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