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Planning Virtual Events: Organizing the Human Library

5 Apr 2022 10:00 AM | Anonymous

Olivia White is an emerging archival professional working towards a Master of Information and a Master of Museum Studies from the University of Toronto. She has undertaken roles in archives and heritage organizations, and is passionate about ensuring the stories within archival records can be preserved and shared far into the future. 

The University of Toronto (U of T) student chapters of the Association of Canadian Archivists and Librarians Without Borders (LWB) worked diligently to produce the 7th Annual Human Library to great success! With about 15 participants and nine professionals in attendance, the event provided an excellent opportunity for students to have small-group discussions about the day-in-the-life of an information professional.
With a tradition towards an in-person event, the Human Library has pivoted to an online setting for the past two years. The virtual environment notably expands the scope of professionals and participants beyond the Greater Toronto Area, permitting a geographically diverse group of attendees. As a student in my final year at the University of Toronto’s iSchool, I have attended the Human Library annually for three years. This marks my first year attending as an Executive Member of the ACA UofT Student Chapter, and I enjoyed seeing behind the curtain as to how the event is produced.

Events Coordinator Sophia Dodic spearheaded the event, aptly coordinating timelines and preparing documentation to keep the event planning on schedule. ACA Student Executives Camille McDayter, Steve Kim, and Ursula Carmichael, as well as LWB Student Executive Allison Kaefring were integral during the event planning sessions in which we devised communication strategies and divided the work for reaching out to professionals. 
As Communications Coordinator, I promoted the event on our social media sites, the iSchool’s discord server, through iSchool newsletters, and in-class announcements. We also posted information on dedicated Facebook groups, listservs, and Slack channels, and had support from Professor Karen Suurtamm to spread the word. With the ever-presence of Zoom fatigue, our early registration numbers were lower than average, but more participants signed up closer to the event date. 
During the event, we paired professionals to “host” a breakout room based on their professional experiences, which established a meaningful dialogue between attendees. Participants could jump around to different breakout rooms, but many chose to stay within one group to gain a comprehensive understanding of an information professional’s duties. Students received a Human Library handbook with biographies provided by the professionals to determine which rooms to join and guide their conversations. 
One component of the Human Library that I have always enjoyed is hearing about the everyday rewards and challenges of the information professions. Many professionals also provide resources to learn more about topics of interest – I always come away with a few websites to bookmark for future research. It is also interesting to hear about the journey of iSchool alumni into their current positions. 
After the event, we circulated a feedback form for attendees to describe their experience to improve upon the delivery of the next Human Library. Finally, we were also pleased to offer two complimentary student member registrations for the upcoming ACA Conference through a raffle for student attendees. With another year of the Human Library completed, it is my hope that this long-running networking event can continue in the future, allowing emerging information professionals to discover the inner workings of archives, records management and library environments. 

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