Guest Blogger: Cara Evanson, Research and First Year Experience Librarian, “History of Our Library Our Conference”

Cara Evanson is the Research and First Year Experience Librarian and has worked at Davidson since 2011.

From May 13th to 21st, library staff were searching the E.H. Little building. But not for lost books or items students left behind during finals. They were participating in a conference, of sorts, albeit one that had taken a unique form in this pandemic year.

The origins of Our Library Our Conference, an in-house conference for library staff at Davidson, date back to 2015. At the time, I had been having conversations with colleagues about wanting more opportunities to learn about and celebrate staff expertise and work happening across library departments. While catching up on an issue of College & Research Libraries News I came across an article titled A Conference of Our Own: Creating an In-House Professional Development Opportunity. Written by librarians Shellie Jeffries and Christina Radisauskas, the article describes how they planned a day for their colleagues at Aquinas College dedicated to “sharing, teaching, and exploring with each other.” After reading it, I was excited to try out their idea and create a conference by and for library staff at Davidson.

Our Library Our Conference was first held in 2016, and over the years this annual conference has shifted in response to circumstances and feedback from the library staff.

Our Library Our Conference First Year, 2016, Left to Right, Jon Hill, Jean Coates and Joe Gutekanst

It has taken on a more informal vibe, and conference “field trips” to spaces like the music library, rare book room, and mailroom have become an ongoing feature. In 2020 the conference was held on Zoom and included a Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! style trivia contest spotlighting library staff stories and projects. This year, the conference planning committee created a scavenger hunt with each clue showcasing library staff collaborations and accomplishments from the year. The scavenger hunt could be completed individually and socially distanced at any time during the week.

Field Trip to the Music Library, 2019, Jon Hill sharing his expertise and enthusiasm

What hasn’t changed over the years is the purpose of the conference – for library staff to share with each other, learn from each other, and explore with each other. Regardless of the format, the conference is a chance to reflect on and celebrate our roles and the work we do. And it couldn’t happen without the hard work of the planning committee. Alexa Torchynowycz, Joe Gutekanst, and Sharon Byrd have stayed on through two years of pandemic-adapted conference planning. A big thanks to them, and to the whole library staff for making 6 years of this conference possible!