Bibcamp4 – experiences with organizing an unconference as a student

By Sanita Maleja

On the 18th of March 2010 the unconference Bibcamp4 was held at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Latvia in Riga and was organized by LIS students.

The idea of organizing the unconference came to our minds when the question of the next BibCamp would occur. Students took the initiative as previous organizers didn’t show any for various reasons.

The first brainstorming was held on the 5th of February in which the overall topic of the unconference was decided: “Librarian education: significance, trends, necessity”. The further organization of the event took place on a wiki where all the students shared their ideas and updated tasks. It was the most convenient way as the organizers could not meet in person often. As it was the first experience of organizing such an event, we used the support and guidance of our associate professors which was a great help.

The organizing skills gained at our studies were a benefit so we could adjust ourselves with future tasks. Kristine and Viktorija took care of the blog and twitter account, while Ella and Silva planned the unconference to invite participants for the discussions.  Anna was in charge of PR while Sanita and Gunita prepared all the premises for the technical support. Lastly, the project supervisor was Dace. The main goal was to be creative so we can ensure that we had fun while fulfilling our responsibilities.

To ensure success with followed key “rules to success.” We had planned some presentation in-advance which, were welcomed warmly, additionally, the participants shared their own presentations. To ensure that the presentations would not be interrupted, we did not allow guests to walk or exit freely during presentations. The main purpose was to connect involve participants in the discussions in which the professionals had the most convenient way to come to creative solutions. The only planned events at the unconference were the panel discussion on librarian education and its compliance with actual needs of a library and current labor market (employers and employees of libraries as well as students were invited for debates) to focus on group discussions. The latter were held in two groups – students and professionals – each brainstorming on usage of information technologies while studying. The results will be used for the development of the LIS curriculum. The direction of the department of faculty of social sciences is currently working on considerable changes.  Study program is being overhauled to make it more progressive and suitable for the present state and needs of libraries.

Registration for the unconference
Registration for the unconference

To get a provisional number of participants we opened an online registration two weeks prior to the event with about 14 presentations announced, many of them being held by the leading professionals in LIS in Latvia. On the day of unconference 107 participants registered in person, only 40 of them being students and workers of the faculty which is a very good index comparing it to previous years.

Panel discussion on librarian education
Panel discussion on librarian education

We had nine presentations about the experiences at different exchange programs and the comparison to possibilities in Latvia as to inspire others for such an exchange. The BOBCATSSS 2010 team from Latvia did a presentation on their experience at the conference including the outcomes of the IFLA workshop. Some associated professors shared informative presentations on the aspects of library profession and on foreign models that the department would like to follow. All the presentations have been uploaded and are available via the Bibcamp4 blog.

Focus group – students discussing importance of information technologies at their studies
Focus group – students discussing importance of information technologies at their studies

Though, as predicted, the eagerness to present wasn’t as great with only two spontaneous presentations from participators, the questions and answers after lead to inspiring discussions that were hard to break. It was an emotional day which brought us – students – a lot of new experience and definitely increased the involvement and dedication to the profession.

Presentations led to a lot of discussions and encouraged exchange of opinions
Presentations led to a lot of discussions and encouraged exchange of opinions

The week after the unconference we did a follow-up questionnaire which gave us an evaluation on the event and positive feedback.

In general, the unconference was an adventure for young specialists to step out in front of established professionals and deliver the event with no previous knowledge. Today, a great team of enthusiasts is established. The students of LIS department have a blog running now and many activities and presentations at schools all over Latvia. This program is an all-reaching event, so it is not only to promote the LIS studies, but to educate and prepare the younger generations on information specialists.


Sanita Maleja studies Library and Information Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Latvia. Since autumn 2009 she is a representative of the LIS students and the Head Record Keeper at the Students’ Union of the faculty. In March 2010 Sanita joined the Young Specialist Section of the Librarians Union of Latvia focusing on international relations. Her main fields of interest are information retrieval, online publishing and languages.  Contact:


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