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Event review: FestivIL by LILAC 2021

In this blog post, the CILIP Information Literacy Group’s Comms Team member, Louise Minta, reviews FestivIL by LILAC 2021. This was an online event spread over three days in July, organised by the LILAC Committee.

Louise Minta
Louise Minta

Back in December 2020, the LILAC committee had to take the difficult decision to postpone LILAC: the Information Literacy Conference for the second year in a row. Moving LILAC online was considered as an option but the Committee decided that, given factors such as the complexity of the programme, the length of the conference, and the time zones of the various delegates, this wasn’t something that could be done in a way that would be a positive experience for attendees (or for the committee!). So instead a new idea was born… FestivIL by LILAC.

FestivIL by LILAC was an online event to share knowledge and experiences, and to bring the information literacy community together as we continue to work in what is a very different professional environment for many of us. FestivIL took place across three half days over 6–8 July 2021 with delegates given the option to attend all three days or choose the day/s most relevant to them, and connect with IL professionals across the world.

Each day featured different Main Stage Speakers, who provided a pre-recorded video prior to the event so that the ‘live’ session could focus on questions from the audience:

Emily Drabinski (Interim Chief Librarian, Mina Rees Library, Graduate Center, CUNY) – Teaching the radical catalog (watch online)

Alison Hicks, Maud Cooper, Sae Matsuno, Eva Pickersgill, David Smith, Grace Troth (UCL Department of Information Studies)  –  Black Lives Matter, Brexit and Covid-19: Information literacy in a post-2020 world (watch online)

Barbara Fister (Project Information Literacy) – Information Literacy in the QAnon Era (watch online)

There was also, as you would expect, a wide variety of Parallel Sessions to choose from including masterclasses, talks, and poster presentations. Links to slides and pre-recorded videos (where available) can be accessed via the FestivIL website, however the sessions themselves were not recorded to encourage people to participate freely.

So far, nothing too unexpected here, albeit with slight changes and adjustments from your usual face to face conference or event. However, what caught my attention was the inclusion of “Campfire Conversations” in the schedule – something I had yet to encounter at any other online event or conference. At the beginning and end of each day attendees were randomly assigned to campfire conversation breakout groups, as an opportunity to network and meet professionals from around the world. A selection of suggested “starter” questions were provided, which was really helpful in breaking the ice, but essentially each group was free to chat about anything of interest. Unsurprisingly, the first group I was part of discussed the impact of lockdown on a variety of education settings! The last campfire conversation of each day was a great opportunity to chat about anything that had piqued your interest, or your main take-home from the day’s event. Thoughts could also be shared on Twitter using the hashtags #FestivIL and #innovativeIL.

Although initially feeling a little bit nervous about being put in a “room” with a bunch of strangers, I really enjoyed being able to take part in the social side of the event and felt it worked really well. Everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming  (and may even have been feeling a bit nervous too!) and it actually meant I got to meet lots of new people who I might never have got chatting to at an event “in real life”. Sometimes it’s nerves, sometimes it’s because you don’t know anyone else there, sometimes it’s because you’re so busy catching up with friends/colleagues of old, that you actually don’t get to chat to many new people at events and conferences. I for one would love something like this to be included for all attendees, in addition to “newbies” sessions, when events and conferences are back in 3D!

The FestivIL by LILAC website is still available online, as is the FestivIL channel on YouTube for all pre-recorded video content.

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