Video interview: One organizer’s hopes for Unpacking the “Library”

B Sides associate editor Melody Dworak interviewed B Sides editor Julia Skinner about her goals as an organizer for the upcoming conference, Unpacking the “Library”: Exploring Works in Progress Across the Field of LIS.

iPad and iPhone-ready video link:

Why host a student-run LIS conference? from Melody Dworak on Vimeo.


So…why are we doing this?

What does LIS students taking their learning into their own hands look like? How about a student-designed conference featuring student research for the librarian community at large. 

Students from The University of Iowa School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) are convening a conference March 25 at the Iowa City Public Library. The conference, Unpacking the “Library”: Exploring Works in Progress Across the Field of LIS, will highlight current scholarship being developed at SLIS and by alumni, and is free and open to the public.

With Unpacking the “Library,” co-editor of B Sides journal Katie DeVries Hassman (SLIS class of 2011) said, “Students have the chance to present their work in a supportive, familiar environment and the opportunity to take part in guided, educational conference opportunities.”

“A lot of places require you to participate in conferences as a part of your job,” added Julia Skinner (SLIS ‘11), B Sides co-editor. “It’s really good for your resume if you also present at them and you have new ideas to bring to the table. It makes you look like a mover and a shaker rather than just someone who goes there and sits there, which I do too, but presenting is also good.”

According to Skinner, B Sides was founded as a journal with a dual purpose–for SLIS students to share work and as a place that provides educational learning tools. Unpacking the “Library” satisfies both aspects of that mission, she believes.

“We have developed educational materials and organized presentations that support conference participation throughout a variety of stages,” DeVries Hassman said. Organizers have collected resources that share best practices in conference participation; coordinated a session to support first-time presenters in preparing–led by SLIS faculty member and American Libraries YA columnist Dr. Jennifer Burek Pierce; and will provide feedback forms for the student presenters so that conference participants might take part in the students’ professional development experience.

The conference will take “that focus of professional development and education and move it into a new area for something else that people aren’t familiar with from just going to school,” Skinner said.

Skinner herself has benefited from feedback received from presenting at conferences. She studies censorship in WWI libraries in Iowa and presented at an ALA annual conference where she said attendees provided invaluable input into the direction of her research.

Presenting at conferences is “a good way to get feedback on your work as well as a good way to build up your resume,” Skinner said.

While the B Sides editors may have envisioned convening a conference where SLIS students could present their research, they have benefited greatly from teaming up with leadership of the SLIS Library and Information Science Student Organization (LISSO) as well as the hands-on-task workhorses who came on as the journal’s associate editors in the fall.

“I used to work for a company that designed and developed conferences for educational purposes and know how much work has to go into it,” said B Sides associate editor Melody Dworak (SLIS ‘12). “The more hands we can have helping, the better.”

Unpacking the “Library” is a full day of learning, commencing at 9 a.m. with a keynote address “Remixing the Library” by the founders of B Sides, Angela Murillo and Rachel Smalter Hall (both SLIS ‘10) , and concludes at 6 p.m. after a panel on special issues in collection development.

Other highlights include a panels on information literacy, radical librarians, and using technology to further personal and professional goals. Organizers are also excited about hosting a panel of seasoned librarians who will be providing insight into what employers want as soon-to-be graduates embark on their first job hunt as MLIS degree holders. Those invited panelists are Maeve Clark, Jacqueline Snider, Mike Wright, and Susan Marks, and they represent the areas of public, special, academic acquisitions, and academic libraries.

“I hope everyone enjoys having the day to get together. It is a rare occasion that we get the chance to meet and mingle with all the other students,” DeVries Hassman said. “It will be great to have the chance to get the various cohorts together, alumni, first and second years, and even, hopefully, some those students in the next incoming class to share experiences and research.”

For more information on Unpacking the “Library,” visit the conference website at, check out the B Sides Twitter feed at and or Facebook page at

More conference attending advice

We’re not the only ones who think it’s good to make the most of your conference attendance. ALA Joblist Direct linked to this article in today’s email newsletter. The article’s heavily boiled-down advice?

  1. Plan
  2. Converse
  3. Don’t work
  4. Follow up

For the Unpacking the “Library” conference, “converse” and “follow up” are key things to be thinking about. It’s nice that this article frames the former as conversation having rather than networking. “Networking” as a term can feel so goal-oriented and personless. As in, “I’m looking to do X so I need to network with person Y.” “Conversing” allows the experience to be more open and exploratory. It’s not about checking job titles off a must-meet list!

The “follow up” advice is crucial for grad students and those entering the field. A new librarian can’t get a foot in a door if he or she isn’t up walking around already. For some of us, we’re not going to have this much time to think and try on new ideas. For those with no extra time for that, building the space for it might be what’s needed to transition smoothly into what’s next.

Volunteers needed!

B Sides and LISSO are looking for 5-8 volunteers who can be available to help us convene the upcoming conference Unpacking the “Library”: Exploring Works in Progress Across the Field of LIS. The conference is Friday, March 25, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The following is a list including (but not limited to) the things we’ll need help with:

  • Attending to the registration table
  • Setting up table and chairs
  • Taking down tables and chairs
  • Digitally recording presentations (cameras provided)
  • Time keeping
  • Miscellaneous running around

Volunteers will have their lunch provided for them and be able to list the volunteer time on their resumes. Please email bsides(at)uiowa(dot)edu to sign up for this opportunity.


Attn: SLIS poster presenters

B Sides and LISSO conference organizers want to offer you all a final chance to submit your poster abstracts to the “Unpacking the “Library”” conference to be held this March 25th at the Iowa City Public Library.

All you need to do is:

  1. Send a copy of your abstract (that same abstract you just turned in to the office) by March 7th, to
  2. Send your draft power point poster design (that same one you will be working on for the final presentation in April) by March 11th 3:00 p.m., to

And the conference organizers will print a draft version of your poster for you, set up your poster for you at the conference, and provide you with a space to gather feedback and comments on your poster and presentation. All you need to do is prepare your two-minute talk and show up for one or both of the poster presentation slots.

We are still finalizing the day of conference schedule, but there will be two poster presentation time slots so that if you are unable to make it to the morning slot you can make it to the afternoon.

Remember, this is good practice and a great place to get some feedback on your poster presentation. We will be providing feedback forms for your audience to fill out throughout the day so you can gather comments and advice from your peers.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. If you see us in the halls, please stop us to ask or feel free to email us at

Printed poster drafts being sponsored!

Good news! For those presenting posters at Unpacking the Library, B Sides and LISSO are able to fund the printing of a poster draft. The finished poster can be an investment in terms of time, effort, and printing fees. A draft poster will help ensure a presenter knows what they’re getting before they commit to a finished product. Another good reason for presenting works in progress by SLIS students!

Conference Submissions Open

Looking for an opportunity to grow as a professional in your chosen field? Want to present all that research you’ve worked so hard at? Need feedback on a work-in-progress?

B Sides and LISSO have an awesome opportunity for you! You’ve heard about our conference, Unpacking the “Library”: Exploring Works in Progress Across the Field of LIS, and now it’s time for you to get involved. Just submit an abstract of any research you’re doing that relates to the future of library and information science as you see it. Work done for a course, outside research, or even an early draft of your poster are all welcome as submissions. As always, B Sides will offer a peer-reviewed opportunity for you to develop professionally and get your research out there.

So start thinking about what you want to present! To submit, email your 250-500-word abstract to bsides(at)uiowa(dot)edu by February 1, either by pasting it into the body of an email or attaching a file as a Word, PDF, or text document. Questions can be emailed to bsides(at)uiowa(dot)edu.

Regardless of whether you want to present, please consider volunteering to be a peer reviewer for the conference submissions. Contact us at bsides(at)uiowa(dot)edu if you are interested in having that as a line on your resume.