The New Collaboration Conference Emerges

Gareth J Johnson

As lockdown library life continues, its time for a new kind of Collaboration conference to emerge to bring people together…at a distance.

As noted in my earlier article, here at the Mercian Collaboration we have been talking about how we can adapt our programmes and events to support a distributed library staff. There have already been discussions at a recent informal MSDG meeting earlier in April. Today it was the turn of our flagship event, the annual Collaboration conference, to come into the spotlight.

The Conference Group met today (29th April) to discuss how the ways in which we could pivot our usual packed day-long event, into a valuable and engaging online event. At our heart, the Collaboration has always been about bringing people together for empowering, enabling and engaging conversations. However, like many similar organisations before Covid-19, switching to online delivery was certainly not a key part of our strategic agenda. Consequently, this means in many respects we are seeking suitable, adaptable and accessible ways forward to offer an event which institutional library staff can get involved with: both as participants and presenters. We are not quite moving from zero, but at times it can rather feel like we are, a feeling I’m sure many of you reading this share.

As of today though, the Conference Group has agreed to move forward on an event for early September. An event which for the first time will be entirely delivered online and remotely from participants. We appreciate by then some things may have opened up, and indeed this re-opening may impact on the shape and scope of the event we offer, so our apologies if the conference seems to morph over the coming months.

What we do know is how we are planning to keep our originally announced theme ‘inclusion’, but broadening this more. In this way, we’ll be able to better accommodate speakers and delegates in the event to exchange experiences and share insights about how they’re coping with delivering library services in the ‘lockdown library’ era. At least that’s our ambition as of this article.

We also want to KISS for you. Sorry, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, that’s short for ‘keep it simple stupid’. This means we want to offer an event which requires the minimum of technological experience or kit to engage. That is why we envisage this conference as an event utilising a variety of platforms and routes to the content. Practically, this means there will be recorded videos to watch, live networking sessions to engage with other delegates, and even (we hope) some interactive workshops for those who’d like to go the extra online (figurative) mile.

Naturally, a lot of what we offer comes down to you: the staff at our member libraries. That is why when our call for proposals goes live in the very near future, we will be looking for people to come forward with exciting, interesting and engaging session ideas. As, unlike previous years, we’re not limited by venue restrictions, we may even be able to offer more content than ever before. Although, a small caveat here, all submissions will undergo committee scrutiny before being accepted, to make sure they are of sufficient interest to our community.

You may already be thinking: – a day long event online will be a challenge, given viewing online content for long periods is fatiguing: I’m sure you’re all becoming acutely aware of this fact. Which is why many sessions will be designed for you to consume at your own pace, dipping in and out as they’re released throughout the day. It is also why we are looking to host shorter presentation sessions than in previous years, including micro and lightning talks. Our hope is to offer a really great range of talks and format lengths that will be suitable for those with attention spans great and small. Plus, we hope many of our delegates will be willing to contribute pre-recorded snippets about their experiences as part of our ‘virtual coffee klatch’.

So, Mercian Collaboration Conference 2020: we think there is something in it, and we hope you do too. Keep an eye on this news feed, our discussion lists and twitter for news and announcements – especially our forthcoming call for proposals!


You can read more about the behind the scenes planning, and people, involved in bringing together this year’s event on the Conference Group pages. Contact group chair, Claire Browne ( or the Development Officer for more details.