Online Conferences and Learning: An Interview with Jane Dysart

Photo: Jane Dysart

I was lucky to speak with Jane Dysart, a member of IFLA’s Knowledge Management Standing Committee and Continuing Professional Development Committee and Workplace Learning Standing Committee! We talked about her work in supporting online professional development learning, LIS trends and what’s in store for her upcoming virtual conference!

Ray: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! With the shift to digital learning, it is unfortunate that all in-person meetings and conferences have been cancelled or converted to online formats. What are your thoughts on this approach and why did you decide to combine Computers in Libraries & Internet Librarian virtually together? 

Jane: Yes, very sad to miss all our fun learning and networking face-to-face events. However, Information Today is hoping to make our first virtual library event,  Computers in Libraries & Internet Librarian Connect, an exciting online learning and interactive experience. Computers in Libraries was scheduled for late March in Washington DC and we had to cancel it a few weeks before.  Internet Librarian was scheduled for mid-Oct and early in July it became apparent that we couldn’t hold an in-person meeting even though we’d already planned the conference and had shared the program online.  We wanted to do a virtual event to honor those who had registered for CIL and agreed to roll their registration over to 2021 and we wanted to reach our fans of Internet Librarian too. We also wanted to experiment and learn the ins and outs of virtual events. So voila!  We put two strong, already planned, programs together, checked with speakers, and created a very ambitious 5 day event online!

Ray: What are some exciting sessions that you’d like to highlight from Computers in Libraries & Internet Librarian Connect this year?

Jane: We’re very excited about the format of our new event – each day of the week from Monday September 21 through Friday September 5. We’re starting early in the morning ET and including “Talking with Libraries: Stories from Around the Globe” — interviews by popular European library star, Erik Boekesteijn.  The first interview features IFLA President Christine Mackenzie! We have two keynote every day, one early and one late: Lee RainieSarah BoisvertClifford LynchNicol Turner LeeDaniel Russell, Eepmon (Erick Chan), David FerieroLeslie WeirJohn Bracken, Misty JonesBryan AlexanderMichael EdsonDana Mitroff & more! We hope to attract library folks from all over the world and have some content during waking hours in their time zones! We have about 180 speakers — knowledgeable library practitioners, thought leaders, and experts from around the world! Prepare yourself if you look at the list of speakers, on our online platform, they are listed alphabetically BY FIRST NAME!!  LOL, obviously not our choice!

Ray: That is funny indeed! What are tips that you’d like to share with the international library community interested in organizing online conferences?

Jane: There is definitely a learning curve with creating virtual events: from choosing a platform (there are many out there; we went with Pheedloop because it could support 5 tracks of content at the same time, much like our F2F events); learning the platform and dealing with its imperfections (or at least handling things differently that we are used to!); ensuring we all know how to deal with the technology (we’re doing training with both our moderators and speakers); marketing a new event (at least library folk are familiar with our F2F brands and we hope will support our digital one!). Our goal was to make this event as interactive as possible so our regular session programs are organized with 5 tracks of sessions over 5 days focusing on Content Discovery & ManagementLibraries & Communities; Technology; Management, Marketing & ChangeInternet@Schools, Makerspaces & More! You can see more about the daily topics of each track on the website, for example, Track A over 5 days, Most of our sessions will feature a speaker for 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes Q&A/discussion and then 20 minutes of speaker availability in the networking area as we get ready for the next speaker. I am sure we will all be exhausted by the end of the week, but are really looking forward to the experience and seeing lots of library folks from around the world! We will have a virtual exhibit hall (still working on that), many meet ups (still in process), and lots of networking opportunities. So keep checking out website for new updates!

Ray: How exciting! Finally, what are some trends you see that the international library community should be exploring more?

Jane: Interesting question.  I really believe we need to reset, not look for a new normal or try to fit the old ways into the new environment, but really rethink what we want to accomplish in our communities.  We definitely need to build up our digital collections in libraries with many different learning and discovery avenues, such as couch safaris to different places, zoos, museums, art galleries, aquariums, etc; virtual bird watching expeditions using webcams all over the world; as well as open access to our research and scientific resources and lots more.  I think we need to build more relationships with our communities (academic campuses, municipalities, enterprises, schools), bridging many of these communities in our geographic locations.  We also need to look for strong partners as IFLA always says – stronger together.  We need support from many new and diverse partners. I’m looking forward to our discussion in this session:

Health Crisis: Stress Test?

What did we learn in the past 6-plus months? Where did our libraries and communities fall short? How can we improve our services and readiness now and into the future? Vint Cerf recently said the virus was a really effective stress test of technology and technology companies, but what about libraries? How did we do with this stress test of our services. Where did we pass, where do we have more work to do and what does that look like?  Hear about recent community experiences and share yours!

Thanks again for letting me share my passions – libraries, learning, information discovery and management, communities, building relationships and sharing our knowledge and experiences. Hope to see lots of IFLA members online and will look forward to your feedback following the event!

Here’s another link, Jane’s blog calling our ambitious program a librarypalooza,


JANE DYSART, Founding Partner of Dysart & Jones and Curator of Curiosity, She specializes in designing learning and leadership events and customized conference planning. Jane has brought together experts and facilitators, keynote speakers and presenters for more than 100 successful events in Canada, the US and the UK.