Love and a shoestring in the UL Tea Room
There are two qualities I’ve noticed in the planning for the most successful events I’ve been involved with: a kind of serendipitous “what the hell” feeling, and the University Library Tea Room. In fact I suspect the two elements are closely linked: there’s something about having your meetings in an atmosphere of academic noise and caffeine that seems to spark inspiration.
In May of 2009 I met a colleague for coffee and a Plan was born. We would organise an e-resources fair aimed at academics that would serve as both an update for their practice and an introduction to new online sources. We would invite publishers and suppliers to come into the library for an afternoon and set up their product stalls on the library desks, and we’d offer the entire Faculty wine and nibbles to entice it collectively through the door.
Thus in the space of one coffee we came up with the entire blueprint for ‘Food for Thought’, which took place less than a month later with remarkably little more organisation. It turned out to be a roaring success. Suppliers were delighted to come and talk directly to academics about what they want, and to showcase their newest products; academics and researchers enjoyed the presentations and the chance to browse information at their own pace, wine in hand. And aside from food and drink, there were no other costs involved.
“We do it on love and a shoestring” is a phrase I find myself using a lot about the various information ventures I’m involved in. I don’t remember whether I stole it or coined it, but it sums up perfectly the kind of approach I enjoy most. The best events are resource-intensive, but the resource in question isn’t finance: it’s people – their creative thinking, their time willingly given, their engagement and expertise. With those ingredients it’s amazing how far a shoestring will stretch.