Best Practices: Conferences, Training, and Communities of Learning (Part 2 of 2)

A few suggestions for trainer-teacher-learners attending a conference as large as the American Library Association (ALA) annual meeting held earlier this month in Anaheim or the California Library Association conference to be held in San Jose in November 2008: draft a schedule of meetings and events you want to attend. Keep it with you as a basic roadmap of what you hope to do. And deviate from it as often as you can.
Having informal communities of learning in place is certainly not a prerequisite for attending conferences, but it certainly helps, as “Library Trainer” blogger Lori Reed notes in one of her own reports about the Anaheim conference. The wonderfully fruitful encounters, as mentioned in an earlier Infoblog posting, can be as numerous as they are unplanned.
One example makes the point: Infopeople webinar presenter Kelli Ham and I, having always worked online together rather than ever meeting face-to-face before traveling to Anaheim, decided to get away from the crowd one night, so drove to a restaurant just on the periphery of where the conference activities were scheduled. We walked into a nondescript pizzeria and found we were the only two people in the place. Within five minutes, three other people came in—one of them being a colleague from ALA’s Continuing Library Education and Networking Exchange (CLENE) training group—and the five of us spent the rest of the evening continuing a somewhat raucous conversation on the training-teaching-learning themes we had been exploring ever since arriving in Anaheim a few days earlier.
It’s all about the sort of continuing collaboration which helps us nurture what already is in place: connections between those of us who are affiliated with Infopeople and/or are members of CLENE and/or are active in the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and/or are participants in the LibraryLearning Google Group which has attracted more than 60 members in the less than 30 days which have passed since Lori established it.
You can’t always plan the sort of community-building and community-nurturing which I’m describing here, and you certainly can’t stop it once the seeds are planted for a process of continuous learning in which everyone is a trainer-teacher-learner. Where every place is a meeting place, a classroom, and a learning lab all at the same time. Where ideas fly faster than they can be captured on paper or in blogs. And where some of them are spreading informally through viral learning—their informal transmission in the form of conversations which continue in other settings, with other interested members of our community. Which, of course, is comprised of anyone who is a trainer-teacher-learner. In other words, anyone working in libraries today.