributed very little to my team’s efforts!), and a gala dinner on the second evening with a speech from Biddy Fisher, Vice President of CILIP.
The venue was also excellent, and I was particularly inpressed with the ease in which I could access the wireless network from the LRC where the event was held. As the QMU campus is also fairly new (built in 2007), it was also a great opportunity to get ideas to take back for our new build, and we were taken on a guided tour by Jo Rowley, Head of Library Services at QMU.
There was a good mix of workshops, although I did find (as always seems to be the case!) that some of the sessions I were interested in were running simultaneously.
The main lessons I learnt from the conference were:
- Not to be too ambitious about what you can achieve in the evenings – I planned to write up all the sessions in the evening and also bought work with me which I hoped to find time to do but didn’t even get chance to look at.
- Plan to arrive early, especially if you are using public transport – I did actually do this, and was so relieved I had as I was nowhere near as early as I’d planned due to train issues.
- Travel light – you’re not going to need anywhere near as many clothes as you think you are.
- Don’t be afraid to meet people you don’t know and introduce yourself to others – CoFHE is a group where many people know each other and attend each year, but despite this they were still very welcoming to newcomers such as myself.
- Find out the conference hashtag (or make one up if there isn’t already one) and use it in all relevant tweets – great way to follow sessions you can’t attend as well as finding other attendees. You can also use Twitter beforehand to find out who else is attending the event.
- Take advantage of plug sockets when you possibly can – my netbook only lasts a couple of hours and the workshop rooms had no power sockets. If you are planning to use your laptop/netbook, use a socket if you can.
- Plan some time to explore the area the conference is held if you’ve not been before – I had an afternoon to have a quick nosy around Edinburgh but it would have been better if I’d planned more time to see the sights, many attendees stayed for an extra day or two.
- Find out a bit about the local area – luckily, I met up with a local librarian who I knew through Twitter and we had a lovely lunch together before I followed her directions around Edinburgh.
- Accept that you are likely to be shattered by the end if the conference and allocate some relaxation/sleep time after the conference – I spent most of the weekend resting and gathering my thoughts on the topics and issues raised over the three days.
All in all, it really was a worthwhile event in terms of both content and networking opportunities – I met some fascinating people and it’s always interesting to talk to other librarians about their working environment and share experiences. It was particularly good to be able to meet more people from Twitter, both at the event and also in the local area.
Many thanks to CoFHE West Midlands for providing sponsorship to enable me to attend. 🙂