Editor’s note: This is part of a series of reflections by community members on the recent Library Publishing Forum. See the whole series. This post is guest written by Kate McCready and Laureen Boutang, from the University of Minnesota Libraries.
When we first considered the idea of hosting the Library Publishing Forum at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, we were very excited about the opportunities that could come from being a local host. We saw it as a way to strengthen our relationship with the Library Publishing Coalition, and support the work of the library publishing community. We also hoped that bringing the events to campus would allow our U of MN colleagues to have the opportunity to learn more about library publishing in general, and our program specifically. We thought it would build understanding about why our institution was devoting resources to scholarly publishing activities. Of course, we also wanted a meaningful conference for those attending! All of these hopes were realized and we learned a lot about bringing an event to campus as well.
As we dove into thinking about logistics and providing on-the-ground knowledge of the location, we realized that for our hopes to succeed, we had a lot of work to do. There were many details that would need our attention if the Forum and affiliated events were to run smoothly. Looking back at our work preparing for the Forum over the last year, it can be loosely categorized in four areas. First, we needed to gain buy-in at our home institution at many levels. Second, we had to work with many constituents (local colleagues, program committee colleagues, event staff, LPC colleagues, etc.) to determine the priorities and requirements for the events. Third, while the Forum is a self-supporting conference and the Library Publishing Coalition provides financial and logistical resources for it, we worked to provide additional local staffing and financial resources to support our priorities as the host institution. Finally, we spent time to get and stay organized.
Our first step was to pitch the idea of hosting the Forum to the U of MN Libraries’ senior leadership. Their support was based on an understanding that our university is an invested member of the LPC and that we wanted to “step up” our participation in building the organization. Having this central support at the outset provided the foundation for the rest of our work, but broader institutional buy-in was also necessary during the planning and implementation periods of the event. We needed support from administrative staff, events staff, facilities staff, technology support staff, and space “owners”, as well as our colleagues who volunteered to lead dine-arounds and help with other social activities. Once we knew we were moving forward, it was important to get those folks identified and informed early in the process. We then needed to provide clear instructions and support to them to ensure that they didn’t feel burdened or confused.
Setting Priorities & Requirements
From our local host perspective, we eventually identified three priorities. These included ensuring that attendees had a good conference experience, that we were sensitive to ensuring the conference was as affordable and accessible as possible for both the association and the attendees, and that we could showcase the U of MN-Twin Cities campus and its libraries without overextending our resources. Having these priorities articulated at the outset of the planning phase would have been helpful, but when we did manage to articulate them, we realized they had been guiding our work from the beginning. It was only when the priorities conflicted (e.g., the best experience was relatively expensive) that we spent more time exploring options and deliberating. Our local priorities also needed to be balanced against the possible space and hotel options requirements, and the program committee’s priorities.
The Library Publishing Coalition did not require or ask for any financial resources from the U of MN Libraries. The LPC staff were always careful to make sure any resources that we provided were done because we wanted, and could afford to provide them. We worked collaboratively with LPC staff to determine which events were a good fit and benefited most from Library support. The main Forum event was held at the McNamara Alumni Center, a full-service event space on campus, but we ended up providing spaces in two campus libraries for the affiliated events (a preconference and two affiliated workshops). We also coordinated the dine-arounds and the social outing to the Guthrie Theater. We booked and organized the reception space details and offered tours of our new archival research and storage spaces. These were all “extras” that came about because of our priority to showcase the U of MN, our city of Minneapolis, and also to be good hosts. Each of these extras required additional resources and effort. Most of these needs were relatively small, but they did require an allocation of staff and finances. Nothing was individually significant, but it added up. It’s important to note that it was our choice to undertake these activities, and that future hosts may choose to take a less “hands on” approach.
Figuring out these details required lots of meetings, planning documents, and coordination between the Program Committee, LPC staff, local events/IT/communications staff and ourselves. Keeping track of and communicating all the information between the groups was sometimes difficult. Ideally, we would have had fewer meetings with more of the key players all together. For example, our local hosts representatives met with LPC staff and the chair of the Program Committee every couple months, and then had similar meetings separately with our Libraries’ events team. That duplicated some effort and it would have been nice to merge some of the meetings. The were also a lot of details to track, and the documents and spreadsheets used to organize those details were numerous. Knowing where the decisions were tracked and who was responsible for what detail was essential. Having a master checklist would have been helpful since there were many folks involved in organizing the events who were each keeping track of details in various ways.
If you’re thinking about submitting a proposal to host the Forum on your campus, here are a few recommendations:
- Set your priorities early. What does your organization hope to gain from being the local host? Having a shared understanding at your institution of your goals will help you decide which types of activities you might want to undertake as the host and what kind of resources you can devote to them.
- Choose spaces wisely. In planning for the pre-conferences, we learned that our libraries’ spaces are typically only used for small, shorter events that are “owned” by the Libraries. Our organization rallied, but was not accustomed to all the needs that a day-long conference demands when bringing over a hundred people together. It was worth the work for us, but you should realistically determine how much you and your organization can support with the resources and staffing you have available.
- Get early buy-in. Gaining the support of senior administrators at the outset lays the groundwork for moving forward. After determining the spaces and your hopes for supporting social events, brainstorm what resources you will need as soon as possible. If you’re using spaces that don’t have built in conference staffing, make sure you have enough people on hand to help with directions, room setup and breakdown, technology troubleshooting, and general logistical support. This is also the perfect time to ask for a budget to support any local priorities you’ve identified outside of the standard Forum budget.
- Use project management tools. Have a shared to-do list and master calendar for the events for all parties involved. This will reduce duplication of effort and make it easier to track decisions and details.
Overall, it was a wonderful, rewarding experience that we’d highly recommend. We had so many additional opportunities to network with our colleagues from across the LPC during the planning phase as well as the formal and informal events. Our Libraries had a unique opportunity to attend both the Owned by the Academy preconference and the full Forum. The enthusiasm and feedback we received from them has been electrifying. In addition, we had the opportunity to shape the Forum into the kind of event we would be delighted to attend. Based on the positive feedback we received on the associated social events, we were glad we coordinated those (and we personally had fun attending them!). The benefits definitely outweighed the work, *and* we were very glad when it was all said and done. The only downside of having the Forum here was missing all of our colleagues once they left!
Kate McCready & Laureen Boutang
University of Minnesota