Back with better questions

Concept map from another THATCamp

Image from Bryan Alexander: Retrieved from, and used according to a Creative Commons Attribution License.

I attended THATCamp Libraries on Saturday.  Instead of  answering my professional questions this event steered me toward more productive questions.

First I attended a workshop entitled Building Collections to Support Digital Scholarship.  Ian Graham showcased some interesting digital projects at Wellesley College.  The Browning Letters project came about partly because Wellesley College and Baylor University each has a Browning collection that complements the other’s.  Another set of letters was digitized for course reserves because it complemented the course content so well.   As a Board member for USM’s Franco-American Collection I now ask where our holdings could complement course content or  another collection’s holdings.  Conversely how can class projects add value to the collection?

Before lunch several participants shared interesting digital projects from their own institutions.  I hate to single out any of these lightning talks, but I’ll mention Catherine Fahey’s list of literature apps and Dartmouth’s leisure reading guide.

At lunch I sat in on a discussion of gaming in academic libraries.  We participants imagined games for instruction, games in the collection, and spaces for students to create games.

I led my afternoon session, Beyond the Container: teaching Genre Awareness for Digital Information.  This free-form discussion was framed by the following questions:

  • How can we best foster genre awareness?
  • Why does genre matter?
  • How do we deal with blurred, hybrid, or emerging genres?

Though we participants came to no conclusions, we raised important questions of how to best partner with subject faculty on these matters.  We also asked how we can balance teaching why we cite with teaching how to cite.  We asked ourselves about alternatives to the one-shot instruction session as well.  I can hardly do justice to the participants’ comments: I hope my colleagues got as much out of the discussion as I did.

Finally, THATCamp was my first experience of an unconference, which is more participant-driven than is a standard conference.  The format can pose logistical challenges, but organizers and participants deftly handled scheduling issues.  I enjoyed the format.  If you have attended an unconference, what were your experiences?