On Thursday night, one of the class sessions of Special Libraries, which is a summer class offered at CUA, held a symposium of practicing librarians. This is an annual event hosted by the professor of the class.
I have one main observation that I want to share. At this event, both attendees and panelists were split into two groups. When the panelists switched between groups, the new panelists to the group I was in commented that we’d seemed to have had a lot more fun/interesting discussion with the first panel than they had had with the other group of students. We proceeded to have what seemed to be a less fun/interesting discussion with this second group of panelists. Was there a quality difference among the panelists? No. I believe that it was the presence of a moderator that made the difference. The professor who coordinated the symposium* moderated the other group during the first half, and our group during the second half. When the professor left the group, the discussion became freer. It was the existence of moderating, rather than the moderator, that was the problem.
Lesson learned: there are times and places for moderated panels. This happened to be not one of them. Now, why was that so? I don’t know. There were about 10 panelists in each group, so you would think that moderating would be MORE necessary. On the other hand, it was meant as more of a conversation, so there were polite ways to interrupt if someone started to take too much time.
Observation out of the way, I want to share that this was a really useful event. I got to meet other students in the program who I haven’t had classes with, and we met librarians working in a wide range of fields. While other attendees may be hopeful that job opportunities will come from the event, I am hopeful that the contacts I made will be helpful in starting a [intentionally vague] program that I have in mind. More on that later, when it’s more than a little seedling in my head!
*Not really a symposium. More like a networking event.